Charlton Riverside: Revised Rockwell plans released – tell City Hall what you think

Rockwell revised scheme
Rockwell’s new plan includes an “active frontage” along the new east-west road

London mayor Sadiq Khan has launched a new public consultation into the developer Rockwell’s controversial plans to build 771 new homes off Anchor & Hope Lane.

Khan took control of the planning application in August, weeks after Greenwich Council’s main planning committee threw out the proposed development.

The amended scheme, created after discussions with Khan’s officers at City Hall, sees two storeys lopped off a block that overlooked homes in Derrick Gardens, meaning the historic cottages of Atlas and Derrick Gardens will now have a four-storey block behind them.

Another block, to the south of Atlas Gardens, has also had two storeys removed, cutting it down to five. Other blocks around the site have been increased in height to compensate.

Rockwell plan

The number of homes – 771 – remains the same, but with the possibility of 165 homes (21.4%) for “affordable rent” and 127 (16.4%) for shared ownership with a City Hall grant. (See more details in the design and access statement.)

Rockwell scheme
Rockwell’s revised scheme, with Atlas Gardens at the centre

Rockwell’s new scheme is unlikely to satisfy critics, who say the developer’s plans go against the recently-adopted Charlton Riverside masterplan, which sets out a vision for lower-rise developments aimed at families in Charlton to sit in between the towers of Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich.

All 11 councillors on Greenwich’s planning board rejected the scheme, with chair Sarah Merrill declaring: “This application in no way resembles the spirit of the Charlton Riverside masterplan, in terms of height, massing and design. It’s reminiscent of Stalingrad.”

But Rockwell – which has retained former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts’ company Cratus Communications as lobbyists – insisted it was “fantastic opportunity to kick-start the regeneration of this area”.

The public now has until 11 January to comment on the scheme, before a public hearing is held at City Hall. Revised documents can be seen on the GLA website (the design and access statement is probably the best place to start) together with a summary of the scheme and the mayor’s reasons for calling it in.

Comments and requests for information can be sent to VIPtradingestate[at]london.gov.uk.


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Morris Walk Estate: ‘Misleading rumours’ criticised as estate redevelopment delayed

Morris Walk Estate
Much of the Morris Walk Estate is now in a poor condition

Greenwich Council has hit out at “misleading rumours” that a major scheme to redevelop Morris Walk Estate has been delayed for nine years.

The programme, which will see the estate on the border of Woolwich and Charlton knocked down and replaced with new housing, was due to begin this year. Demolition was due to start this autumn. But little has happened so far, and the council and developer Lovell are currently discussing timescales for the scheme, which was first announced five years ago.

Tenants and leaseholders in both the Morris Walk and the adjacent Maryon Road estate have already moved out, and people on the council’s homeless list have moved in on a short-term basis. But many have spent all year waiting for the council to finally move them out so developer Lovell can begin work.

They were due to be moved out by late summer, but have been left in limbo by the unexplained delay to the scheme.

Chris Kirby, the council’s cabinet member for housing, spoke out after it emerged a residents’ group had been told the scheme had been delayed until 2027.

Morris Walk Estate
Morris Walk Estate was built in the mid-1960s in a similar fashion to the ill-fated Ronan Point block in Canning Town

“I am saddened and disappointed that misleading information appears to have been given to local residents,” Cllr Kirby told The Charlton Champion.

“On behalf of the council I would like to apologise to residents who deserve better than to be subjected to gossip and rumour about what is going to happen to their home and their community.

“I also want to reassure residents that the council are in active discussions aimed at ensuring this project remains on course and delivers the homes that local people need.

“As soon as the new timescales for the project are finalised we will be contacting our residents to update them fully.”

Morris Walk, along with neighbouring Maryon Road estate and Woolwich’s Connaught Estate, are being redeveloped by developer Lovell as part of the £269 million Greenwich Council-backed One Woolwich scheme, agreed under former leader Chris Roberts. The Connaught has already been demolished and the Trinity Walk development has risen in its place.

Built for the London County Council by Taylor Woodrow Anglian from prefabricated parts in the mid-1960s, the construction can be seen in some shots in the cult film Blow-Up, which featured scenes shot in and near Maryon Park.

