Charlton to lose Lewisham link as TfL switches bus 180 to North Greenwich

Route 180 bus
All change: The 180 will switch to North Greenwich from December

Transport for London has confirmed plans to sharply cut bus services between Greenwich and Woolwich, through Charlton, by diverting route 180 so it starts at North Greenwich station.

The cut means means only the 177 will run between Greenwich and Woolwich, halving the service from 12 to six buses per hour.

Instead of running from Lewisham, the 180 will run from North Greenwich via the Greenwich Millennium Village, the under-construction Ikea and Bugsby’s Way – a slight change to the original plan which saw it running via Peartree Way and a longer stretch of Woolwich Road.

TfL, which is chaired by London mayor Sadiq Khan, says: “The 177 has sufficient capacity for the level of demand on this corridor. We will continue to keep this under review.”

Route 129, which links Greenwich town centre with North Greenwich, will be extended to start back from Lewisham, but at a reduced peak-time frequency of five buses per hour, compared with the six provided by the 180.

Passengers who want to travel to and from Lewisham will be expected to use another service or change from the 180 to the 129 at Ikea.

Greenwich Council had raised concerns about the diversion of the 180.

The 472 to North Greenwich will also be less frequent – in peak hours it will be cut to eight buses per hour (currently 10), six on Saturdays (currently eight) and five on Sundays (currently six). It will also be rerouted in Thamesmead to run to Abbey Wood.

Crossrail is due to open at Abbey Wood and Woolwich on Sunday 9 December – this date has not been officially confirmed – so the changes should be in place around that time.

More details on other south-east London cuts on 853.

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Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival 2018: What’s on this year?

Journey's End (photo: Lionsgate Films)
Saul Dibb’s war drama Journey’s End will screen at Charlton House

This year’s Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival has revealed its line-up, with World War I drama Journey’s End leading the selection of movies being screened at Charlton House.

2018’s event, to be held between 7 and 15 September, sees a range of films being shown at venues across Charlton, Woolwich, Plumstead and Shooters Hill. There’s no charge – just turn up, and throw some coins in the bucket if you can help with the costs of putting it on.

Director Saul Dibb’s adaptation of RC Sherriff play Journey’s End will be on at Charlton House on Tuesday 11 September (7.30pm, doors 6.30pm). Written by a captain wounded at Passchendaele, it depicts a handful of British soldiers “waiting to be killed” in a trench near the end of World War I. Charlton House was used as a military hospital towards the end of the Great War, and historian Clive Harris will give a talk at 7pm about about the real-life events that inspired the production.

Charlton House also plays host to the festival’s third short film competition on Thursday 13 September (7.30pm, doors 7pm), which this year has the theme Diversity and Future. There’s a £500 prize waiting for the winner.

On Friday 14 September (7pm, doors 6.30pm) comedy The Dish rounds off Charlton House’s contribution to the festival. Set in 1969, Sam Neill plays an Australian sheep farmer who has to steer the satellite dish – and its eccentric crew – to bring the Apollo 11 moon landings to the world’s TV screens.

Woolwich’s big screen in General Gordon Square will open the festival on Friday 7 September with The Greatest Showman and close it with Sister Act on Saturday 15 September.

Severndroog Castle on Shooters Hill plays host to Young Frankenstein on Friday 14 September, while nearby Shrewsbury House Community Centre screens both Yellow Submarine and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Other highlights include Silver Linings Playbook at Stir Cafe in Anglesea Road, Woolwich and Do The Right Thing at ArtFix cafe, also in Woolwich.

For more on what’s on – and how to get involved – visit the Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival website.

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Whitehall no more: TfL plans to cut bus route 53 back to County Hall

Bus route 53
Route 53 currently runs as far as Whitehall

Transport for London is planning to cut the 53 bus route back to County Hall as part of a huge swathe of cuts to services in the centre of the capital.

The 53, which runs from Plumstead, Woolwich, Charlton and Blackheath through Deptford, the Old Kent Road and Elephant & Castle to Whitehall would be cut back to County Hall from March 2019 under proposals to “reduce bus flows” across Westminster Bridge and along Whitehall.

The scheme affects routes from across London, and will also mean the 171 from Catford, Brockley and New Cross to Holborn being cut back to Elephant & Castle.

Transport for London’s proposals come as it battles financial worries after a complete cut in day-to-day government funding instituted by Evening Standard editor George Osborne when he was chancellor. It is also having to deal with a four-year fare freeze from mayor Sadiq Khan, and a fall in bus passenger numbers.

It has already planned to cut bus services between Greenwich and Woolwich by re-routing route 180 to North Greenwich station instead of Lewisham. There have also been a series of cuts to bus frequencies, especially on night services.

