Developer eyes 25-storey tower at Thames Barrier on Charlton riverside

Tall Ships, April 2017

Crowds watching April’s Tall Ships Regatta from in front of the development site

A property developer has revealed plans for a 25-storey tower for land next to the Thames Barrier – flying in the face of Greenwich Council’s proposed new masterplan for the Charlton riverside.

Komoto Group Limited wants to redevelop the site to the west of the Barrier to provide 570 homes plus commercial and retail space and up to 500 car parking spaces.

The company owns the site, which is currently home to the Raceway go-kart track, Bunker 51 laser-tag centre, a church, and other firms. The land was formerly home to the Johnsen & Jorgensen glass works, which closed in 1981.

But the plans directly contradict Greenwich’s proposed new masterplan for the area, which envisages mostly low to medium-rise developments of up to 10 storeys. There is a get-out plan which would permit taller buildings if there is “adequate public transport”, which certainly does not apply here.

Furthermore, as From The Murky Depths points out, the area’s filthy, dusty, and still full of industry.

Herringham Road

The site’s neighbours on Herringham Road

However, the masterplan has not yet been legally adopted, so Komoto is clearly hoping to squeeze this through before then. The company is currently asking for a “scoping opinion” – an early opinion from the council’s planners on what the main issues with the development are likely to be.

Earlier this year, developer Rockwell applied to redevelop the old British Ropes site at Anchor & Hope Lane with a 28-storey tower – the council has not yet made a decision on this.

You can find the application on the council planning website as 17/1324/EIA or read the full scoping report here.

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Charlton skate park: First detailed images emerge with construction planned for summer

Charlton skate park

The first images of the planned skate park for Charlton Park have been published as part of the final planning application for the scheme.

Charlton skate park

They show the park, which was given outline planning permission by Greenwich councillors in September, curving around the current mini-gym.

This latest planning application fills in the detailed design for the scheme, with construction due to take place on weekdays only between June and September.

A viewing mound will be created, while the existing table tennis tables will be moved. One tree will be lost to create the skate park.

Charlton skate park

Rather embarrassingly for Greenwich Council, which is commissioning the facility, the designers have managed to spell “Greenwich” wrongly.

The full report and more images are available on the Greenwich Council website. (If that link doesn’t work, try this one.) You can make comments to Greenwich Council – it’s planning reference 17/1288/R.

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CANCELLED: Quiz Greenwich & Woolwich’s general election candidates at Charlton Community Hustings on Sunday 4 June

Polling station

UPDATE 4 June: Today’s planned general election hustings at Charlton Assembly Rooms have been cancelled following last night’s murders at London Bridge and Borough Market. 

The snap general election might make you want to dig a hole in the garden and bury yourself for the next seven weeks. But when polling day’s in sight, you might have a different view.

After all, there’s a lot riding on this one…

So we’re pleased that the Charlton Community Hustings team have moved quickly, pulled some strings, and got the candidates for Greenwich & Woolwich to make their pitches to you, the voter, in the flesh. Come and see them smile, squirm and squabble at Charlton Assembly Rooms at 2.30pm on Sunday 4 June.

The event is being held by the Charlton Society in conjunction with the Charlton Central Residents’ Association, Charlton Parkside Community Hub and the new Valley Hill Hub.

“The hustings held for the 2015 general election were standing room only, and although we weren’t expecting to have another one quite so soon, we are delighted that Matthew Pennycook, the sitting MP for Greenwich and Woolwich and the other candidates have agreed to join us,” says Charlton Society chair Carol Kenna.

“I’m also delighted that this event is being run under a community umbrella including not just the Charlton Society but also our neighbours in the CCRA and our two local digital community hubs, Charlton Parkside and Valley Hill.

“I hope the voters of Charlton will turn out in great numbers to question the candidates in this important election.”

