Charlton and Woolwich’s Thames Path Missing Link finally due to open

Thames Path missing link
It’s coming… thanks to Paul Stollery for the photo

After years as a council pipedream, then a much-delayed period of planning and construction, the Thames Path’s “missing link” between the Thames Barrier in Charlton and King Henry’s Wharf in Woolwich will finally open next week.

Greenwich Council cabinet member Denise Scott-McDonald and City Hall walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman will open a link between the two sections of path on Wednesday 20 June at 3.30pm. (Want to go? Sign up here, and thanks to Greenwich Council for letting us know.)

Missing Link invite

The pathway – which includes a ramp from the Thames Barrier site into the adjacent industrial estate, and an elevated path at Warspite Road on the Woolwich side – will end years of aggravation for walkers and cyclists who have had to divert onto the unpleasant Woolwich Road when travelling along the Thames.

It also removes one of the few significant blockages of south-east London’s stretch of Thames Path – including an almost-interrupted riverside pathway (save for one or two blocks) through Greenwich borough from Deptford Green to Thamesmead – and makes it easier for people to cycle from riverside parts of Woolwich and Thamesmead to North Greenwich station.

However, signs on the route indicate it will only be available from 6am to 9pm. Signs also eventually indicate it will be added to Quietway 14, a cycling route from Blackfriars Road to Canada Water station.

Although someone may need to change the spelling mistake on the signs before it opens…

While the route will be welcomed by cyclists, last week saw a “die-in” at Woolwich Town Hall protesting after three riders were killed in separate collisions in Greenwich and Deptford, including two on the A206 through Greenwich, one at the notorious Woolwich Road roundabout.

Organisers demanded the reinstatement of the full Cycle Superhighway 4 scheme between London Bridge and Woolwich, which was shortened to run between Tower Bridge and Deptford Creek Bridge by mayor Sadiq Khan.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

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Sing the Baby Blues with the Big Red Bus Club on Fridays

Baby Blues flyer

Annie’s been in touch to sing us a song…

You may already be aware that the British Journal of Psychiatry published a report on the benefits of singing in reducing the impact of post-natal depression.

We’ve picked up the baton. Our mums have designed the service that they want to tackle postnatal isolation and loneliness.

Together we take a positive whole family approach to good mental health. The Baby Blues Choir brings together a parent- led stay and play, post-natal peer help & support and of course free choir lessons.

One in eight mums live with post-natal depression and many more live with isolation and loneliness.

The Big Red Bus Club is a charitable family wellbeing centre, free to use and run by local people and families.

If you fancy singing your heart out, join the Big Red Bus Club each Friday from 10am to noon during term times.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

It’s Thames-Side Studios Open Weekend this Saturday and Sunday

Thames-Side Studios flyer

It’s your chance to visit one of the area’s hidden gems this weekend – the Thames-Side Studios Open Weekend. Tucked away on the river at the Charlton/Woolwich border, it’s full of fascinating artists and you’ll definitely come out having discovered something new. But don’t just take my word for it….

Thames-Side Studios is the largest single-site studio provider in the UK. With nearly 500 studios we are home to an impressive array of artists, makers and designers, and this is a unique opportunity to meet them, talk about what they do, and to buy directly from their studios.

Painting and drawing, fashion design, carpentry, jewellery, millinery, photography, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture and installation, tailoring, leather work, picture framing, stained glass making, writing, upholstery, illustration, shoe making, textiles, conservation and restoration, lutherie, graphic design, furniture making, film and video, skin care, architecture, wood working, laser cutting, clock making, product design, book binding, and much more.

It’s open from noon to 6pm on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th June. Find out more at the Thames-Side Studios website.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

Illegal: Charlton author’s graphic novel scoops top award

Andrew Donkin, Eoin Colfer and Giovanni Rigano
Prize guys: Andrew Donkin, Eoin Colfer and Giovanni Rigano

A graphic novel about a boy’s epic journey to Europe co-written by a Charlton author has won a prestigious book award in Ireland.

Illegal, written by Eoin Colfer and SE7-based Andrew Donkin, and with illustrations by Giovanni Rigano, scooped the Judges’ Special Award at the Children’s Books Ireland Awards in Dublin yesterday.

Judges said: “This timely and powerful graphic novel charts a young boy’s journey across the Sahara Desert on the long, dangerous trek towards Italy and the potential for a new life there and reunion with his sister.

“This affecting book weaves together real stories of migration with immersive, naturalistic illustrations and carefully paced, minimalistic text. Combining intensity with accessibility, this is an important book that will stimulate important conversations and reflection about human rights, inclusion, solidarity, and prejudice.”

