Angerstein Wharf crossing: Greenwich Council knew of closure plan but did not tell residents

Angerstein Wharf crossing
The crossing is a local landmark and one of only a handful in London

Greenwich Council knew about controversial plans to close a railway crossing a year before Network Rail made it public – but did not tell local residents, councillors or the local MP, The Charlton Champion can reveal.

Network Rail first told Greenwich Council about its plans for the Angerstein Wharf branch crossing, across a freight line on the east Greenwich/Charlton border, in April 2018, emails released by the track company under the Freedom of Information Act show. Several council officers were involved in discussions and three site visits were held.

Councillors for Peninsula ward – who would have known of the importance of the crossing – were not told about the issue and neither was Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook, The Charlton Champion has established. The council maintains “there was nothing to tell residents” at the time.

A council officer dealing with conservation was also involved in a discussion about the planned closure in December and January 2019.

Network Rail sent the council a formal notice warning of the crossing closure on 14 February 2019, but the Valentine’s Day missive went unanswered until after a neighbour of the crossing used Twitter seven weeks later to say that residents had received letters about the closure.

Greenwich then threatened Network Rail with a injunction to prevent the closure of the crossing, which is used by hundreds of people each day heading to and from Westcombe Park station. It is one of a handful of foot crossings on London railway lines, and has grown in importance since new housing was built on the Charlton side of the crossing at Fairthorn Road.

The plans, which are to accommodate a resignalling of the line to and from the Angerstein aggregates wharf by the Thames, have now been put on hold.

Angerstein Wharf crossing
A sign warning of the closure was stuck to a fence at the crossing

‘A full diversion is the way to go’

Network Rail first told Greenwich Council about the plans on 11 April 2018 – 12 months before neighbours found out. An unnamed member of Network Rail’s track renewals team warning that works were planned in May 2019 that “may affect the nearby foot crossing at Farmdale Road”, asking to set up a site visit. No response was received for a week until after the Network Rail officer sent a follow-up mail, after which a site visit was arranged by Greenwich’s street works area co-ordinator. An email sent from Network Rail after this visit states “I think we both formed the opinion that a full diversion is the way to go”.

After this, a further email from Network Rail which appears to have been sent to the planning team says “we need some assistance from yourselves to help us evaluate what we can do with the crossing to ensure public safety and rail transport safety”.

Responses include an email from one Greenwich Council officer to another stating “I don’t know what the Farmdale Road foot crossing is (level/bridge) as it’s not clear on the plan”.

On 9 May 2018, a planner responds to say: “The council would be likely to object to any closure since the route is well used by local people and by virtue that the passageway continues access over the A102 to Westcombe Park railway station, a route previously under threat when the A102 was built and with that the footbridge now seen over that road. NR could, of course, provide an alternative route in the form of a subway beneath its line.” A further site visit was held on 22 May 2018.

After that site visit, a council structures and street lighting manager emails with a summary of what was discussed, including plans for Network Rail to install CCTV as part of a risk assessment. But no further response was sent by Network Rail.

Network Rail has told The Charlton Champion: “After that meeting Network Rail undertook the process to understand the status of the crossing.”

‘Our closure of the foot crossing’

Separately, in November 2018, a Network Rail officer emails to comment on Greenwich Council’s plans to locally list the crossing – a mild form of protection against development – and states: “We would be happy to discuss with you further regarding the potential listing of these items and whether that is compatible with our closure of the Angerstein Wharf foot crossing.”

In mid-January 2019, a Greenwich officer emails to set up a meeting with their Network Rail counterpart. Network Rail has said this was followed by a third site visit to the crossing on 13 February.

Then on 14 February, a formal letter was sent by email warning of the closure of the crossing.

It promises: “We will erect clear signage either side of the crossing to make it clear when the closure will commence… As we have been in close liaison with you about these works, we wanted to inform you of this.” Greenwich Council says it did not receive this letter.

No response was received until 8 April – two days after a neighbour of the crossing tweeted about a letter he had received about the plans.

The tweet was included in the email. Meanwhile, the councillors and MP were finding out about the scheme for the first time through complaints from residents.

“I am not aware that Network Rail has notified the council directly of the proposed work,” the email states, while a further mail from the head of highways cites “a number of strong high level representations today objecting to the proposed crossing closure”.

Network Rail letter
A letter from Network Rail was placed in Fairthorn Road

The council then threatens an injunction, at which point Network Rail removes its plan to close the crossing. Asked what happened to the “clear signage”, a Network Rail spokesperson said: “The closure notice and information relating to the alternative route was displayed on the over bridge on the approach to the crossing and along Farmdale/ Fairthorn Road for the recent works and the Angerstein resignalling commissioning at Easter.”

