The Charlton Champion joins the Independent Community News Network

ICNN logo

We’re proud to announce that The Charlton Champion has joined the new Independent Community News Network, which represents community news operators across the UK.

The Charlton Champion is one of over 400 community news operations in the UK, which range from printed newspapers to small-scale websites like this one. The ICNN, which is based at Cardiff University, aims to champion and support journalism at the local and hyperlocal level, where news coverage is most at risk of dying out.

This website first appeared nearly seven years ago. Since then, we’ve seen deep cuts and a lack of investment cause serious harm to traditional local news coverage not just in Charlton, but across Greenwich borough and south-east London in general.
It’s a story that’s being repeated across the country as news organisations grapple with a bust business model – or simply keep squeezing titles for profit.

Our membership of ICNN gives us access to the expertise built up by Cardiff’s Centre for Community Journalism as well as the experiences of our fellow members. It also enables us to feed into their discussions about how the sector should grow.

The ICNN opened for business in July with just one member – West Leeds Dispatch. Now there are 30, including Love Wapping and Inside Croydon, two sites which have done brilliant work in informing readers and holding their local representatives to account, and the excellent Walthamstow-based Waltham Forest Echo.

Without exception, all members of ICNN are committed to working within and adhering strictly to the guidelines of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

We recently gave the site its first revamp since 2010 – it should now be a lot easier to read on mobiles and tablets (and see how many places in the header you can recognise!). But we’ll keep on doing what we’ve always done – bringing you updates from community groups across Charlton, and keeping a watch on how council and planning decisions will affect SE7. The site is run in our spare time so we aren’t able to cover everything, but we’ll give it a good go. Got a story? Get in touch.

(And we’ve a new email address – charltonchampion.se7[at]gmail.com.)

You can support The Charlton Champion by following us on Twitter and Facebook and sharing our stories with friends and neighbours. For those who want to back the site with something more tangible, we’re looking at options for how readers can do that and we’ll hopefully have something for you soon.

We’re also always on the lookout for new contributors – drop us a line if you fancy joining the team and writing something.

Or you can support us simply by keep on reading. Thank you for clicking on The Charlton Champion. We hope to keep on doing this for a good few years to come.

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The Lewisham Natureman comes to Charlton

Lewisham Natureman
The mural can be seen at the bend in Bramshot Avenue by the A102

One of south London’s most distinctive – and best-loved – graffiti artists has left his latest calling card in a overlooked corner of Charlton.

The Lewisham Natureman’s white stags – often adorned with that borough’s crown logo – have been spotted in locations including the River Quaggy in Lee, wasteland in New Cross, the old Catford dog track and underneath a railway bridge in Lewisham.

Possibly the most visible one is on a gate at Greyladies Gardens, a block of flats on the Lewisham flank of Blackheath.

Lewisham Natureman
The stag welcoming you to Blackheath

From the Wildcornerz website:

The Lewisham Natureman is a legend thought to have its roots in South East London’s local graffiti scene. He has never been seen and is only represented by a small carving, that can be found [normally hidden] in the wastelands, train sidings and rivers of the borough. This has given way to the belief that this character is not human at all but actually a spirit of the wild; an urban incarnation of the Green Man or Cernunnos; the stag lord.

He also takes the form of a small white deer that can be seen wandering the desolate places of Lewisham, grazing on wild vegetation and drinking from the boroughs three rivers. The creature is also known as the ‘Wild Walker.’

It’s been a while since one of the stags have appeared – but now one has emerged in Bramshot Avenue, Charlton, on a wall next to land which until recently hosted a large advertising hoarding.

Lewisham Natureman

Lewisham Natureman from Siebert Road

It’s not the Lewisham Natureman’s first appearance in Greenwich borough – one was spotted outside the former Thomas Tallis School in Kidbrooke two years ago.

Long-standing residents may remember horses grazing on this land until the 1980s – the Natureman’s reappearance may help jog some memories, as well as giving travellers stuck on the Blackwall Tunnel approach something to gaze at.

Councillors back plan to add flats and gym to Antigallican pub

The Antigallican

A Greenwich Council planning committee has backed plans to build eight flats, a gym and a retail unit in an extension to the Antigallican pub at the foot of Charlton Church Lane.

The pub would stay in operation under the proposals, which include having a three-storey extension built facing Woolwich Road to help accommodate the new homes and retail unit. But it would lose its function room, which would be turned into a gym for the new residents, while its 23 hotel rooms would also go.

Six councillors on the Greenwich area planning committee backed the scheme unanimously, saying it would help protect the future of the pub, which is believed to date back to the 1870s.

Both the Charlton Society and the Charlton Central Residents’ Association had objected to the proposal, claiming it was an inappropriate location to build housing.

However, the council’s environmental health team had backed a condition that the flats be fitted with mechanical ventilation to mitigate the air pollution problem at the junction.

Owner and licensee Sean Murphy told the committee that the hotel rooms above the pub had been unable to compete with new hotels opening in nearby Woolwich.

