Charlton versus the school run: Should we start blocking off roads?

Parking outside the new Our Lady of Grace school

Parking outside the new Our Lady of Grace school

We’re lucky in Charlton to have some very good schools. Our Lady of Grace Primary is lucky enough to have the newest school, having moved into just-completed buildings on Highcombe last month.

Unfortunately, some of its parents could do with some lessons themselves. Back in 2015, when planning permission was granted, there were fears about the effects of parents driving to school on the streets around the site, which sits in between two other schools – Sherington and Fossdene.

Now Highcombe is a mess at chucking-out time, with parents parking all over the pavement and even using the tiny Littlecombe cul-de-sac to reverse their cars. Greenwich Council says it will pass details onto its parking enforcement teams.

Elsewhere in London, Camden Council is taking a different approach. It’s closing a road in Covent Garden during school hours to protect a primary school from traffic and parking. This was covered by Tom Edwards on yesterday’s BBC London News, while here’s a video from charity Living Streets.

The issues facing St Joseph’s in Covent Garden are slightly different from ours in Charlton – it’s in the centre of London so there are a lot of delivery vehicles and taxis trying to get down the road, our streets are wider and more residential. The catchment for Our Lady of Grace may also be bigger.

But our streets are still clogged by double-parking, bad parking, and traffic that really shouldn’t be there. It’s dangerous for children and other passers-by and adds to the area’s already poor air quality. We design out anti-social behaviour in housing estates, so why not our side roads?

The thinking is that if you block the roads at the start and end of the school day, it becomes more difficult for people to drive their children to school and for others to use that route as a rat run. The parents take the hint and take their kids another way, the rat runners return to the main road. In theory. (It’s a very light version – a pop-up version, shall we say – of the Walthamstow Mini-Holland scheme, but targeted at schools and for just a short time in the day.)

Already, we’re seeing a couple of Charlton streets closed for a couple of hours on odd days to encourage children to play out. Should we be doing the same in Highcombe, Wyndcliff Road and Sherington Road to help them get to school safely?

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Rockwell’s Anchor & Hope Lane tower: What’s happening?

Rockwell's plans include a 28-storey tower close to Charlton station

Rockwell’s plans include a 28-storey tower close to Charlton station

A little while back, while alerting people to a meeting about the new masterplan for the Charlton riverside, we touched on plans for a 28-storey tower block on Anchor & Hope Lane, along with other big blocks behind Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens. What we didn’t know is that a planning application had already gone in. We’re grateful to those who took the time to let us know – here’s an update on what’s happening.

What is planned? According to planning application 16/4008/F (search via here), developer Rockwell wants to put up nine buildings ranging from 2 to 28 storeys on the site of the VIP Trading Estate and Industrial Estate – the old British Ropes site off Anchor and Hope Lane, providing 975 homes with retail, community and leisure facilities. “Affordable” housing is set at just 13%.

What is Rockwell? Rockwell was founded by Donal Mulryan, whose previous company, West Properties, secured the original planning permission for the cruise liner terminal development at Enderby Wharf in Greenwich back in January 2011.

Planning notice

A planning notice outside the Anchor and Hope pub

How come I didn’t hear about this earlier? Good question. There had been two consultation sessions, one in September, and one on 24 and 27 November, billed as Charlton Conversations. However, that second consultation didn’t take long to digest, because Rockwell put in a planning application on 5 December. It was published by Greenwich Council in mid-January, but Rockwell doesn’t seem to have alerted people on its database to respond, and no amenity groups or residents’ associations kicked up a public fuss. Nor did the nine ward councillors who represent areas within a few hundred yards of the site, although we know a lot happened behind the scenes.

One factor which complicates matters for those of us who choose to look at this kind of stuff in our spare time is that Greenwich Council no longer publishes many of its planning applications in a newspaper, making them harder to seek out. (When Greenwich Time closed, only notices about conservation areas moved to the Mercury, whose print edition is rarely seen but a digital version can be found online.)

When word did get out – here’s the From The Murky Depths piece on it – the deadline for comments (last Wednesday) was fast approaching.

It’s a classic example of how checks and balances can fail, because it’s so easy for these things to pass completely under the radar, particularly now there is no effective local press and we’re all scrabbling to do this in our spare time. (You can tip us off on our open thread if you get a heads-up before anyone else about an issue like this.)

Rockwell model

Plans show blocks looming over Atlas and Derrick Gardens (left and centre) and the tower block overlooking Anchor & Hope Lane and the Makro car park (nice)

No public campaign against it – this must be fine and dandy then?
Nope. Basically, this drives a coach and horses through the 2012 Charlton Riverside masterplan, which cites the area shouldn’t have buildings of more than five stories. I’m grateful to the Charlton Society for passing on its objection letter, which brands it a “completely inappropriate use of the site while setting a fundamentally misleading precedent for Charlton Riverside as a whole”.

While building a tower close to Charlton station makes sense (in theory, whether the transport network can cope is another matter), what’s planned looks ugly. And the other blocks loom over Atlas and Derrick Gardens, the two cul-de-sacs off Anchor & Hope Lane.

But isn’t there a new masterplan? Yes. It’s out this week. And it sticks two fingers up at that, too. The new masterplan allows buildings of up to ten storeys, not 28.

What does Greenwich Council think? It had been pretty widely assumed that this was fine by the council. Recent highly controversial planning decisions in Greenwich and Woolwich together with the imminent redrawing of the masterplan suggested to some that this was going to be another done deal. This actually wasn’t the case.

We know (and thanks to commenter The Hebridean for mentioning this to us) that Greenwich Council suggested that Rockwell might like to hold off with its plans until the new masterplan was ready to go. This was confirmed at last week’s public meeting into the new masterplan. Rockwell ignored the council, and claims the (original) masterplan is “not deliverable” because of the complex land ownership on the site, a criticism that would surely apply to the new one.