But who will the candidates be? At the time of writing, we just have Labour’s incumbent MP Matt Pennycook and Liberal Democrat challenger Chris Adams in place. Brexit will be the main beef here, with Pennycook currently a shadow minister for leaving the European Union and so a target for a party hoping to mop up anti-Brexit votes.

Update Friday 12 May – The full list of candidates for Greenwich and Woolwich:  Chris Adams (Liberal Democrats), Caroline Attfield (Conservatives), Daniel Garrun (Green), Matthew Pennycook (Labour).

If you’re in the very south-east of Charlton – south of Charlton Park, east of Indus Road – you’ll get a very different election thanks to an eccentric boundary; the close fight for the marginal seat of Eltham. Labour incumbent Clive Efford will face a challenge from the leader of Greenwich Council’s Conservatives, Matt Hartley in a contest that’s bound to get some wider attention. David Hall-Matthews will be flying the Lib Dem flag there.

Need to register or get a postal/proxy vote? Get all the details.

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Squeeze star Glenn Tilbrook to play Thorntree School benefit show at Blackheath Halls

Glenn Tilbrook at the Tall Ships Festival - photo Sarah Coburn

How would you like to thank the teachers at your local school for their excellent work in educating your kids? If you’re a nice guy like Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook, you decide to play a benefit show. That’s why he’s holding a special show for Thorntree School at Blackheath Halls on 18 May. Here’s Thorntree parent Paul Chapman with more…

On May 18th, one of Charlton’s finest – Mr Glenn Tilbrook – is headlining an evening of music and comedy to raise money for Thorntree Primary School. Supporting Glenn on the night, at Blackheath Halls, will be cult R&B band Nine Below Zero and The Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir. Also on the bill is ex-Thorntree student Leon Tilbrook, himself an accomplished musician. Compering the festivities is comedian Nick Wilty.

If you’ve been lucky enough to see Glenn perform before, whether as part of Squeeze or solo, you’ll know what a great performer he is. And if you haven’t this is your chance to put that right! Tempted?

Nine Below Zero, like Squeeze, are another band rooted in South London and can sometimes be found playing local venues such as the Pelton Arms in Greenwich or Charlton’s White Swan. A great live act, Nine Below Zero and Glenn have collaborated in the past and are firm friends, all adding to the family feel of the line-up. Fun fact: Nine Below Zero performed their track Eleven Plus Eleven on the first ever episode of The Young Ones!

Not least because Glenn’s son Leon is also on the bill! An ex-pupil at Thorntree (his younger brother has also been through the school) Leon is making his own way in the music world and it’ll be a proud moment for his former teachers and friends to see him up on the stage. You can see the father and son performing a medley of songs here.

Rounding out the line-up are The Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir,  first seen on Gareth Malone’s BBC2 show, ‘Sing While You Work’, where they were narrowly beaten in the final but went on to score the 2015 Christmas Number 1 with ‘A Bridge Over You’.

The whole evening promises to be great entertainment, and is in a great cause so let’s pack the place out! Tickets are £22 and £20 concession from You can contact the box office by phone on 020 8463 0100.

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New Whitehall cut – 53 bus to stop short at Lambeth North again

Route 53 bus in Whitehall

More bad news for users of the number 53 bus – the service, which usually runs to Whitehall, is being cut back to Lambeth North again from Monday, as a result of roadworks at Parliament Square.

The cut to the service, which is the only bus from Plumstead, Woolwich, Charlton and Blackheath to central London, is due to last four months.

However, it’s worth being vigilant about this – in January 2015, a similar temporary cut lasted 18 months.

While the new “hopper” fare – which enables people to take two buses within an hour for the price of one fare – reduces the impact of the latest truncation of the route, it will still inconvenience many passengers. Indeed, recent figures obtained by London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon show the 53 is the 10th most popular route for hopper fare users – these passengers won’t be able to take a third bus to finish their journey. (It’s worth asking the bus driver for a transfer ticket if this affects you.)