The trio, who have previously worked on adaptating Colfer’s sci-fi fantasy series Artemis Fowl as graphic novels, have picked up a string of plaudits for Illegal, which was published last year.

Colfer collected the prize at the Irish capital’s Smock Alley Theatre.

The Guardian called the book “a deeply affecting and thought-provoking account of the 21st-century refugee experience”.

Donkin said the inspiration for the book came from seeing a small news report of a migrants’ boat sinking in the Mediterranean, killing scores of people: “It seemed extraordinary that thousands of people were dying on Europe’s doorstep and there was hardly a mention in mainstream media at the time.

“When a sinking was mentioned it was just in terms of numbers – no individuals, no personalities, no names. Eoin, Giovanni and I decided that we wanted to take one of those numbers and tell their story.

“What we wanted to do was to ask our readers to see each of those numbers as a human being with a favourite colour and a favourite football team just like them.”

A pane from Illegal

He added: “We knew straight away that we wanted to tell the story of Illegal as a graphic novel. Graphic novel just means a posh comic and it brings a wry smile to the faces of life-long comic readers who remember buying comics on grubby newsprint for five pence when they were a kid. We wanted to reach an audience that wouldn’t pick up a broadsheet newspaper.

“Eoin and I did more research for the writing of Illegal than for any other book. We read everything that we could find, attended conferences, and conducted interviews with people who had made the journey as well as aid workers.

“We were determined to get every detail as accurate as we possibly could. We worked closely with two fantastic charities: Women For Refugee Women and Migrant Voice. Hearing the stories of the people that they help was incredibly humbling and also a great motivator for the three of us.”

The book has already been translated into 10 different languages – and has also been a hit in France – and is due to be published in the US in August.

Illegal cover

The book is available from Ottie and the Bea on Old Dover Road, Blackheath, and online via hive.co.uk and Amazon.co.uk. You can read more about Andrew Donkin’s work at andrewdonkin.co.uk (or @AndrewDonkin on Twitter).

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

Charlton’s trains change on Sunday: Do you know your new times?

Thameslink class 700 trains
These Thameslink trains will start stopping at Charlton this Sunday

The biggest shake-up in SE London’s rail services for many years begins on Sunday – with Charlton gaining Thameslink trains to Blackfriars, St Pancras and beyond but losing some trains to Cannon Street.

Completely new timetables come into force as London Bridge’s new central platforms formally open for business, allowing more trains from Kent, Sussex and south London to run through to Farringdon, St Pancras, Luton and Bedford, as well as new destination such as Finsbury Park, Peterborough and Cambridge.

Charlton will be on a new Thameslink service linking Rainham in Kent with Luton, which replaces the old Southeastern trains from Charing Cross to Gillingham, although will run via Greenwich rather than Lewisham.

Two Southeastern trains to Cannon Street via Greenwich remain, while a new service from Dartford to Charing Cross will run via Blackheath and Lewisham.

So while Charlton still gets eight trains per hour off-peak (six on Sundays) – all stopping at London Bridge – they will run to different destinations. The Thameslink trains will only run as far as Kentish Town on Sundays.

Expect some teething problems as the new timetable beds down – a few Thameslink trains appear to have been deleted from early timetables after reports of issues with getting new trains into service, so double-check if you are using the new route.

Separately, Sunday’s service will be disrupted by engineering works.

Heading into town, your service from Charlton should be…

00 to Cannon Street via Greenwich
06 to Charing Cross via Lewisham
10 to Luton via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
20 to Cannon Street via Greenwich
30 to Cannon Street via Greenwich

36 to Charing Cross via Lewisham
40 to Luton via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
50 to Cannon Street via Greenwich

Heading away from town, this is how the service looks…

05 Rainham (not calling at Woolwich Dockyard, Belvedere, Erith)
08 all stations to Dartford
15 all stations to Barnehurst
25 all stations to Crayford (and back to Cannon Street via Sidcup)

35 Rainham (not calling at Woolwich Dockyard, Belvedere, Erith)
38 all stations to Dartford
45 all stations to Barnehurst
55 all stations to Crayford (and back to Cannon Street via Sidcup)

This is what your new morning rush-hour service looks like…

0529 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0547 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0559 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0617 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0628 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0635 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0647 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0659 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0704 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0710 Luton via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
0721 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0730 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0733 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0740 Luton via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
0746 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0753 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0757 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0810 West Hampstead via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
0813 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0820 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0830 Cannon Street via Greenwich

0840 West Hampstead via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
0847 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0850 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0900 Cannon Street via Greenwich

0906 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0920 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0930 Cannon Street via Greenwich

0936 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0940 Luton via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
0950 Cannon Street via Greenwich

For journeys home, and to double-check the above, use National Rail Enquiries.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

‘We’re not changing our store name’: Decathlon turns its back on Charlton

Decathlon Charlton
Where am I? Decathlon opens at the end of the month

Sports retailer Decathlon has snubbed nearly 200 locals to insist it will be calling its new store “Greenwich”, despite being firmly inside Charlton.