It was built in a similar fashion to the ill-fated Ronan Point tower across the Thames in Canning Town, which partially collapsed in 1968 after a gas explosion, killing four people. Morris Walk’s gas supply was removed soon after. 50 years on, many of the buildings are now in a poor state of repair as they await demolition.

Across the three estates, 1,064 homes originally built for council rent will be replaced by 1,500 homes with 35% as “affordable”, a catch-all for a range of tenures from shared ownership, through proportions of market rent to social rent. Of the total number of homes, Greenwich Council says 25% will be for social rent, and that the scheme is at no cost to taxpayers.

The scheme follows the demolition of the Ferrier Estate in Kidbrooke, which had 1,910 council homes when completed in 1972, and its replacement with Berkeley Homes’ Kidbrooke Village development, which will have 738 homes at social rents when finished, along with a further 787 “affordable” homes.

Maryon Park friends group minutes
Members of the Maryon Park friends’ group heard about the delay last month

Neighbours of the estates have been hoping to secure improvements to the area as part of the development. While the missed timetable has made it clear to all that there is a delay, the 2027 date emerged in, of all places, the publicly-available minutes of the Friends of Maryon and Maryon Wilson Parks’ AGM last month. Maryon Park is adjacent to the Morris Walk Estate.

The minutes note that residents were “shocked to be told by councillors that work on the Morris Walk estate will not now go ahead until 2027. This will presumably have an effect on any plans for the Maryon Park playground, where we will continue to press for improvements and updating”.

Morris Walk Estate
Homeless families are living temporarily on the estate

Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy, whose ward covers the two estates, called upon Lovell to give the land up.

He said: “It is a matter of regret that Lovell seem to have taken a decision not to develop the estates until 2027. Officers continue to engage with them to clarify their intentions.

“300 residents are living in the most appalling conditions and remain an urgent priority. Clearly Lovell have failed to honour their commitment and should relinquish any rights they have in respect of the land in question.

“The council should urgently consider developing the site as part of its commitment to maximise council housing in the borough. Housing demand is a priority and any land available must be used now rather than allowing a developer to land bank for commercial gain.”


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Judith Quin: Meet the Charlton author who wants to change your life

Judith Quin

Not getting what you want out of life? Charlton-based life coach JUDITH QUIN might be able to help. After working as an actress and qualified massage therapist, she’s now a vocal coach, helping people build up their confidence. Her first book, Stop Shoulding, Start Wanting, shares the tips she’s learned. You can meet her at a book signing at Waterstones in Greenwich at 6pm this Thursday, 29 November. She spoke to The Charlton Champion about her work and her life in SE7.

How did you end up becoming a life coach?
I’ve been a bit of a natural coach my whole life, I was the one my friends would come to for advice (not that coaches give advice). But in reality, I fell into it. A massage client asked me one day if, as an actress and sound healer, I knew anyone who could help her husband with public speaking.

I did the job, he nailed his talk and I started having other clients ask me the same. One of those clients asked me when I’d trained as a coach – I hadn’t ever heard of coaching! She said what I was doing was coaching and sent me a link to The Coaching Academy where she’d trained – I went to their free event and signed up.

What personal experiences do you bring to your sessions?
I specialise in vocal confidence, helping people to find their voice and be able to speak up for themselves, or speak in front of others, so I bring a lot of my skills as an actress. For the life-coaching part of what I do, clients can be so varied in their experiences the best thing I can bring is knowing how to listen, ask good questions, and hold clients accountable.

Could you describe a typical client and what they did they get out of your sessions>
The clients who get the most out of working with me are those who are ready to step up and take leadership of their life. Often I work with people who are ready for promotion at work, to step up to the next level in their business or public speaking engagements, or find the confidence to be heard. The results are usually more confidence and clarity to move forward, not just for speaking, or at work, but also in life.

In the words of a couple of my clients:

“A life changing experience. Cured my fear of public speaking. Boosted my self-confidence.”

“For years I have always been looking to others for answers. Working with Judith has made me realise that I have all the answers within… Coaching in my opinion is: productive, personal, positive problem-solving.”