A consultation on these new proposals will come in mid-September.

The 53 proposal is likely to face stiff opposition. The service – which in its heyday ran as far north as Parliament Hill Fields and Camden Town – is the last remaining bus link to central London from Blackheath, Charlton, Woolwich and Plumstead, and terminating at County Hall will leave passengers needing to switch to another service.

It was last cut back in 2002, from Oxford Circus to Whitehall, with the 453 from Deptford Bridge picking up the slack.

But it has twice in recent years been temporarily cut back to Lambeth North because of roadworks.

A petition from The Charlton Society was launched at the time, followed by a Greenwich Council motion calling on TfL to restore the full route.

TfL is predicting falls in central London bus passengers once Crossrail opens in December – bus in the 53’s case, the Elizabeth Line will still be a bus ride away for many of its passengers.

Some industry insiders have speculated that TfL would like to cut the route even further, to the Elephant & Castle, but can’t do so because of a lack of space for buses to terminate.

(Updated 12.10pm Thursday) Transport for London told The Charlton Champion the proposals were still at an early stage and needed to be discussed with boroughs.

Director of public transport service planning Geoff Hobbs said: “Buses have a crucial role to play in boosting the number of people walking, cycling and using public transport.

“As set out in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, we’re currently looking at how we can adjust and reorganise the bus network to ensure it reflects a rapidly changing London, including planning for year-on-year increases in bus kilometres in outer London. We need to modernise and simplify the network and ensure that bus capacity is in the right places at the right times.

“We’re currently working closely with London’s boroughs on a potential set of proposals and they are helping shape our plans. These changes will also be subject to full public consultation before they’re put in place so we can hear from customers.”

For full details of the bus service cuts, see the story on 853.

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Shooters Hill Shot: Chariot minibuses to North Greenwich aim for Charlton commuters

Chariot
Chariot services began in London earlier this year

Commuters in Charlton and Blackheath who are tired of crowded and unreliable buses to North Greenwich could be able to get a new service to the Jubilee Line hub – if they pay a little more.

Car giant Ford, which launched its Chariot service between Shooters Hill and North Greenwich earlier this year, is applying for permission to serve three stops on Westcombe Hill between the Royal Standard and Westcombe Park station. It is also asking to serve three new stops on Shooters Hill Road.

It says it is down to “significant customer requests” – most likely as a result of the notorious overcrowding on the 108 service down Westcombe Hill to North Greenwich.

But the service – which would run non-stop between North Greenwich and Westcombe Park stations – is also likely to appeal to a section of Charlton commuters who face daily battles with the 486 service down Charlton Church Lane and the 161 on Woolwich Road, who can easily walk to Westcombe Hill.

Fares on the Shooters Hill Shot, which runs in rush hours only, are typically £3 each way, although users can gain free rides by asking friends to sign up. Users book their seats with an app, similar to minicab service Uber.

Even though Chariot has to apply to TfL for a licence to run the service, the services are not be part of its network or fare structure.

The service currently snakes its way around back streets in Shooters Hill and Kidbrooke before running down the A102 to North Greenwich. Chariot is also applying to run every eight minutes, rather than every 10 minutes as now.

Transport for London is currently running a consultation on the proposed service changes – potential travellers have until 10 September to respond.

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Rockwell rises again: Sadiq Khan rejects Greenwich Council’s refusal of Charlton Riverside scheme

Rockwell render
Residents said the new blocks would loom over their homes and deny them natural light

London mayor Sadiq Khan has blocked Greenwich Council’s refusal to allow a developer to build 771 homes at the end of Anchor & Hope Lane, meaning he will now decide whether or not it will go ahead, rather than local councillors.

Developer Rockwell had planned to build on the VIP industrial estate behind Atlas and Derrick Gardens, with five 10-storey blocks, but its plans were thrown out by Greenwich Council’s planning board last month, with chair Sarah Merrill calling the proposal “reminiscent of Stalingrad”.

All 11 councillors on Greenwich’s planning board voted to reject the scheme, the first to come forward at Charlton Riverside – designated an “opportunity area” by the mayor.

But Khan has now opted to take over deciding what happens with the scheme himself – the first time a Greenwich Council planning decision has been called in by City Hall.

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
Rockwell says its new scheme will look like this

In a letter sent to Greenwich Council and seen by this website, Khan says that the proposal will have a “significant impact on the implementation of the London Plan and the draft London Plan” – the mayoral blueprint for planning across the capital.

City Hall has said that Khan’s draft London Plan aims to “get more affordable homes built, especially in areas served by strong infrastructure”.

Rockwell’s plans are for 32.4% of the units to be “affordable” housing – an increase inserted at the last minute. Of those, 162 would be for London Affordable Rent – roughly £150/week for a one-bedroom flat – and aimed at those on low incomes, with the remaining available for shared ownership.