192 people signed The Charlton Champion‘s petition to ask the chain to acknowledge the sporting heritage of the are where it will open its new store at the end of the month.

The petition will stay open until the end of the week, when we will present it to Decathlon to give the firm one more chance to show its pride in an area that’s home to Charlton Athletic, Charlton Lido, the Charlton Park cricket and skateboard hubs, Hornfair Park BMX track and two non-league football clubs.

A Decathlon UK spokesperson told The Charlton Champion: “We are honoured that our new store is located in Charlton. However, due to the shopping park being called Greenwich Shopping Park we decided to keep this symmetry with the name of the store, as per other stores in the shopping park and call our store Greenwich Decathlon.”

Decathlon promotion
Decathlon staffers promote their “Greenwich” store (which is actually in Charlton) in Greenwich during the London Marathon

The new store will sit just east of Charlton Asda, west of Charlton Riverside Sainsbury’s and M&S, and south of Primark Charlton, whose store manager invited The Charlton Champion to its launch last year made a point of emphasising the branch’s location.

While possibly not the most urgent issue in the area, there is a serious message behind this – if Charlton is to get on its feet and improve itself, it needs major employers in the district to be proud of the area and acknowledge it.

And while, frankly, the stores calling themselves “Greenwich” on the retail park aren’t worth writing about anyway, we hoped better of Decathlon. We like their stuff. We’d like them to engage with an area with a deep sporting heritage.

Petition respondent Maria Tawn said: “They only do it because they think Greenwich sounds more upmarket! Snobbery still exists in the 21st century, especially amongst PR people.”

And Jamie Bannister added: “As a Greenwich resident I agree with this – confusing, nonsensical and a disservice to Charlton.”

The petition closes on Friday – so please sign and show store manager Kieran O’Shea that we’re proud of Charlton, and he should be too.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

Charlton hustings: Councillors acted ‘appallingly’ over Victoria Way scheme, ex-planning officer says

Victoria Way, February 2017
The Victoria Way site last year. Demolition teams have now moved in.

A former Greenwich Council planning officer who is standing for election in Charlton this week says councillors acted “appallingly” when they decided to back a controversial development in Victoria Way without explaining why.

The eight-strong planning committee faced jeers from the public after after endorsing the Fairview New Homes proposals for a former warehouse site, which include two 10-storey blocks and 144 car parking spaces, as well as a nursery and office space.

Neighbours had called the plans “overbearing” and had voiced concerns about traffic congestion and the lack of facilities for residents. Others criticised a lack of consultation with residents about the scheme.

In the meeting overseen by vice-chair Ray Walker (Labour, Eltham West), councillors Mark Elliott (Conservative, Eltham South), Clive Mardner (Labour, Abbey Wood), Danny Thorpe (Labour, Shooters Hill – council deputy leader and regeneration cabinet member), Sarah Merrill (Labour, Shooters Hill), Norman Adams (Labour, Kidbrooke with Hornfair), Steve Offord (Labour, Abbey Wood) backed the scheme without discussig 125 objections from residents, three written objections from local councillors in Peninsula and Charlton wards and concerns raised by Transport for London and the Greater London Authority about the high level of car parking spaces.

Only Thorpe attempted to offer any explanation when it came to vote on the scheme. Conservative Geoff Brighty (Blackheath Westcombe) voted against it.

At the Charlton ward hustings on Saturday, Green candidate Clare Loops – a former planning policy manager for Greenwich who is standing in Thursday’s council election – condemned the way the councillors acted.

“Just looking at the way the committee is structured at the moment, they should be discussing the points raised, and that is appalling that it didn’t happen,” Loops – who now works for neighbouring Bexley – said.

But incumbent Labour councillor Gary Parker said: “What you have to remember is that the Planning Board is not whipped, and it wasn’t just Labour candidates that voted for it. They get the papers in advance and they get officers’ recommendations, and there was a recommendation in favour of it.

“I do think we should listen to residents a lot more, but the complexities of planning law make that very difficult.”

‘Charlton has no representation on planning committee’

It is normal convention in a Greenwich planning meeting for councillors to discuss the application – no explanation has been given as to why they didn’t on the Fairview Victoria Way case.