What led you to write the book?
It had been in me for years, but when I became a coach and realised I wasn’t the only person who believed that to “should” through your life is a waste of energy it became clear. So many of my friends kept telling me I should (ironically!) but I wanted to put it out there as it was something I kept taking about.

How long have you lived in Charlton for?
It’ll be 12 years next year!

What are your favourite things about the area?
All the green space, the fact I can be in town in 25 minutes, Blackheath farmers’ market, and the old coffee hut in Charlton Park.

How does living in Charlton contribute to a happy and confident life?
All the above. And that I know lots of my neighbours.

What’s the one piece of advice you could give to someone trying to improve their life?
Well … other than “stop ‘should-ing'”…

You can’t change other people, you can only change you; but also, if you don’t tell people what you’re thinking or feeling about their behaviour, you can’t expect them to know, so you don’t give them the chance to change.

Judith Quin will be at Waterstones, 51 Greenwich Church Street SE10 9BL from 6-7pm on Thursday 29 November – book a ticket here. Stop Shoulding, Start Wanting is also available on Hive Books (to pick up at Ottie and the Bea on Old Dover Road) and Amazon.co.uk.

WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK! Charlton Champion members can win a free copy of Stop Shoulding, Start Wanting by answering a really easy question. Sign up at www.patreon.com/charltonchampion by noon on Sunday 2 December and follow the instructions there. You can help us keep the site running and have a chance of winning a book!


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Sherington Primary School’s governors scrap academy plan

Sherington Primary School
Sherington’s governors came to their decision yesterday

Governors at Sherington Primary School have scrapped plans to break away from council control and become an academy, parents have been told this morning.

Teachers and local councillors had campaigned against the proposal, which would have seen the highly-regarded school join the Leigh Academies Trust chain.

But a letter from the school’s governing body states that while the school faces “challenges” in the future, “we are better placed to address them as a local authority maintained school than as part of the Leigh Academies Trust”.

The school will now remain controlled by Greenwich Council – and be directly funded by it – rather than breaking away and joining the Kent-based Leigh chain, and getting its cash from central government.

The letter says: “We promised to make this choice in the best interests of children now and in the future. That meant choosing the option that gave us the best prospect of financial sustainability and stability; the strongest opportunities for the recruitment, retention and development of high quality staff; and the best chance of delivering a sustainable school in a changing environment. The Governing Body has concluded that while these challenges remain, we are better placed to address them as a local authority maintained school than as part of the Leigh Academies Trust.

“Sherington is a great school, but there is some hard work to be done to make sure we stay that way and remain fit for the future. Working in partnerships with other schools and organisations is already an important part of the school’s operating model, and will become more so. We look forward to working closely with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, and to making the most of the partnership opportunities and other support they can provide.

“We would like to thank the staff of the Leigh Academies Trust for the candid and helpful information they have provided and also the parents, carers and staff who have asked questions, presented views and taken part in an emotive debate over the last few weeks.

“This has not been an easy process by any means, but it’s important that we are able to show our Sherington children that we can have difficult conversations and conduct them in a courteous, respectful and positive way.”

Documents outlining how the governors came to their decision have been published on the school website.

Parents had feared that teachers would take strike action if the school had opted to become an academy, with the issue also causing strains inside Greenwich Council: last week deputy leader David Gardner apologised to Leigh, which runs 18 schools in SE London and Kent, for criticism of its academic results in a letter sent to parents.

Teachers had also raised concerns about the plans, along with local MP Matt Pennycook. A petition against the proposal, handed in earlier this week, had over 900 signatures.

Friday update:
Local Democracy Reporter Tom Bull writes: Greenwich Council deputy leader and cabinet member for education David Gardner said: “It is brilliant and very welcome news that Sherington Primary School governing body has voted to continue as an outstanding Greenwich community school.

“Governors decisively rejected academisation and, after a long and rigorous process evaluating all the options, and decided the best partnership remained with the borough.

“My personal congratulations to the parents, staff and Charlton community who campaigned so effectively to stay ‘Greenwich and proud’.”


