Charlton misses out on Countdown bus stops

Many Charlton bus users will lose out when Transport for London starts to replace its Countdown screens at bus stops across the capital.

The current system, which dates back to the 1980s, is being replaced with a new one based on the same GPS technology behind the automatic announcements recently rolled on London buses. Passengers will also be able to get bus times by text message for a 12p fee.

But not all stops will get the new screens – only selected stops will get them, and many stops which currently have the old Countdown boards will miss out.

In Charlton, stops around Charlton station and near Charlton Lane will get the new service, as well as stops by the shopping parade on Shooters Hill Road.

But no boards will be provided on Charlton Road, The Village, Charlton Park Road or Hillreach, meaning users of the busy 53, 54 and 422 routes will miss out. TfL says the locations were decided after discussions with each borough. The nearest screens on those routes will be at Blackheath Royal Standard and Woolwich town centre.

Nearby, Greenwich and Lewisham town centres, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Blackheath Village will also get the new screens, which will be introduced over the next two years. More details and maps are on the TfL website.


Heated pool for Charlton Lido, but no swimming this summer

Charlton Lido’s future is looking brighter after Greenwich Leisure Limited took on its lease in a deal which took effect on Wednesday evening.

GLL, which runs Greenwich Council’s leisure facilities as well as scores of others around London, took on the lease from failed company Open Waters Investments, which had promised to turn the facility in Hornfair Park into a diving centre.

The diving centre plans are now on the back burner, with the council now wanting to see a 50-metre heated pool at Charlton Lido open in time for summer 2012.

Work would have to begin this summer, meaning swimmers will have to wait for an open-air dip – just as they did when negotiations with doomed Open Waters were taking place in the summer of 2009.

The new lido scheme now depends on planning permission being granted by the council’s planning board in May, as well as raising funds from London mayor Boris Johnson’s community sports fund.

Planning permission was renewed earlier this month for the diving centre scheme, which collapsed after Open Waters failed to secure funding for the project. The council is now concentrating on creating a heated pool at the site which would be open all year round. The entire scheme, including plans for a BMX track in Hornfair Park, is due to cost £2.8m.

In response to a question from Conservative leader Spencer Drury, Culture and Olympics cabinet member John Fahy told Wednesday’s council meeting that the deal to transfer the lido to GLL – which had operated it before the doomed Open Waters deal – had only been signed at 5pm on Wednesday.

“With a fair wind, and subject to a funding opportunity from the mayor’s fund, and a contribution from Greenwich Leisure; we anticipate the lido will form a 50-metre heated pool, and we hope to have that up and running in advance of 2012,” Cllr Fahy said.

“We anticipate the refurbishment is likely to be in the region of £2.8m, and as a consequence, we don’t anticipate the lido will be open this summer, because the contractors will be on site as early as possible in the summer.”

Hear John Fahy’s full response to Spencer Drury’s question:

Japan earthquake fundraiser at Charlton House

There’s a thriving Japanese language school in the upstairs rooms at Charlton House. Ever wanted to learn Japanese? You can give it a try there for free, since it has students learning how to teach it as a second language. It’s a place we hope to return to in the coming weeks.

Naturally, though, many of its students’ thoughts have been elsewhere. So the school’s doing its bit to help, with a fundraising day this Saturday

There’ll be origami and Japanese calligraphy workshops, a Japanese bazaar, sushi tasting and martial arts demonstrations. If you’ve got some time to spare on Saturday, it looks like a good way to spend an hour or so for a very good cause.

Charlton voices: Linzi Kinghorn

Linzi KinghornA new, regular writer has joined the Charlton Champion team – journalism student Linzi Kinghorn.

Originally from Dorset, she moved to Charlton from north London a month ago and has been busy finding out about the area ever since.

She’ll be out and about talking to people and finding out their stories and their news. Got a story for Linzi? Drop us a line. Got any tips for her as a newcomer? Let us know in the comments…

What had you heard about Charlton before you moved here?
Before I moved to Charlton, I had no preconceptions at all. In fact, I wasn’t even aware it existed! I had heard of Greenwich and how beautiful it was, and of Blackheath and how affluent that was, but nothing about Charlton!

What were your first impressions of the place?
I was really surprised at how hilly it was! On a serious note, I was a little bit unnerved by the gangs that stood around the train station, but they didn’t cause me any trouble whenever I’ve walked past and don’t seem to be as prominent as when I first moved here. I’m quite surprised at how many little corner shops there are all in one place around the train station and genuinely surprised at how the lower part of Charlton differs from the little village at the top. It’s like two different places!

So far, what do you like the most?
I love my street. It has lots of cherry blossom trees and takes me out of the hustle and bustle of London. Everyone seems friendly and polite, and there are lots of families with cats which is nice. love the industrial park with all the shops – back at home in Dorset where I’m from we had nothing like that! I really like the quaintness of the village at the top with the co-op and little pubs.

