Morris Walk developer Lovell ‘let down’ Greenwich Council, housing chief says

Morris Walk Estate
Many of the Morris Walk buildings are now in a poor state of repair

Greenwich Council has been “badly let down” by the developer in charge of rebuilding the crumbling Morris Walk Estate, its senior councillor in charge of housing said last night as it approved plans to knock down the 1960s estate.

The council entered into a 12-year deal with Lovell in 2012 to redevelop the Connaught Estate in Woolwich town centre and the Morris Walk and Maryon Road estates, on the Woolwich/Charlton border.

While Lovell has pressed ahead with turning the Connaught – close to the under-construction Crossrail station – into the Trinity Walk development, where 445 of the 689 homes are for private sale, work has not started on Morris Walk or Maryon Road. This is despite the council having spent years moving tenants and leaseholders out.

Now frustrated councillors have agreed to tell Lovell to knock Morris Walk down anyway, to stop the largely deserted estate from being a haven for crime and anti-social behaviour. Demolition had been due to begin in autumn 2018.

‘Build date could not be met’

Chris Kirby, the cabinet member for housing, told the cabinet – the council’s main decision-making body – that the council has been asked for “vacant possession” of the blocks. “When that process had begun, we were informed that the build date could not be met,” he said.

“To say I am disappointed doesn’t cover my feelings towards that. I feel badly let down by Lovell and I have told them in no uncertain terms.”

The agreement was signed off by former leader Chris Roberts and his cabinet, which included current Woolwich Riverside councillors John Fahy and Jackie Smith, whose ward covers the estate.

“If we were writing it now we would design it in a different way, but I’m not here to unpick old agreements,” Kirby said.

“Where we are in is a really difficult negotiation about bringing the build date forward. There’s a huge amount of concern and frustration about the start date – it’s difficult to give a running commentary on a negotiation, but as soon as we have concrete information for residents, we will do.

“We’re looking for that start date to be as soon as possible. We’re working with Lovell, with PA Housing [the housing association involved in the scheme], with police and with residents to mitigate the fallout from where we are.”

‘Not short of a bob or two’

Addressing the cabinet, John Fahy spoke of how Lovell’s parent company, Morgan Sindall, presented to councillors at the Local Government Association conference in Bournemouth last week that it had “£2billion in 2012, and £2 billion in 2019”, “They’re not short of a bob or two,” he said.

Kirby responded: “I just agree with you. Developers are allowed to get away with this kind of activity all around the country and what we need is a radical government that’s going to stop landbanking and restore grants for the building of social homes.”

Council leader Danny Thorpe defended the original deal with Lovell, saying the estates were “exempted” from the Decent Homes Programme, a Blair-era programme to bring social housing up to scratch. “We can’t defend squalor, we want to see a decent standing of housing moving forward, and we will be holding PA Housing to account for their actions as well.”

Councillors also approved a decision to approve compulsory purchase orders on the estate on improved terms, following a government decision involving Southwark Council and the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth. “This is now seen as best practice, which is why it is back before us tonight,” Kirby said.

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Avengers assemble at the Thorntree Summer Fayre this Saturday

There’ll be superheroes in SE7 this Saturday. Thorntree dad ANDREW DONKIN explains…

This Saturday, 13 July 2019 sees Thorntree Primary School on Thorntree Road, Charlton, throws open its doors to welcome pupils, ex-students, parents, carers, teachers, and the wider Charlton community to its Summer Fayre. Come one, come all, everyone is welcome. Money raised goes to the Friends of Thorntree Association.

The event is open from 11am to 3om and this year has an Avengers theme. There will be 30 Marvel-lous stalls (see what we did there?) offering everything from Spin the Avenger, to Incredible Face Painting, a Mighty Money Tree, and a chance to undertake Thor’s Balance Challenge. There will also be a tasty BBQ with veggie options, and a fully stocked bar.

The leader of the Summer Fayre team, Jude Belton-Owen, said: “The Summer Fayre is our largest annual event and we’ve been working hard to make this year’s the biggest and best ever. The kids picked the Avengers theme and have been full of energy and enthusiasm coming up with ideas for stalls and events ever since.“

The Friends of Thorntree Association chair, Mark Owen, added: “The event is open to everyone in Charlton! Please come along and support us and have a great time. We’d love to see ex-students and ex-parents to visit as well as folks who might be Thorntree parents in the future. There will be fun, beer and (fingers crossed) sun. I’ll probably be on BBQ duty so look out for the man with the singed eyebrows and come and say hello.”

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The Barber of Seville at Charlton House: Opera comes to SE7

The Barber of Seville opened in Hampshire before transferring to Charlton House at the weekend

We’ve had rave reviews from the weekend’s first two performances of THE BARBER OF SEVILLE at Charlton House. There are two performances left, so here’s its producer, ILONA BUSHELL, to tell you why should should sample some opera at your local Jacobean mansion…

Come along to Scherzo Ensemble’s Barber of Seville which is running this week with performances on Friday 12th and Sunday 14th. This witty touring production started in Hampshire at the Longhope Estate and finds its current home in the Old Library at Charlton House. The lively and entertaining music is masterfully directed by Matthew O’Keefe, who stands on the gallery with the sound of Rossini floating down over the audience. On stage, the characters dance, hide, laugh and – yes – sing under the clever artistic direction of Sebastian Freeburn. Freeburn’s costume design makes the stage pop with colour amongst the singing wood of the Old Library.

The production prides itself on its engagement with young artists, with the team all under 30 and the orchestra made up of talented players from London Conservatoires. Upcoming stars of the stage who are performing at famous venues around the country including Glyndebourne, bring the Opera House to your doorstep. Margo Arsane, an emerging mezzo and current young artist at the National Opera Studio in London, sings her first Rosina with devastating beauty and feeling. Meanwhile, Benedict Nelson, previous Harewood Artist at English National Opera, directs proceedings from his position as Figaro.

Get ready to laugh and cry with the zany characters as they embark on a complicated journey towards their happy ending. Tickets start from £14, with reduced prices for students and under 18s. Buy on the door with cash or card, and enjoy a free glass of bubbly with your ticket!

Performances are at 7pm on Friday 12 July and 4pm on Sunday 14 July.
More information: scherzobarbiere.com

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