“The hotel rooms used to be 80% full, now it’s down to 50%,” he said, adding that the only boosts to trade came from events at the O2.

Councillors were told by planning officers that the current hotel rooms – 10 of which have shared toilet and and bathroom facilities – “were not high quality for servicing tourists’ needs” while the new flats would provide a “high quality living environment”. Residents of the new blocks would be barred from obtaining parking permits.

Murphy agreed to a condition that the flats should have sprinklers, saying to install them would be “no problem”. “After Grenfell and so on, it’s in everybody’s interests.”

Antigallican pub design

Committee chair Mark James (Middle Park & Sutcliffe, Labour) praised what he called “an innovative scheme”, while Peninsula councillor Chris Lloyd (Labour) noted the loss of other pubs on the Woolwich Road in recent years.

Greenwich West councillor Mehboob Khan (Labour) said the proposal was “in keeping with the character of the area” and would support a “struggling local business”.

“It would be a shame to lose the pub after 150 years – long may it continue.”

Council planning blunder may mean unwanted phone mast for Siebert Road

The site sits just behind houses on Westcombe Hill

A fuller version of this story can be read at 853.

A Greenwich Council planning blunder means residents of Westcombe Hill may get a mobile phone mast at the end of their gardens – despite planners refusing permission for it.

Residents who thought their protests against the mast had paid off were shocked to find diggers turning up last week – and had to persuade contractors to stop work.

Agents acting for Vodafone and O2 applied for permission to build a mast on land off Siebert Road, next to the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach in September 2016. The land sits between homes on Westcombe Hill and the dual carriageway, which divides Charlton and Blackheath.

Council planners refused the application in November after protests from residents, citing its “prominent location, height, design, scale, appearance and poor siting would lead to a cluttered and an over-dominant appearance within the location and when viewed from the neighbouring conservation area”.

But the council took too long to reject the application – under planning law, a council needs to respond within 56 days to prevent this type of application. Greenwich took 57 days to respond, meaning Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd (CTIL), which runs Vodafone and O2’s networks, has permission to build the mast by default, so long as the property owner agrees.

Land ownership confusion

However, there is confusion as to who actually owns the land – it had been believed it was owned by Greenwich Council, but Land Registry documents indicate that it is actually owned by Transport for London. The planned location of the mast is on the route Bramshot Avenue used to take before construction work started on the A102 in 1967.

Confusion over the land ownership and relevant permits meant contractors had to stop work, while residents have been urged to lobby TfL to refuse permission if it is confirmed that the mayor’s transport agency owns the land.

Siebert Road, 1 August 2017
Residents already have to live with the noise and pollution from the A102 – typical evening rush-hour congestion can be seen behind

A letter sent to residents by senior planning officer Victoria Geoghegan and seen by this website says: “Regretfully and due to a systems error, the application wasn’t determined within the 56-day period which means it is deemed to be consented and the mast can now be installed provided all other permissions are obtained.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the application wasn’t determined in 56 days given representations objecting to the scheme were made. I can assure you that the system now now been corrected to ensure this will not happen again.”

Greenwich Council sorry

Residents are lobbying local politicians and starting their own campaign, Westcombe Hill Against the Mast (Wham), to fight the proposal.

A spokesperson for CTIL told this website: “Vodafone and O2 customers expect to be able to use their mobiles and devices where they live, work and travel. Base stations are low powered devices which cover approximately half a mile in radius, therefore we have to put base stations close to our customers.

“Vodafone and O2 identified that they need to improve the coverage to their customers in Blackheath and we now have consent for a base station on Siebert Road. We have received a query on the land ownership at the proposed location and are currently investigating this point.”

A Greenwich Council spokesperson said: “The Royal Borough listened and responded to residents’ objections to this phone mast. Planning permission was refused on 14 November 2016. An IT fault regrettably resulted in this decision coming after the legal 56 day period and therefore planning permission was attained ‘by default.’ We apologise to residents and are determined, going forward, to make sure that all works on the site only proceed with the landowner’s permission.”

More on this story, including other planning mistakes in the borough, at 853.

What’s happening at Charlton House? A Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust update

Charlton House’s Summer House is being refurbished by the Trust

Following on from Cllr Gary Parker‘s ward report, here’s his update on what is happening at Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust – which controls Charlton House – where he is a trustee. Comments are open if you have any views on the Trust and its work.

Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust celebrated its third anniversary on 1 July 2017. A new three-year Service Level Agreement (SLA) has been agreed from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2020 with the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

The Trust recently announced a grant of c.£160,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Resilient Heritage programme. The project, A Resilient Future for Greenwich Heritage, will support the Trust in developing and delivering its vision and planning, growth and training.

A grant of £20,000 was awarded by the Ministry of Defence Community Covenant to create a Woolwich History Walk. This project will be delivered in partnership with Heronsgate Primary School.

The Trust is a partner in the Cultural Destinations programme, funded by Arts Council England and Visit Britain.

Funding and support in kind has also been provided by the Arts Marketing Association. The Museum is participating in the Future Proof Museums programme and the Prince’s Regeneration Trust is also providing mentoring support to the Trust staff and volunteers.