A third site meeting was held on 12 April 2019 – a year and a day after the council was first told about the plan, and a few days before The Charlton Champion sent its Freedom of Information request – with an email from Greenwich Council confirming “that self-closing gates are to be installed to ensure that the public will be reminded that in opening these that they are at a level crossing”.

“I look forward to a copy of the letter bound for stakeholders and residents and further details of the works programme during the course of next week.”

Angerstein crossing
The path is a popular route to Westcombe Park station

Councillors the last to know

Many current and former Greenwich councillors have long remarked privately that they are often the last to know about issues in their areas. Furthermore, the correspondence shows that officers were unaware of the crossing or its impact on the local area – which could also explain the council’s attitude to the consequences of the nearby Ikea store, where long-promised measures to assist pedestrians and cyclists have yet to be completed.

A Greenwich Council spokesperson told The Charlton Champion: “The council did not support Network Rail’s closing of the Angerstein Wharf crossing at short notice and with no consultation with residents in April 2019. When Network Rail made their initial enquiry to us in spring 2018 we were clear that they had not provided enough information of their plans.

“When we heard nothing further we assumed that their plans had changed and therefore there was nothing to inform residents of.

“The council has no record of receiving a formal closure notice from Network Rail in February 2019. If we had, we would have challenged their proposals and briefed our elected members then.

“In April we were as surprised as residents to find out what they had done. We swiftly instructed our legal team who persuaded Network Rail to postpone their plans. We will be meeting Network Rail next month and we will go prepared with legal advice regarding the status of the path and Network’s Rail statutory obligations to keep it open.”

This story has also been published on The Charlton Champion‘s sister site 853.


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’24 council flats possible’ on Charlton woodland site

Gollogolly Terrace
Greenwich Council is looking for plots to build council homes

Greenwich Council believes it could build 24 new homes on woodland between Charlton Church Lane and Elliscombe Road, according to council papers.

Residents who live nearby have recently been sent letters to let them know that surveyors will be coming to look at the land, which is fenced off and is widely believed to be contaminated.

Greenwich recently announced its biggest house-building programme since the early 1980s, and the site is among 32 being assessed. Papers for a meeting of the council’s cabinet – its main decision-making body – next Wednesday state that 24 three-bedroom flats could be built on the site.

The Charlton Champion understands that while development here is not thought to be likely, the council is examining all possible locations.

Next week’s meeting is likely to approve investigating the possibility of building on the site.


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Council and MP angry at Network Rail plans to close Angerstein foot crossing

Angerstein crossing
A neighbour has placed a sign warning of the crossing’s closure

Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook and Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe have hit out at Network Rail’s plans to close the Angerstein Wharf foot crossing, used by hundreds of Charlton residents each day.

The historic crossing, one of the last left in London, enables people who live near Fairthorn Road – which has seen new homes built in recent years – to reach Westcombe Park station.

It crosses a small railway branch, opened in 1851, used by aggregates trains heading to and from Angerstein Wharf. The crossing, which marks the modern-day point where Charlton becomes east Greenwich, was originally built for workers on the nearby Combe Farm, which occupied land at the foot of Westcombe Hill.

Residents only found out a few days ago that Network Rail planned to close the crossing permanently in letters sent to neighbours, which said that major upgrade work on the line would be carried out next week and the crossing fenced off.

One neighbour has attached a hand-written sign to the crossing, warning of the closure, adding in ballpoint pen: “Network Rail weren’t going to tell you.”

Angerstein crossing family
Many longstanding locals have fond memories of the crossing

Network Rail’s regional press office has not responded to an enquiry The Charlton Champion sent on Monday asking it to clarify its plans.

Council leader Thorpe told a resident on Twitter this morning that Network Rail had “not followed any proper process or engaged people and this is clearly not acceptable. We have contacted them to advise of such and expect them to stop pending a proper consultation”.

Angerstein crossing
The crossing sees a steady stream of commuters and and from Westcombe Park station each rush hour

A council spokesperson told The Charlton Champion: “The pedestrian crossing serves as an essential link between both sides of the railway line and has been in place, and in good use, for over 100 years.

“Whilst we recognise the attempt to improve safety and reduce pedestrian access to railway lines, we object to the closure unless full details are provided and a suitable alternative is provided.

“The crossing cannot be closed without consultation and a formal legal process. We were not made aware of the proposed works, which we should have been.

