Take a step into Charlton’s future: Support proposals for a Thames Barrier Bridge

Thames Barrier Bridge
A Thames Barrier Bridge could be a tourist attraction in its own right

Two years ago, we reported on early ideas for a pedestrian and cycling bridge at the Thames Barrier, connecting Charlton with Silvertown on the north side of river. Now the team behind the proposals are looking for your support to make this a reality. ALEX LIFSCHUTZ, of the architecture firm Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, explains more and how you can get involved.

The Thames Barrier Bridge, conceived by the London architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, with the marine, civil and structural engineers Beckett Rankine, is a low-cost, low-impact pedestrian and cycle bridge that would link the communities of Charlton and Woolwich with the Royal Docks. The transport consultants Steer reckon that five million pedestrians and one million cyclists would use the bridge every year, based on journeys to work alone. These figures don’t include leisure or other trips.

The grim statistics of the pandemic have alerted us to so many issues of health and social inequality. Likewise the return of birdsong to our cities has reminded us that, as we emerge from lockdown, we really do have to replace motor vehicles with sustainable transport. Walking and cycling are part of the solution to all of these problems – promoting health, social and economic progress, and reducing pollution. A hopeful sign is the massive increase of bike sales – according to The Guardian, up 40% on last year.

Thames Barrier Bridge
A bridge at the Thames Barrier would not stop shipping

But the river creates an enormous barrier to walking and cycling in east and southeast London. For instance, a journey from Charlton to the new City Hall at The Crystal, or the 70,000 new jobs in and around the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone, currently takes about 40 minutes, cycling and walking though the Woolwich foot tunnel (assuming the lifts are working or you don’t mind carrying your bike down and up the stairs), 40 minutes by the Docklands Light Railway, or over 70 minutes walking.

A bridge across the river close to the Thames Barrier would allow you to reach the same destination in 20 minutes, walking or you could cycle there in half that time. It would be the only bridge east of Tower Bridge (other than the Dartford Crossing), where half of London’s population now lives, compared to over 20 bridges in west London.

Thames Barrier Bridge
The bridge would create opportunities for communities on both sides of the Thames

In the late 1990’s, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands came up with the idea of a bridge connecting the South Bank to Charing Cross station and slung off the existing Hungerford Railway Bridge, creating minimal obstructions to river traffic. Completed in 2002, the Golden Jubilee Footbridges have become the Thames’s most popular crossing with about 8.4 million pedestrian journeys each year.

Our idea for the new bridge at the Thames Barrier is similarly opportunistic. Like the Golden Jubilee Bridges, its supports would shadow the piers of the existing structure and hence create only a small additional impact on navigation and the flow of the river. In fact, like our bridges further upstream, it would also provide the barrier with protection from impact on whichever side it is placed. Its low height (about 15 metres above Mean Water High Springs) makes it easier to access by cycle, foot or wheelchair, with minimal shore taken up by its relatively short ramps rising from the parks at either side. It would be around nine metres wide with separate lanes for walking and bikes.

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands came up with the idea for the Golden Jubilee Bridge, linking the South Bank with the West End (image: Mary and Andrew via CC BY 2.0)

It would totally transform the accessibility of the Charlton and Woolwich waterfronts including existing occupants such as the Thames-Side Studios and the many new homes and businesses planned for Charlton Riverside. Looking further afield, it would link the Green Chain, including Maryon Park and Charlton Park on the south side, to the Lee Valley and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Parks to the north.

Like Tower Bridge, the Thames Barrier Bridge is an opening bascule bridge, so allows passage for boats and barges by raising its deck. The elegant structure is a series of small spans that use a minimal amount of material (especially steel), making it both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. With shorter, multiple openings, the bridge is less prone to the risk of malfunction compared to a single point of opening, and can be raised at the last minute for ships to pass, minimising disruption to cycles and pedestrians. The bridge would serve journeys to and from work but also attract visitors and tourists, bringing economic benefits north and south of the river.

Thames Barrier
A bridge would connect new developments, transport links and green spaces on. both sides of the Thames

The idea is receiving support from local MPs and councillors, residents’ groups, cycle organisations, developers, environmentalists and transport experts. What we need are local political champions, including the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the London Borough of Newham, the Greater London Authority and statutory agencies like the Environment Agency to pick up the idea and help us run with it.

Of course, we are only at the concept stage and much testing needs to be done. Curiously, once it has political support, funding the design work – and ultimately the £300 million structure – is less difficult than you’d expect as there is a large amount of green finance available at the moment, given government and corporate climate initiatives.

So what can you do to help? Click on the website – www.thamesbarrierbridge.com – to find out more and send us your comments, or write to your local council.

The pandemic has shown us that we can rapidly change our behaviour to counter a virus; we can use the same energy and enterprise to counter the even more dangerous threat of climate change and, in doing so, make better lives for ourselves.

ALEX LIFSCHUTZ is the founder and principal of Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands.

This comment piece is also appearing on our sister website 853.


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The Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival is back for 2021: Can you help?

Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival screening of They Shall Not Grow Old at the White Swan
The White Swan might not be around, but the Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival is back in September after a year’s break

Coronavirus might have put paid to last year’s event, but the Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival is coming back in 2021. PAUL CHAPMAN reveals when and explains how you can get involved…

Very excited to announce that the Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival is coming back in 2021! After the disappointment of last year when coronavirus called a halt to so many people’s plans, we’ve started planning and we’re on the lookout for volunteers to help us put on events.

We can also announce – exclusively in The Charlton Champion – that this years Festival will run from Friday 3rd to Saturday 11th September!

If you’ve not heard about us before, it’s a simple concept. We’re volunteers, and we host films, for free, only in venues with an SE7 or SE18 postcode. The films range from documentaries to blockbusters, and the venues range from pubs to churches to cafes to… well, you tell us! (Especially if you run a venue!)

Previous highlights have included Vertigo at Severndroog Castle, Battle of Britain at St George’s Garrison Church, Shaun of the Dead at The White Swan in Charlton and First Man under the Stars on the Woolwich riverside. We’ve also played obscure documentaries where the volunteers outnumbered the visitors, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show on the big screen at General Gordon Square… when the sound didn’t work. You’re always guaranteed an adventure with CWFFF!

To get involved, or to be notified of advance news, sign up to our mailing list. You can also find our social media details below, where you can give us a follow and let us know your film and venue ideas.

Twitter: twitter.com/CWFilmFestival
Facebook: facebook.com/CharltonWoolwichFFF


We tell the SE7 stories you won’t read elsewhere. We can’t do it without your help.
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Coronavirus in Charlton: Where to get help as Tier 4 restrictions go on

Keep your distance sign
Staying two metres apart remains as vital as ever

An update from Greenwich Council’s public health team on the developing coronavirus situation…

As of yesterday, there were 1,188 confirmed new cases of coronavirus in Greenwich borough. Cases are increasing rapidly across London and the South East, and this is happening in Greenwich too. We need to tackle this increase by following the guidance explained in this update.

87 people are in hospital right now in Greenwich because of coronavirus. Although this may seem a relatively low number, to have to go to hospital because of coronavirus means your case is very serious. We need to make sure that this number doesn’t rise, and eventually ends up at 0 by following the guidance in this update and supporting each other.

As you will be aware, the situation has developed significantly in the past week. Coronavirus cases have continued to accelerate very quickly, a new strain of the virus has emerged, and the government has placed much of the country, including Greenwich, in the highest Tier 4 restrictions.

Everyone needs to stay at home, except for essential activities.

You can read all the details about Tier 4 on the official website here: www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-4-stay-at-home

Free holiday meals for children will continue as planned. Find out more about the Holiday Meals service.

Tier 4 restrictions (click to download poster)

The festive period

For those who were planning to celebrate Christmas, Tier 4 changes mean you will probably not be celebrating the way you had intended. We hope that for those celebrating, and those not, there is an opportunity to at least get some rest over the next couple of weeks.

Thank you for all your involvement and hard work over the past few months – we could not have made the progress we have without you, and we thank you for helping to keep our communities safe at this difficult time. Here’s hoping for a happier 2021! Take care and stay safe, and we look forward to continuing to do lots of good work together in January.

Mental health support

Whether or not Christmas is part of your life, your mental health might be affected by it happening around you. It’s a time of year that often puts extra pressure on us, and can affect our mental health in lots of different ways. This year especially may be even harder due to the effects of coronavirus.

Mind has some great information specifically around coping with mental health at Christmas, and also specifically around Coronavirus and Christmas: mind.org.uk

Live Well Greenwich also has lots of local support, advice and information if you, or someone you love, are struggling at this time of year. Visit the Look After You hub for local support, ranging from top tips and self-help to support if you’re struggling to cope with difficult feelings or behaviours. livewellgreenwich.org.uk

You can also call 0800 470 4831 to talk to a friendly, local advisor. Open every day 8.30am – 6pm, but closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Sunday 27th December, New Year’s Day and Sunday 3rd January.

Getting tested for coronavirus

If you have coronavirus symptoms: (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, a loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste), even if they’re only mild, it’s important to get a test and stay at home until you get your result. Please go to gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. If you have problems using the online service, cal 119. Lines are open 7am to 11pm.

Testing is not available at the Emergency Department at the hospital or at your GP practice, so please do not attend here trying to get a test.

Fast testing is now available for those without symptoms – this must be booked via the Greenwich Council website.

Support if you test positive and have to self-isolate

If your test result is positive, you and your household will need to stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days. (This has changed from 14 days.) This is important to stop the virus spreading and to keep your community safe.

This can be stressful and worrying when you need to go to work. If you are unable to claim sick-pay from your employer and are a low income household, a one-off £500 payment may be available from the government to support you and your family during these 14 days. Find out if you are eligible to apply for this payment or call 0800 470 4831.

Training available

If you’re interested in helping your community through volunteering, a short training programme is available to introduce and prepare volunteers for the role of Neighbourhood Champion. This is an opportunity to learn, ask questions, share information and practice.

For more information, please email victoria.smith[at]royalgreenwich.gov.uk.


We tell the SE7 stories you won’t read elsewhere. We can’t do it without your help.
– Please tell us about your news and events
– Become a monthly supporter at presspatron.com/charltonchampion
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