The news will anger local residents who have battled against the proposals – particularly those who live in Atlas and Derrick Gardens, who say the Rockwell development will loom over their homes and deny them natural light. Local industries have also voiced concerns about whether they will be able to continue in business with a large residential development on their doorstep, and Squeeze singer Glenn Tilbrook has complained that his recording studio would be put in jeopardy by the plans.

Khan’s call-in follows his backing of plans for the Silvertown Tunnel and expansion of London City Airport, the cancellation of extra trains for the Jubilee Line, the shelving of plans for Cycle Superhighway 4 to run through the area and planned cuts to bus services.

It will also annoy Greenwich Labour councillors, who will be expected to campaign for Khan in 2020’s election – and who are well aware that the infrastructure in the area is anything but strong.

But City Hall watchers have not been surprised. The possibility of a call-in was first mooted just days after the planning meeting in an article by Estates Gazette journalist Paul Wellman, followed by another one by former Guardian London writer Dave Hill, who is close to Khan’s team.

Derrick Gardens
The development site runs around Atlas and Derrick Gardens, built as workers’ cottages for the Cory boatyard

The Charlton Champion understands a second scheme rejected by Greenwich councillors – for 272 homes near Abbey Wood station – has also been called in for the mayor to decide himself.

What is a call-in?

London mayors have the power to “call in” major developments after councils have made a decision, but it rarely happens. While it has never happened to Greenwich Council, two past developments on its borders have been called in.

A call-in effectively means the planning process starts again, with the mayor’s officers taking over and a public hearing taking place at City Hall.

Five years ago, Boris Johnson took over the decision-making for Convoys Wharf in Deptford from Lewisham Council after an appeal from the developer. Johnson approved outline plans for three towers of 26, 32 and 40 storeys but a detailed scheme has only recently emerged.

More recently, Khan overturned Bromley Council’s approval of a new stadium for London’s oldest football club, Cray Wanderers, who play in the eighth tier of English football, and two four-storey blocks of flats at Flamingo Park, off the Sidcup by-pass.

The mayor said he blocked it because it was on Green Belt land, even though the site is used for a waste transfer station and car parking. The club withdrew its plans and is hoping a new scheme, also backed by Bromley, will get approval from the mayor.

Anchor & Hope Lane development site
Part of the site as it is now, with low-rise Derrick and Atlas Gardens to the left

Khan’s call-in adds another twist to the tale of the Rockwell proposals, which first emerged in 2016 with proposals for a 28-storey tower and 975 homes at the south end of the site close to Charlton station, with just 13% “affordable”.

Negotiations with Greenwich Council finally produced a revised plan by the end of 2017, cutting the maximum height down to 10 storeys with 25% “affordable”. In July 2018 this was increased to 35% “affordable” when judged by number of rooms, or 32.4% when assessed by the number of units.

But pressure from residents – who pointed out that the plans still did not fit the new masterplan for the riverside – led to councillors on the planning board deferring the scheme in April until after the following month’s council election.

5pm update: Greenwich Council regeneration cabinet member Sizwe James says: “I am disappointed that the Mayor of London has called in the Eynsham Drive and Charlton Riverside planning applications, both of which were rejected by our Planning Board last month. This means that the Mayor of London, and not the local councillors elected by the people of Greenwich, will decide on these applications.

“At the Planning Board, local residents spoke passionately about the issues they had with the proposed developments. The committee members listened to the residents and shared their concerns about the height of the buildings, the lack of homes for families, and the affordability of those homes.

“After the planning applications were rejected, we hoped that the developers would come back to us with a new application that provided much needed affordable housing for families, in developments of an appropriate size and scale for Abbey Wood and Charlton.

“Whilst I respect the rights of the Mayor of London to call in these planning applications, and understand the pressure he is under to get more homes built, we very much hope he will address the concerns of residents in the process.

“I would urge him not to simply wave the applications through, but include us in discussions with the developers to secure a greater proportion of well designed, affordable family homes.

“We also need to learn from the mistakes made in the 60s and 70s and create proper neighbourhoods, with walkable streets, places to work and spaces for children to play and socialise.

“I hope that we can work together with the developers and the Mayor of London to do this.”

 

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Greenwich Council set to sell The Heights parking spaces to ‘compact homes’ developer

The Heights
The plot of land sits above The Valley and Sam Bartram House

Greenwich councillors have voted to sell car parking spaces at The Heights to a private developer, promising to invest the proceeds in new council housing.

The small plot of land, which overlooks The Valley, will be sold to developer Pocket Living, subject to a consultation with council tenants who live nearby.

Pocket believes it can build 45 one-bedroom flats in a four-storey building.