How does it compare with Turnpike Lane?
The reason I disliked living in Turnpike Lane is because there was lots of crime – someone was sexually attacked outside my house – but here I feel considerably safer. I cannot imagine that happening outside my new house. North London feels smoggy and my skin would feel dirty – it feels much more like an outer London suburb here with the option of jumping on the train and being in central London within 10 minutes – best of both worlds!

What’s your favourite thing to do in Charlton?
So far, I’ve enjoyed the walks and the jogs. I went down to the Thames Barrier for a walk today and it was lovely. Yesterday I went for a run from the village down over the bridge and up to Blackheath and back and was smitten.

Anything you haven’t done yet but are keen to do?
I did a story about paranormal activity and ghost tours and one of the places mentioned was Charlton House – have to take a look in there at some point! I’ve heard Charlton also has a nice park which I’d like to see and of course get some cheap tickets for a Charlton game!

Where would you take someone who was visiting?
I would definitely take them up to the village because I think it is so quaint, and perhaps go in for a quiet lunch or drink in one of the pubs. Again, I really like the Thames Barrier.

Tell us some more about how you got involved with the Charlton Champion?
I came across the website on the internet when I was searching for information about the area. I’m doing a Masters degree in Broadcast Journalism at City University and thought it would be the perfect way to combine getting to know the area better with some good old-fashioned hyperlocal blogging. My aim is to get more members of the Charlton community engaging with each other and exchanging stories and news. So, I will be blogging about what I see, what I hear, local issues and hopefully interviewing some members of the community.

Isn’t this a sleepy area where nothing happens?
Not at all. No matter how small, if something affects people, upsets them, excites them, brings them together, that is news and that is something worth blogging about. If you look hard enough, you will always find things that are going on. I’ve only been here a month and lots of things have stood out to me – horses being used when football matches are on; potential allotment closures…these are things I am sure people are passionate about and definitely not things that would constitute describing Charlton as a sleepy area.

What happened to the Bramshot Avenue shops?

Charlton Champion reader Boneyboy has a question I’ve been pondering too.

Does anyone know whether there are plans for the two vacant shops/takeaways in the part of Bramshot Avenue to the west of Eastcombe Avenue?

There is some sign of activity at what was the Desi Spice take away – the front of the premises have been repainted. Does anyone know if this means that there are plans to reopen?

Family Fish and Chips next door to Desi closed about 5 years ago. Pre-ordered fish was always great, the chips were excellent, and conversatons with the owner were… somewhere between confusing and entertaining. I recently spotted that the premises were for sale for around £10K.

About 15 years ago there were 7 business premises on this parade, including a sub-post office. Now only retail offering is the excellent Toy Box newsagents. Two shops have been converted to residential, the two takeaways are vacant, Arena Minicabs operate from another and there’s dental technicians in the other.

There’s plenty of other examples in the locality of corner shops and small parades dropping out of retail use, so what is the best use for these buildings? Should they stay in some type of commercial use (such as a mini cab office) or is retaining business use too disruptive, and is it better for the areas to allow these premises to be converted to homes?

As far as I can recall, the parade went into a tailspin after the post office went in the first big round of post office closures about six years ago. But what’s the future for these shops? Your thoughts – and memories of what was there – are welcome.

Will the White Swan fly again?

The White Swan in Charlton Village is closing tomorrow for a refurbishment, and not opening its doors again until 21 April.

The pub’s now changed hands since the spell last year when a new manager tried to drag it up in the world – serving coffee, starting a “yummy mummies’ morning”, that kind of thing. But the refurbishment only seemed to be half-finished, and when two female friends of mine got harrassed by punters just for the crime of ordering pints last summer, it was clear that the job really hadn’t worked. The boss departed a few weeks later.

Now there’s two new bosses and a black cat prowling the place. Will this be the decent pub the village deserves? Watch this space…

Could Maryon Wilson animal park move to Thamesmead?

Matt Clinch, presenter and producer of Greenwich borough news podcast In The Meantime, gives his take on the latest developments surrounding the Maryon Wilson Park animal centre.

I thought I’d give an update on the budget cut affecting Maryon Wilson Park Animal Care Centre after an interview I conducted with the deputy leader of the council, Peter Brooks.

The current situation

Despite the News Shopper declaring the centre had been given a year’s reprieve, this is in fact not true. The park was never due to be cut this year and its funding was always due to be finishing in April 2012 if a solution cannot be found. Tim Anderson – the Chair of the Friends of Maryon and Maryon Wilson Parks discussed this back in January on In the Meantime and an online press release on the FMMWP website states the same.

The budget was passed on 2 March which set the ball rolling to find a solution to help fund the centre outside the council’s budget. Council leader Chris Roberts said in his budget speech: “We don’t want to see the animal park close next March, and I don’t believe it will.”

What Councillor Brooks had to say

Our radio show encourages the public to send questions so we can then pose them to studio guests. Tim Anderson took this opportunity to ask how the park can be saved if the funding is to be cut.

Cllr Brooks replied: “We have to make these cuts to protect frontline services – we’re looking at ways for people to help fund it …or to maybe move it. As a local authority we can make sure that this is a practice that carries on working… but works differently… and is not purely funded by tax payers’ money.”