Two years ago, Greenwich councillors bound a motion calling for the restoration of the 53 service up with criticism of Boris Johnson’s stewardship of the bus network. Hopefully there won’t need to be a new motion this time…

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A ten-storey love song? Greenwich Council’s surprising plan for Charlton riverside

Victoria, Woolwich Road

The consultation into the Charlton Riverside masterplan closed last week. The big plan was to write something a few weeks back picking out a few interesting things from the three chunky documents that make up the masterplan. Then real life intervened.

But it’s still worth a canter through the masterplan – because if you plan to stick around in or near Charlton over the next decade or so, this will affect you.  It’s actually a thoughtful document with much going for it. Huge developments are now springing up on the Greenwich Peninsula, in Woolwich, and across the water at Silvertown, where residents of Royal Wharf will have a lovely view of the Anchor & Hope. Now it’s our turn.

The plan is for 5,000-7,500 new homes (50% family housing, 35% “affordable”), mostly low to medium rise (3-6 storeys) developments, 4,000 additional jobs, expanding the park at the Thames Barrier and linking it to Maryon Park, and downgrading Woolwich Road west of Anchor & Hope Lane. Activity will start first nearer the barrier – but this will be is a very long-term process.

There are three big documents – the Charlton Riverside Draft Masterplan itself, the Draft Employment and Heritage Study, and Draft Woolwich Road Highway and Public Realm Improvements. Everything here is based on what’s in those documents, with a few ideas thrown in for discussion.

Change of approach?

Herringham Road

The first point to note is that this is a slightly broader area than Charlton itself – it stretches to Horn Lane, at the edge of east Greenwich, to take in the wharves and freight railway line; but stopping just short of the extended Greenwich Millennium Village and proposed Ikea. To the west, it goes out to Warspite Road in Woolwich, while the heritage study goes further into the old Woolwich royal dockyard site.

The second point is that this marks a change in approach by Greenwich Council. And this isn’t just in recommending fairly low-rise development – up to ten storeys. Past masterplans have effectively been left to the market – the Greenwich Peninsula masterplan was essentially written by the lead developer, Knight Dragon; Berkeley Homes effectively controls the Woolwich waterfront east of the ferry.

But here, Greenwich is seeking to take a more active role in starting development. Whether this is an acknowledgement of recent mistakes or a reaction to a different set of circumstances, it doesn’t say, although part of it is about making sure the risk of flooding around the Thames Barrier – where the council is keen to get things started – is properly dealt with.

It’s not just here that Greenwich is seeking to flex its muscle – the scheme to build a cinema in Eltham High Street comes straight from the town hall, as does the plan to revelop the battered old Woolwich public market. But this is much bigger, and not all of it may come off as planned.

Indeed, there’s already a threat to the draft masterplan in the Rockwell plan for Anchor & Hope Lane – 28 storeys rather than ten. But there is a get-out clause – ““tall buildings may be appropriate so long as there is adequate public transport and consideration is given to existing historical assets and distinctive characteristic features”. Does this apply on Anchor & Hope Lane?

For Woolwich’s shops to live again, Charlton retail must die?

Stone Lake Retail Park

Retail barns in Charlton aren’t a new thing – the first to open was Makro, in March 1974. (Sainsbury’s got a foothold before that, opening its original depot up the road four years earlier.)

They’ve even begun to cannibalise themselves – the Greenwich Shopping Park and Sainsbury’s/M&S sit on the sites of 1980s retail/industrial units, as will the delayed Brocklebank Retail Park, due to open later this year.

None of it is safe under the masterplan – “the existing retail does not conform with [council] policy”, it says, even if these sites were only given permission a few years ago. Few councillors representing Greenwich’s strand of the Labour party will apologise for allowing development that they think will allow employment, even if it’s at the expense of the surrounding environment. But Greenwich’s planners must now be hoping Charlton has hit Peak Retail.