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Squeeze star Glenn Tilbrook asks fans to help foodbanks at Blackheath Halls show

Glenn Tilbrook at the Tall Ships Festival - photo Sarah Coburn
Glenn Tilbrook’s show is part of a nationwide tour

Squeeze frontman Glenn Tilbrook is asking fans to bring food to his solo show at Blackheath Halls next month, which is part of a tour aimed at helping the Trussell Trust charity.

The Charlton-based singer is promoting awareness of the charity, which operates 420 foodbanks across the country, including the Greenwich and Lewisham foodbanks which serve Blackheath.

There will be food drop points and collection boxes at the show on Friday 14 December, while all Tilbrook’s profits from merchandise, which includes a four-track EP, will be donated to the trust.

Tilbrook says: “It is shameful that in the 21st century there are people that can’t afford to put food on the table. Anyone, from any walk of life, can fall upon dire times, and I hope that by doing this tour it will remind people that there is a very real need.

“Most of us can do something to help – be it giving some food or a little money – and I hope people coming to the shows are inspired to donate.”

Three years ago, Tilbrook changed the lyrics to the Squeeze song Cradle to the Grave during a live performance on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, on which David Cameron was a guest. “There are some here who are hellbent, on the destruction of the welfare state,” he sang.

Earlier this year, Tilbrook spoke out against developer Rockwell’s plans to build 770 homes close to his studio on the Charlton riverside, saying he feared noise from construction would make the site unusable. The scheme was rejected by Greenwich Council, but has now been called in by London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Tickets for the show are £25 (£23 concessions) and can be bought direct from Blackheath Halls, including in person at its box office. For more information on Greenwich Foodbank and what it needs right now, visit greenwich.foodbank.org.uk.


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Greenwich Council deputy leader apologises to academy chain over Sherington letter

David Gardner
David Gardner on a recent visit to Charlton Manor School (photo: twitter.com/david_llew)

Charlton Champion exclusive: Greenwich Council deputy leader David Gardner has apologised to the academy chain hoping to run a Charlton primary school after criticising it in a letter issued to parents.

Sherington Primary School is in talks with Leigh Academies Trust about becoming joining its academy chain, which includes 18 schools across south-east London and Kent.

Earlier this month, parents at the highly-regarded school were handed letters from Gardner, which criticised the chain’s academic record. The letter was also published on The Charlton Champion.

But now Gardner, who is cabinet member for education, has backtracked on his criticism, with Greenwich Council saying “the words … could have been better chosen”.

In the letter, Gardner told parents that Greenwich had a strong record in running primary schools and there was “no pot of gold at the end of the academy rainbow”. He also criticised the high salaries paid to the chief executives and directors of academy chains, taken from a 5-10% “top slicing” of school budgets going towards their central funds, adding that Greenwich schools only paid 1% into central funds.

He also said: “Leigh Academy Trust does not have a good record. Its two secondary schools in Greenwich are among the worst performers and their primary record outside the borough does not match Greenwich’s performance.”

Leigh runs two Greenwich schools for which results are available – a third, Leigh Academy Blackheath, opened in Woolwich in September, and plans to eventually occupy the former Blackheath Bluecoat School site close to Sherington.

The first Leigh school, Stationers’ Crown Woods Academy in Eltham, has a Progress 8 – a measure of children’s progress between the ages of 11 and 16 – rating of “well below average”. But it has only run its second school, Halley Academy – the former Kidbrooke comprehensive school – since March 2018. Before that, it was known as Corelli College, and had also scored “well below average”.

Apologised to Leigh

Sherington Primary School
Sherington is a highly-regarded primary school

A Greenwich Council spokesperson told The Charlton Champion: “Cllr Gardner has played an active role supporting Sherington parents and staff wishing to remain as an outstanding community school. In this respect he has made some comments about comparative performance with an academy trust in Full Council and at a public meeting. He was asked to supply the thrust of his speech to parents which was then circulated.

“On reflection, Cllr Gardner realised the words used in the letter of what he said at the public meeting should have been better chosen and apologised himself to the Leigh MAT [multi -academy trust] accordingly. The main issue being that Leigh acquired The Halley Academy on 1 March 2018 (the former Corelli Academy). GCSE results for Corelli College in 2018 belong to the former Trust which operated the school and not Leigh.