One solution he details is in Thamesmead. A proposed urban farm has been touted by Bexley and Greenwich councils since 2009. Trust Thamesmead and Growing Greenwich are the two groups involved. This would be a place for animals where they can be petted (like Maryon Wilson Park) as well as a space to grow crops. However, the economic downturn has threatened to stifle this idea before it gets off the ground.

The royal charter

Back in January on ITM, Tim Anderson told us about the royal charter that was in place on the park. “A royal charter exists, signed by Henry VIII, stating the deer must remain. It could well be the deer are protected along with the rural nature of the park,“ he said.

It strikes me as odd that no-one seems to have actually seen this royal charter and can confirm it exists. Cllr Brooks was also unsure of what the charter detailed but said: “most royal charters work in a perimeter not a place”.

This could mean that there’s a radius of several miles around Maryon Wilson park that the charter accounts for. Thus, it could cover the movement of the deer to places such as Thamesmead or even over to the deer pen at Greenwich park.

The response

It seems to me that from the local community’s point of view, if the animal centre moves to Thamesmead it might as well be moving to the Thames Valley. The schools and children’s groups it currently serves will have to travel by coach to get there – but at what cost?

The Friends group says: “If the council are to save the animal care centre it would be to find a way of keep funding the children’s petting zoo in Maryon Wilson Park, not just to save the animals from being culled or to move them.”

What’s important to note as well is that the unique location of Maryon Wilson Park, in its valley setting, unlike normal farm land or parks, enables children and families to see the animals with uninterrupted sight lines.

The rather dubious back-up plan

I admit I’m probably clutching at straws here and probably still a little vague with the technicalities. Under the coalition government’s ‘Big Society’ (love it or hate it) they have a localism bill. If and when this bill is passed into law it will give power to local communities to trigger referendums with petitions:

“The Bill includes a number of measures to allow the public to influence local decision-making through local referendums. Anyone registered to vote in the local elections will be able to vote in a triggered referendum. A referendum can be triggered by 5% of the local electorate signing a petition within a 6 month timescale, however a council can accept a petition and trigger a vote even if the petition gets fewer signatures, if it wants to. A referendum can also be triggered by a council member requesting one. People signing the petition must include their name, address, signature and the date.”

This means that a petition signed by around 5,000 people who live in Greenwich borough will trigger a vote. This vote will then go towards a decision made by the council whether to keep the care centre where it is, with the funding it currently has. Now hopefully this won’t be needed but let’s look at possible outcomes.

If the whole of Greenwich were to go to the polls on this issue, the chances are the only people that turn up at the ballot box are the ones that are voting to keep it how it is. The council will then be forced to decide once again what will happen with the centre. You may think nothing will change and the council will still plough ahead. However, by this point it might have drawn people’s attention from a wider audience. Could this be the localism bill’s poster child? The first referendum of its kind? Could kicking up such a fuss have any impact on the future of the centre? It might be worth finding out. Keep your eye on that bill.

I asked Cllr Brooks about this bill, although we still don’t know whether it will be passed. He accepted that this could happen but then added: “It’s what else goes, do we [then] have a referendum on whether we have bin collections every fortnight instead of weekly – it’s the frontline services that people want.”

The speculation

What are the reasons why the council might be adding the animal care centre to its list of cuts? Could there be an ulterior motive? Let’s explore the speculation:

1) They’re daft?!
You may laugh but North Ayrshire council in Scotland recently put forward an idea to just have a 4-day week in schools! They were then attacked by unions for just trying to look as if they were busy seeking solutions and not actually wanting to carry through with the cut. Yeah, they’re only kids they don’t need a whole week of school! I think if I lived in North Ayrshire I would sell up and move on safe in the knowledge that the council were stark raving bonkers!

This differs from our cut though as North Ayrshire councillors never backed the 4-day week and I don’t think it ever reached even the scrutiny stage.

2) They’re seeing if someone might take it of their hands.

Maybe there is a secret piggy bank waiting to fund the centre after all? But in the interim could they be dangling a fishing rod over the edge to see what big fish bite? It’s a popular and well-loved place, could a rich benefactor be found in twelve months? However, think of the anguish this is causing people. Is the council losing respect by using this method to sell off one of its possessions?

3) They’re playing the blame game.

You may have heard this one before. “Labour council heaps blame onto coaltion government by cutting well loved events and animal care centre.” We then march through the streets of London moaning that they shouldn’t be forcing councils to frontload and hitting local services hard.

Although remember, if the localism bill tactic does work and the coalition government’s legislation saves the centre, then would the blame game have backfired?

4) They simply need to make a saving somewhere.

This obviously being the most realistic. They need to make a saving, like the rest of the savings they’ve made. They all add up, even if they’re small savings, they add up in fact to £63.5 million. But as one resident writes on the petition, “The savings are too small and the benefits too great for the Centre to be lost.”

Here’s a vox-pop I made at the animal care centre back in December asking locals what they thought of the proposed cut.

We’ll keep you updated with further developments.