You don’t have to look too far to sense an ulterior motive – the long decline of Woolwich as a shopping area, for which one culprit is the retail barns in Charlton.  As long ago as the early 1980s, Greenwich objected to Asda coming here because it wanted to protect Woolwich, and as recently as  2011, Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy made the same complaints about the relocated Sainsbury’s store.

Greenwich councillors still hanker after Woolwich being designated a “metropolitan centre”, like Bromley or Stratford. Instead, it’s a “major centre”, along with Eltham, Lewisham, Catford, Canary Wharf and Bexleyheath. The GLA agrees Woolwich could be bumped up a league – which would delight councillors eager to get one over the old enemy in Bexley. One way to achieve that could be for some of that retail floorspace to leave Charlton and return to SE18.

In any event, the retail can adapt to survive – homes and offices can always be built on top of retail premises, just as Tesco did in Woolwich. In Hackney, the council is buying the area’s Tesco superstore to redevelop it while keeping space for the supermarket. Could a project like this come to Charlton?

Balancing employment, heritage and housing – an impossible ask?

Westmoor Street

Think you know Charlton’s riverside? Think again. I guarantee you will learn something new if you leaf through the heritage and employment study, which contains fascinating case studies of the businesses on our doorstep.

5,600 people are employed by the river and the plan is to keep it that way. But with many in manufacturing (18% of businesses) and vehicle repair (13%), how many of these can remain? The Blackwall Tunnel is seen as both a blessing and a curse by many firms – but with increased pressure on the road network, it’s hard to see how these can co-exist with mass homebuilding.

To the west, Angerstein and Murphy’s wharves are assumed to be staying in use – should the businesses close, the study suggests the railway line alignment leading to the yards is kept for possible passenger use.

The idea here seems to be to develop the artistic and creative uses that have developed around Thames-Side Studios. But with public transport access fairly poor, is this really a goer?

But there’s a strong emphasis on making more of the rich history of the Charlton riverside, possibly a reaction to the near-complete erasure of much of Greenwich Peninsula’s industrial heritage.

Buildings recommended for listing include somes of the old Siemens buildings (partly used by Thames-Side Studios) and the Corys boatyard – even though the council gave the firm permission to knock it down four years ago. It’s suggested the Victoria pub facade is retained and the site put to a new use. Interestingly, the surviving small shop on the north side of Woolwich Road – London & Kent Electrical, whose owner refused to move when the Sainsbury’s/M&S site was being developed – is also recommended for listing.

One thing missing from the heritage study is the area’s sporting links – a huge omission is the founding of Charlton Athletic at Siemens Meadow, in the heart of the area now up for redevelopment, in 1905. There is also no mention of the greyhound stadium which sat on Anchor & Hope Lane from 1928 to 1971.

It’s all about the infrastructure

East London Transit by Julian Walker

The Greenwich Waterfront Transit was scrapped,
but its East London sister service survives in Dagenham and Ilford (Photo from Julian Walker via Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The weakest part of the masterplan is – as ever – the infrastructure part. There are positive parts – reworking Bugsbys Way to make it less of a barrier desperately needs doing now, and it’s good to see it get a mention. (Interestingly, Barking & Dagenham is planning to bury the A13 for a stretch to encourage redevelopment – would this be a goer in Charlton or the peninsula, or just it just hide a problem?)

The plan sees a new road being driven through from Anchor & Hope Lane towards Woolwich Road to serve the new developments – but this would not be an alternative to Woolwich Road, which seems peculiar when one of the wishes of the masterplan is to see part of the A206 downgraded so it only serves local traffic. Instead, it would be used by a revived Greenwich Waterfront Transit, the segregated bus scheme axed by Boris Johnson in 2008.

But with North Greenwich station due to come under increasing pressure – and the Greenwich Peninsula itself to get more crowded – expecting or encouraging people to commute via there may be an unrealistic ask. It’s hard to know quite what the answer is, though, without getting a crayon out and drawing a line that will cost billions.