Parker agreed with Loops that the council needed to bring some applications to planning committees at earlier stages to obtain residents’ input.

Fellow Labour candidate Gary Dillon said that the Charlton area had no representation on the Planning Board, which is the council’s main planning commitee, “I hope that changes after the next election,” he said.

But Lib Dem candidate Ian Gerrard responded: “Parties decide who serves on committees – if Charlton isn’t being represented, that’s down to Labour.”

Women’s Equality Party candidate Pamela Ritchie also attended the hustings, along with one of the three Conservative candidates, Macharia Gakuru, and a second Lib Dem candidate, Charlie Rome. Linda Perks – the Labour candidate condemned by a judge for rule-breaking in a union election – did not attend.

Planning issues dominated the hustings, with concerns raised about the fate of the Charlton Riverside masterplan in the light of the planning application by Rockwell for 771 new homes on an industrial estate at Anchor & Hope Lane including five 10-storey blocks.

“All residents of Charlton could be affected by this,” Ritchie said, adding: “We’ve already seen the segregation in Woolwich between the new-builds and the town of Woolwich.”

“I don’t like calling it Charlton Riverside,” Loops said. “The best way to integrate it would be to call it ‘Charlton’.”

Parker said the council was consulting via the Charlton Stakeholder Forum, which he called “a public forum”. “I’ve been at some of them, I haven’t seen any of the opposition there.”

(The Charlton Champion has never been invited or asked to publicise its meetings. Furthermore, this website understands that at the last meeting, representatives of developer Rockwell outnumbered all other attendees.)

He also pointed to the council’s Better Together meetings and public planning meetings – such as the one which discussed Victoria Way where councillors ignored residents.

Loops said it was “worrying” that council officers had recommended the Rockwell development even though it was contrary to the masterplan. “What’s the point in having a plan if you’re not going to follow it?,” Lib Dem Rome said.

There was also criticism of both council leader Denise Hyland and deputy leader Danny Thorpe sitting on the Planning Board – Greenwich is the only council in London where the leader sits on its main planning committee. Gary Parker said a leader or deputy leader on the planning board “leaves you open to potentially being compromised, blurring the distinction between the [council’s] planning function and being a member of the executive”. “If I was in that position, I wouldn’t be on it, but that is for them to decide.”

On Sunday, a resident at the hustings for Woolwich Riverside ward – which covers some of the eastern side of Charlton – also brought up former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts’ role as deputy chairman of Cratus Communications, which has acted for the developers of both the Fairview Victoria Way and Rockwell Charlton Riverside schemes. “I suppose ex-leaders of councils have to earn a living,” Labour councillor John Fahy said.

Ideas for Charlton’s future

Back at the Charlton ward hustings, candidates were also asked how they would improve Charlton Village and Charlton Church Lane. Conservative Macharia Gakuru said he would change Charlton Church Lane into a one-way street, while Lib Dem Gerrard suggested the council could temporarily lower business rates.

Loops said: “We need to make sure footfall in the Village is all of us using it. We could be changing some of the A5 uses – hot food takeaways – into more of a cafe culture, to provide more places to hang out. And slow down the traffic – 20mph is much better.”

Parker said: “We need to look at more pop-up shops and a range of other short-term measures to support businesses and people who want to get into business. I think the council could be more flexible about this.” Ritchie complained about the state of the pavements on Charlton Church Lane and suggested parking in that street could be moved.

All candidates also spoke out against the current plans for the proposed Enderby Wharf cruise liner terminal in east Greenwich, which will allow ships using it to use their own highly polluting engines rather than energy from the National Grid.

All 51 seats in Greenwich borough are up for election on Thursday – see candidates, manifestos and more hustings coverage over on 853. Of the councillors that passed the Fairview Victoria Way scheme, all are up for re-election in their various wards except Mark Elliott and Ray Walker; while Steve Offord was deselected in Abbey Wood and is now contesting Eltham North.

Video from selected parts of Saturday’s Charlton hustings – including opening and closing statements – can be seen on YouTube.

The Charlton Champion sent a questionnaire to candidates…

Charlton ward candidates (three are elected): Gary Dillon (Labour), Macharia Gakuru (Conservative), Ian Gerrard (Liberal Democrat), Rebecca Ireland (Liberal Democrat), Catherine Latham (Conservative), Clare Loops (Green), Maya Mann (Conservative), Gary Parker (Labour), Linda Perks (Labour), Pamela Ritchie (Women’s Equality Party), Charlie Rome (Liberal Democrat). Polls are open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday 3 May.

  • The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.