We’ll deal with the masterplan in detail another time, but reading between the lines, it looks as if Greenwich wants a lot more control over what goes on at Charlton Riverside than it has had at Greenwich Peninsula or in Woolwich. There’s talk of compulsorily purchasing land, a tactic it’s using to revamp the town centres in Eltham and Woolwich. With this strategy, you don’t want a developer barging in and calling the shots. And yet this is what Rockwell is doing, even calling the development Charlton Riverside Phase 1.

So what happens next? Objections by councillors mean this is all set go to the council’s main planning committee, the planning board. If the planning board objects, Rockwell can resubmit something new or appeal to planning inspectors.

One potential spanner in the works is London mayor Sadiq Khan, who can call in planning applications if he thinks he can do better, as his predecessor Boris Johnson did to Lewisham Council over Convoys Wharf in Deptford. Khan has already acted on two rejected applications, a tower block in Tottenham and another development in Wealdstone, in an attempt to secure more affordable housing. This doesn’t feel as likely with Khan, but you never know.

In any case, this will probably rumble on for ages. So watch this space.

And the new masterplan? Coming this week. Details were revealed at a meeting last week, and it actually looks like a very carefully thought-through piece of work – those used to holding their head in their hands at Greenwich Council development plans may be in for a nice surprise. Again, watch this space…

Anything else? Plans for 350 homes and an 11-storey block at the foot of Victoria Way have also come to light. From The Murky Depths has more. And just outside SE7, plans for a 20-storey tower to loom over the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park have returned.

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Friends of Charlton Lido: meetings this week 

Charlton Lido in the sun

Charlton Lido in the morning sun, February 2017.

Friends of Charlton Lido are organising introductory meetings this week at the White Swan pub, on Wednesday 8th February at 7pm and Friday 10th February at 12 noon. Find out more – and let the organisers know if you’re coming along – at the Friends of Charlton Lido website.

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What’s happening on Charlton’s riverside? Find out (maybe) on Wednesday 1 February


If you want to find out more about the plans to redevelop Charlton’s riverside industrial land, then there’s a “stakeholder forum” on Wednesday 1 February at 7.30pm at the Old Library in Charlton House.

Greenwich Council deputy leader Danny Thorpe will be updating attendees on the borough’s slow progress on rewriting the Charlton Riverside Masterplan, which is running a year late and is widely believed to be ditching plans for it to follow the “principles of a garden city” in favour of riverside tower blocks.

Already, one development has already come forward, with Rockwell Estates proposing a 28-storey tower block in Anchor & Hope Lane at an exhibition late last year. A planning application is expected soon, and the scheme could be complete by 2021.

(Apologies for the short notice, we’ve only just been told about this ourselves…)

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Children’s Book Swap at Charlton House; Saturday 11th February


London Children’s Book Swap comes to Charlton House on Saturday 11th February. Organised by Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, it’s an opportunity to drop off your old books and swap them for new ones at no cost. Find out more about London Children’s Book Swap at Discover’s Facebook page and on Twitter.

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Charlton church’s winter night shelter gets council grant

St Thomas church

A winter night shelter at a Charlton church has been given a £500 grant by Greenwich Council as it opens its doors for the first three months of the year.

The shelter at St Thomas Church opened its doors for the first time this winter last Friday. It operates one night each week until March, providing up to 15 homeless people with a hot shower, an evening meal, a warm place to sleep and breakfast, as well as a packed lunch to take away.

Other Greenwich borough churches take part on other nights of the week to provide a volunteer-run service throughout the week during the coldest months of the year. We covered the St Thomas project last year.

Now St Thomas has been given £500 to help cover its costs.

The grant comes out of the ward budget fund, where each council ward has access to a pot of cash to help community groups. Woolwich Riverside ward councillors Barbara Barwick, John Fahy and Jackie Smith put the shelter forward for funding.

With temperatures dropping and snow expected later today, if you know of anyone sleeping rough, you can contact to ensure they are offered help and advice.

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Demelza Snowflake Swim at Charlton Lido: take a winter dip for charity


Demelza’s Snowflake Swim returns to Charlton Lido on Sunday 29th of January. Last year’s event saw 80 swimmers join in, and raised over £20,000 for Demelza (this writer was one of those swimmers, and enjoyed the event very much!).

More from the organisers:

Brave the outside waters of Charlton Lido in the depths of winter and swim your choice of distance from 100m – 2km.

2016 saw 80 brave swimmers plunge into the water and raise over £20,000 for Demelza – we want 2017 to be even bigger and better!

There is no minimum sponsorship amount for this event BUT we encourage you to try and raise £50 – this could pay for a morning session in our own hydrotherapy pool for our children and their families!

All swimmers receive a hot drink after the swim along with an exclusive Demelza swimming cap and medal to celebrate your achievement.

Spectators are welcome to come along free of charge to cheer you on – the more the merrier!  Refreshments will be available from the café.

Prize for the top fundraiser will be awarded after the event, spot prizes will be awarded on the day for Best Fancy Dress.

** First 50 swimmers receive EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT (Adult £10, Child £5)**
Standard prices apply until midnight on Thursday 26 January (Adult £12.50, Child £7.50)

On Day Registration – Adult £15, Child £10

Children are welcome to participate but must be able to swim a minimum of 100m.  Young or weak swimmers may be tested prior to the event by our lifeguards.

Find out more and sign up at the Demelza Snowflake Swim website.


PS. Charlton Lido’s pool is currently open for general swimming on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Friday (the latter mornings only). Check the pool timetable here.

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