“Further, the council recognise that Leigh has made a real effort to turn around Halley this year to improve the outcomes and life chances for our young people at that school. It also recognises the successful launch of Leigh Academy Blackheath which is already proving to be a popular local choice for parents.”

The council did not comment on whether Leigh Academies Trust had complained about Gardner’s statement. The trust itself has not responded to a request for comment from The Charlton Champion.

Strains inside Greenwich Council

While Greenwich Council’s Labour administration has sought to present a united front over academisation, Gardner’s apology highlights the strains between different factions within the Labour group over the issue.

Councillors and members on the left of the party are fiercely opposed to schools being taken out of local authority control and handed to academy chains that are directly funded by central government, and want the council to do more to oppose the likes of Sherington and John Roan schools becoming academies.

But the council’s leadership, which is on the right of the party, has attempted to build bridges with the chains while criticising the government’s policy of forcing “failing” schools to become academies.

Left-leaning members accuse the council of privately backing academies. A letter written by Gardner’s predecessor Miranda Williams to school governors in 2016 stated the council “has a pragmatic view on academies” and that schools “have benefited from the capacity created by school partnerships”. But last month, the council voed to “resist further academisation”.

Gardner, who fits in neither camp, has attempted to bridge the two positions in what is widely regarded as an extremely difficult role.

Campaigners against the potential academisation of Sherington primary school delivered a petition to the school governors on Monday

Parents at Sherington are fearing strikes as the row over possible academisation escalates. It was revealed in September that the school was talking to the Leigh and Compass academy trusts about joining them, and Rochester-based Leigh is now seen as the likely choice.

Teachers have already written to its governing body outlining their concerns at plans for the school to explore joining Leigh.

A mile away at John Roan secondary school in Blackheath, which faces becoming part of the University Schools Trust chain after a poor Ofsted rating, pupils have already lost two days of education because of industrial action, although plans for three more were called off last week.


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The train arriving seven months late: Thameslink belatedly boosts weekday service at Charlton

Thameslink class 700 trains
A slightly less unusual sight from December – but don’t go banking on weekend trains

Charlton is due to get its full weekday train service back in December – seven months after the botched introduction of Thameslink services resulted in many trains to Kent being deleted from the timetable.

Changes to rail services in May saw the long-established Charing Cross to Gillingham trains operated by Southeastern replaced by two Thameslink trains per hour from Luton, St Pancras, Farringdon, Blackfriars and London Bridge to Rainham, one stop further down the line.

This followed the huge project to revamp London Bridge station to allow for extra services between north and south London.

While the service provided new links to north London and beyond, poor planning meant that many of the new trains did actually materialise. In July the service was cut back to to hourly to allow Thameslink to train drivers on the new routes – slashing the links to Dartford and beyond and leaving gaps in the timetable to central London.

Now the company, which operates a contract on behalf of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, says the full weekday service will now be introduced in its winter timetable from 9 December – meaning Charlton should be up to its full complement of eight trains each hour once again.

Thameslink trains will run half-hourly to Rainham between 0604 and 2234, with two final trains at 2304 and 2334 terminating at Gillingham. Trains call at Westcombe Park two minutes earlier.

Heading to central London and beyond, Thameslink trains to London Bridge, Blackfriars, Farringdon, St Pancras and West Hampstead Thameslink will run half-hourly from 0540 to 2310, stopping at Westcombe Park two minutes later.

Most will run onto Luton – handy for the airport – although many will be skipping the useful north London stop at Kentish Town.

Weekend rail woe

However, the weekend trains remain at a miserly hourly frequency for the time being, mostly only running as far north as Kentish Town.

Thameslink says: “The weekend timetable will continue in its current format for now, with more services planned by May 2019.

“Our current simplified weekend timetable means engineering work alterations can be overlaid in a shorter than usual timeframe. There is every intention of returning to normal industry agreed timescales and both planning teams in Thameslink Railway and Network Rail continue to work to achieve this as quickly as possible.”

Full timetables – for Thameslink trains only – can be found at thameslinkrailway.com.


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