There are more fundamental flaws than this – there’s nothing about linking the riverside to north of the river beyond suggesting a riverboat pier; a study by architect Terry Farrell last year proposed a low, lifting bridge for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists for roughly Anchor & Hope Lane – that doesn’t feature. Nor is there anything about relocating Woolwich Dockyard station, which would enable the platforms to be lengthened and for it to better serve the regeneration area.

Woolwich Road wonders

Woolwich Road

There are big dreams for Woolwich Road. “The aim is to create a high quality and attractive urban boulevard shared by pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles with improved connectivity between the riverside area and the existing community of Charlton.”

But improvements to Woolwich Road are – in the short term at least – being stymied by the mayor’s office: Sadiq Khan’s TfL budget cuts mean the planned Cycle Superhighway 4, due to run to Woolwich, will only go as far as Greenwich town centre by 2020. Greenwich was hoping to use this to fix some of the A206’s lethal junctions at east Greenwich and Anchor & Hope Lane; we’ll now have to wait.

There are two set-piece ideas suggested: one is to replace long-standing plans for a “green bridge” across Woolwich Road at Maryon Park with a “green crossing”. This would be cheaper and would calm the traffic on Woolwich Road down, providing a safer way for children at nearby schools to cross the road.

The other looks at the bus terminal outside Charlton station, originally constructed in 1999 for Millennium Dome buses. The report suggests it could return to being green space or find some other use – but this glosses over the fact that it’s still used by short-running buses and rail replacement services. It would also kibosh local lobby group Transport for Charlton’s desire to have the 472 loop around here to serve Charlton station.

So what happens next?

Now the consultation is over, Greenwich Council will amend the masterplan to incorporate anything which comes up that it agrees with, then it’ll become a part of the local planning framework, and it’ll be used to guide development in the area over the coming years. We’ve been talking about the riverside for years, but it finally looks like things are about to happen down there.

These are always difficult processes – a masterplan requires you to think big, but local councils only have so much power. And even though Charlton Riverside is on City Hall’s radar, will a skint Transport for London be able to deliver the improvements needed to help it flourish?

We’ll have to see what happens with the Rockwell Anchor & Hope Lane plan – if that gets through, the plan for Charlton Riverside may end up being just that, a plan, as developers make hay. It may not seem that way when you wander down by the river, but the next year or so is going to be be crucial in terms of deciding what will happen down there.

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Join 2017’s Big Dig at Maryon Park Community Garden

Big Dig

Now Easter’s over, what are you doing this weekend? Maryon Park Community Garden have an invite for you…

Big Dig Day celebrates the start of the growing season and encourages people to visit their local Capital Growth-supported Community Garden. This year Capital Growth are encouraging wildlife-friendly growing.

Maryon Park Community Garden, one of Capital Growth’s flagship gardens are taking part and have a Drop-in Open Day on Saturday 22nd April, 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.

The Community Garden provides organic growing plots for local and retired people, a Forest School for primary schools and volunteer opportunities for individuals and corporate groups as well as educational visits for special schools.

On Saturday 22nd April visitors can learn more about the Community Garden, enjoy tours and talks about the plots, orchard, wild flower bank, Forest School and the historic Maryon Park, location of the 1960s film Blow-Up. There will be refreshments including a pizza oven, children’s activities, a plant sale, and a fund raising stall. Visitors can join in with gardening activities or join the waiting list for a plot.

There will be family events: PJ the Magical Clown at 1pm and Family Outdoor Art at 2pm.

Maryon Park Community Garden is a not-for- profit voluntary project situated in the former council plant nursery in Maryon Park. Now in its fifth year, Capital Growth, the Olympic Transform Fund, City Hall, the Friends of Maryon Park, the London Tree and Woodland Trust, Greenwich Parks Forum and Tesco’s Bags of Help have help fund the Community Garden.

“The Big Dig Day is about encouraging people and families to visit their local community garden. Whether you are an experienced gardener or new to gardening or just want to see how your local project is developing you will be welcome,” says chair Tim Anderson.

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