The Trust has received planning consent to carry out a programme of enabling works at the Summer House, Charlton House. This Grade I-listed building, built around 1630, was converted to public toilets in the inter-war period. This facility has been out of use for approximately 10 years. The works will include asbestos strip-out and removal of toilets and partitions to bring the structure back into community use and to generate additional income. This work is part funded by the continuing support of the World Monuments Fund Britain with a grant of £25,000.

The Trust is working with St Alfege Church, Greenwich on the Heart of Greenwich: Place & People Heritage Lottery-funded project. Project research identified an original Nicholas Hawksmoor drawing in the collections of the Royal Borough, held in the Heritage Centre. The detail of the North Porch is a rare find. St Alfege was the first London church completed by Hawksmoor.

The new Making Woolwich display opened at the Greenwich Heritage Centre in December 2016. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Royal Artillery Museums Ltd, this gallery at the Heritage Centre tells the story of the 300-year history of the Royal Artillery in Woolwich, 1716-2016.

The Friends of Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust was re-launched on 30 June 2017. The Trust is funding a Friends Secretary post one day per week to support development of an events programme.

The Royal Arsenal Woolwich Historic Society has closed business and has agreed to transfer remaining funds to the Trust to support its work. This funding is valued at approximately £8,000.

Thanks to Gary for both this and the ward update. For more information about the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, visit its website.

Travellers occupy Fairview development site at Victoria Way

Travellers on Fairview New Homes site

It’s almost predictable, really. Large company takes ownership of large plot of land in south-east London for development. Large company doesn’t secure the land properly. Then the neighbours find a load of caravans parked on their doorstep.

It happened when Ikea took over the site of its new Greenwich store, and it’s now happened at the Fairview New Homes site on Victoria Way, where the company recently put in a planning application to build 341 new homes on land that had been occupied by storage depots.

Travellers on Fairview New Homes site

The caravan invasion is unlikely to endear Fairview to neighbours who are already unhappy about its plans to build blocks of up to 10 storeys on the land (reduced from 11 storeys after a recent consultation).

Travellers on Fairview New Homes site

Fairview’s plans are currently being considered by Greenwich Council. Its former leader Chris Roberts and chief executive Mary Ney now work for lobbying company Cratus Communications, which is working with Fairview on the development.

Travellers on Fairview New Homes site

One Charlton Champion reader kindly sent in these snaps, saying: “As I went past last night I took some pics and the kids ran out throwing stones and planks of wood at me. They also seem to have a dog unit at the front of the site, guarding it presumably.”

That particular incident has been reported to police. Local residents will now be hoping their new neighbours won’t be around for long.

Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival confirms 2017 line-up – including Withnail in the pub

Withnail and I

The Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival is back for a second year – with a screening of Withnail and I at the White Swan pub among the highlights.

The cult 1987 movie about two down-at-heel actors on a disastrous break in the Lake District, starring Richard E Grant and Paul McGann, will be screened at the pub on Sunday 10 September, presented by louche SE London blog (and mates of ours) Deserter.

All films are entirely free to watch – just turn up at the venue. The festival, which runs from 8-16 September, is entirely run by volunteers and is one of a network of free film festivals across south-east London.

Danny Boyle’s Sunshine will be playing on Saturday 9 September at The Stables – next door to Charlton House – with Flamsteed Astronomy Society on hand to bring you a solar observing session. That evening will see thriller The Others, starring Nicole Kidman, screened in the eerie surroundings of Charlton House after dark.

The Stables also plays host to Dirty Dancing – with bonus salsa class – on Wednesday 13 September – and Rising From Ashes – about the first Rwandan cycling team – on Saturday 16 September.

Documentary Ha’way The Lads – about legendary Charlton Athletic manager Jimmy Seed’s determination to break away from the North East’s coalfields and play football – plays at the Swan on Monday 11 September, with a short talk from Seed’s grandson James Dutton. This night is hosted by the independent, volunteer-run Charlton Athletic Museum.

Kids’ animation Kubo and the Two Strings plays at Thorntree Primary School on Tuesday 12 Septembember, with Hidden Figures showing there in the evening.

Documentary project 1000 Londoners will be at The Old Cottage Cafe on Thursday 14th September. Charlton House will host a short films competition later that evening, with a £1,500 prize for the winning film-maker on offer from sponsor Rockwell Property.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens the festival at Building 10 in Woolwich’s Royal Arsenal on Friday 8 September, while a Grease sing-a-long will close it at the same venue on Saturday 16 September.

Other highlights include Suffragette at Greenwich Rugby Football Club, Plumstead Common on Sunday 10 September, Trading Places at the Woolwich Equitable pub on Monday 11 September, Salma Hayek in acclaimed biopic Frida at Artfix in Woolwich on Wednesday 13 September and Battle of Britain at St George’s Garrison Church off Woolwich Common on Friday 15 September, featuring a guided walk from local historian Steve Hunnisett.

For more information, visit the Charlton & Woolwich Free Film Festival website.