Blackheath Standard’s NatWest branch to close in June 2018

Blackheath and Westcombe Park NatWest
NatWest’s closure will leave Barclays as the only bank at the Standard

The NatWest branch at Blackheath’s Royal Standard is to close in June 2018 as part of a nationwide cutbacks programme announced today.

One in four of the bank’s branches are being closed after parent group RBS said use of its branches by customers had fallen 40% since 2014.

The Old Dover Road outlet – the nearest bank for many Charlton residents – has been known as the Blackheath & Westcombe Park branch since the 1990s, when it took on the responsibilities of the closed Blackheath Village NatWest.

According to information given to its customers, the cash machines will remain in place after the last day of business on 18 June.

NatWest branches in Greenwich, Lewisham and Woolwich will remain in business.

The closure means Barclays will be last remaining bank at Blackheath Standard. The former Woolwich Equitable building society and the long-gone Greenwich Building Society – swallowed up into Portman, now part of Nationwide – also once had branches there.

The last bank remaining in Charlton itself – a Barclays – was demolished 20 years ago to accommodate a new exit for Charlton station.


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.

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.

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…

Former Invicta Primary School pupil? You’re invited to its street party on 19 March

Invicta Primary School

Recognise yourself in these photos? If you’re an old pupil or teacher at Invicta Primary School, you’re invited to a street party to mark the end of its old 1950s buildings.

Invicta Primary School

Thousands of Charlton children have been educated in those old buildings – among the school’s former pupils is actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who namechecked it and Sherington when he won a Bafta in 2008.

Now former staff and pupils are invited to a street party on Saturday 19 March to mark the closure of the old buildings and their replacement with new facilities built on the old playground.

Invicta Primary School

Invicta Primary School

The old buildings replaced the original school, destroyed by a parachute mine in 1940. Considering it was an infant school for much of its existence, these must be a bit of a squeeze for older pupils.

Invicta Primary School

Invicta Primary School

Here are the new buildings – apparently due for completion in April. The school’s also expanding in other ways, opening a new site in Deptford to replace the old Charlotte Turner School.

If you recognise yourself in those old photos, want to share your memories of the school, or want more information about the street party, drop the school a line at admin[at]