Greenwich Council’s cabinet also voted to sell two other plots of land to the same company – one off Kidbrooke Park Road and the other on the Orchard Estate in Lewisham, providing 151 one-bedroom flats across the three sites.

The developer, which specialises in “affordable compact homes for first time buyers”, will sell the homes to Greenwich residents at a 20% discount, with a covenant in place to ensure they cannot be sold for a year after purchase. No parking permits will be issued to buyers.

The Heights
The entrance to the site from The Heights

The Heights
The land between The Heights and Sam Bartram House is contaminated

80% of the proceeds from the sale will go into new council housing, with the remainder being used to improve the immediate area in the housing estates affected.

The proposal has been criticised because of the small size of Pocket’s homes, and the fact the council had opted to sell to a private firm rather than Meridian Home Start, the company it set up to deliver housing at 65% of market rents. Neither criticism was directly addressed in the meeting.

The Heights
Residents currently use the land for car parking and recycling

Regeneration director Pippa Hack, the senior council officer in charge of the scheme, said developing all three sites would deliver between £100,000 and £130,000 in council tax receipts.

“All the homes will be for sale to people who live or work in the borough, and 70% of buyers who buy through Pocket have incomes of up to £40,000. They will be sold at 20% discount compared to the local market, there will be a restrictive covenant that secures the properties in perpetuity, so there will be no sub-letting or no sales in year one,” she added.

Asked by deputy leader David Gardner what the council would do if the consultation revealed significant opposition to the scheme, Hack said officers would need to judge if the concerns outweighed the benefits of the scheme.

Cabinet member Averil Lekau added: “It seems obvious to me that you will listen to the views of residents and you will weigh that up. We would never say we would go to consultation unless it was meaningful.”

Leader Danny Thorpe said: “There have been some comments online about these particular schemes and our decision to dispose of the land; I would point out that on The Heights in Charlton, that is actually contaminated land that we are looking to dispose of; and while I appreciate that there have been some concerns about that, we have to address the housing crisis in any way we can.

“The land we are looking at here is land that we haven’t been able to make the best use of as an authority, so that conversation with residents will hopefully be a positive one when we explain what we’re doing.

“And also, we can utilise some money directly for us to build our own homes, council homes at social rents. It won’t provide us with the funds to provide all the homes we need, but it will provide us with some. And we have to start somewhere.”

One resident of the housing opposite The Heights plot was unaware of the scheme when The Charlton Champion visited the site on Wednesday. When told what the council was planning, she responded: “What? But we need that for our car parking!”

Last October, Greenwich councillors approved plans to build 37 new homes at nearby Fred Styles House, on Charlton Church Lane, a scheme that was later switched to Meridian Home Start.

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Woolwich Common fire: Major blaze wrecks neglected open space

Woolwich Common
Residents have long complained about the neglect of Woolwich Common

Fire crews are damping down this evening after a major fire destroyed a large area of Woolwich Common, leading to road closures and a plume of smoke that could be seen for miles around.

Grass and shrubland the size of four football pitches towards the south of the common was alight at the height of the blaze, when 125 firefighters were tacking the incident. It was the second fire on the common in a week.

Land near the old Royal Military Academy on the east side of the common was still smouldering at 9.30pm this evening.

The fire brigade was called at 3.51pm, with the blaze brought under control at 8.06pm. Crews from across east and south London attended, with engines from as far away as Homerton and Shadwell seen at the scene.

London Fire Brigade said earlier this evening that 70 firefighters remain in place, and will be there for some hours yet making the area safe.

“Firefighters are using water jets and fire beaters to ensure this fire is out. We will be here for a number of hours damping the area down to ensure it can’t smoulder in the undergrowth and reignite.

“At the height of the fire large plumes of smoke were drifting across the area near to a hospital grounds and local roads. Firefighters worked extremely quickly is very difficult conditions on one of the hottest days of the year.

“London is tinder dry at the moment and a stray cigarette or even a glass bottle is enough to set a fire like this one. I can’t stress how important it is for smokers to really ensure cigarette butts and matches are out properly and never leave barbecues unattended.”

Woolwich Common
Woolwich Common
Woolwich Common
Woolwich Common fire

The common is controlled by the Ministry of Defence, which still uses it for military exercises, and residents have long complained about what they see the neglect of the open space.

Debris left behind by travellers who occupied part of the common in early June is still strewn across the land close to where the fire spread, six weeks after they departed.

Woolwich Common was used as a venue for the 2012 Olympics, which led the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery – whose barracks are just off the common – to use Charlton Park for its exercises. However, delays in restoring the common led to this temporary arrangement lasting for some years.

Comments are open below if you’d like to share your experiences of the fire or the management of the common.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7.
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