“We have written to Network Rail to request postponing the crossing closure until alternative options explored and until much better publicity has been issued locally. We will also be taking advice about enforcement options.”

Pennycook has also written to Network Rail criticising the plans and the lack of consultation.

Network Rail letter
Network Rail’s letter was misdated March 2017

One neighbour shared a response he had from Network Rail, saying the crossing was being closed because a reconfiguration of the signalling would mean it was more likely to be blocked by freight trains waiting to access the main line. Trains typically wait for half an hour before leaving and entering the branch line. In June 2015, a derailment on the branch line damaged track and signalling on the main Blackheath-Charlton line.

In recent years Network Rail has closed many foot crossings on railway lines for safety concerns. The only other crossing left like it in London is in Hanwell, west London, on another freight line which serves the river.

But the sleepy crossing has seen a new lease of life in recent years with the construction of over 200 homes on the Thorn Lighting site at the south end of Fairthorn Road, with a further 330 homes now being built on the rest of the site.

Fairthorn Road development
So near, yet so far: Westcombe Park station can be seen behind the substation on the Fairthorn Road development

Many of these homes overlook the Greenwich railway line and are within sight of Westcombe Park station, but no provision was made to improve access to the station with residents left to depend on the foot crossing.

Footpaths have less legal protection in inner London than in the rest of England. In the 2000s, a developer built housing – now called Bellfield Close – between Charlton Road and Old Dover Road, permanently blocking a path which had only been designated a cycle route a few years before.

11.30pm update: A petition against the closure has been launched.


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Greenwich Council looks at building new homes on woodland site

Gollogolly Terrace
Greenwich Council is looking for plots to build council homes

Greenwich Council is investigating the possibility of building new homes on woodland between Charlton Church Lane and Elliscombe Road, it has emerged.

Residents who live in nearby Nadine Street have been sent letters to let them know that surveyors will be coming to look at the undeveloped sites.

Gollogoly Terrace
Part of the land site behind housing at Gollogoly Terrace

Greenwich recently announced its biggest house-building programme since the early 1980s, and while The Charlton Champion understands that while development here is not thought to be likely, the council is examining all possible locations.

Greenwich Council letter
Residents recently received this letter from the council

It is widely believed that the land is contaminated – one comment on The Charlton Champion‘s Instagram page says that residents in the former Coutts House block, built in the early 1970s but demolished 30 years later, were once tested for lead poisoning with residents warned not to stray onto the land.

The Warren
The land stretches up to Coombe Lodge, off Elliscombe Road

The council’s cabinet recently agreed to sell some contaminated land at The Heights, on the other side of Charlton Church Lane, to developer Pocket Living, with the intention that Pocket would pay for the clean-up.

The Warren
Much of the site is overgrown and is believed to be contaminated

Greenwich Council said: “The council has an ambitious target to build 750 new council homes, and is considering a number of sites across the borough. We have written to residents to advise them that in order to consider whether a site is suitable, it is necessary to undertake some surveying and due diligence work. More information will be available once appropriate sites have been identified.”

If you know more about this mysterious piece of land, please let us know in the comments below.


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We can’t afford floodlights for Charlton skate park, Greenwich Council says

Charlton skate park
The skate park opened in October 2017 – but has no lighting (photo: Neil Clasper)

Greenwich Council says it doesn’t have the money to install floodlights at the skate park in Charlton Park, after 344 people signed a petition calling on the authority to light up the facility.

The skate park, which opened in October 2017, currently has no lighting so can’t be used safely after dark. It was built with £365,000 of money from developer Berkeley Homes after it built on a previous facility in Woolwich.

But the Friends of Charlton Park and Greenwich Skatepark Cooperative raised safety concerns about the poor lighting in the area, and presented a petition to the council in December calling for low level lighting to be installed. Safety concerns have increased since then following the break-in at the Old Cottage Cafe last month.

However, the response to the petition says the council “has no funding for the costs of installing the lighting”.

Instead, the council has suggested that the Friends of Charlton Park seek external funding for the floodlighting. “It was agreed in principle subject to public consultation, planning consent and that planning and installation costs being secured by the Friends Group that floodlights for the skate park and outdoor gym could be installed,” a report to be presented to next Wednesday’s full council meeting says.

“However, it was recognised that this could take a couple of years to achieve due to uncertainty regarding funding being secured.”

The Friends of Charlton Park has also been asked to monitor usage of the skate park and outdoor gym to demonstrate how busy they are.

Security in the park has also become a bigger issue after the break-in at the Old Cottage Cafe last month.

The response, however, is likely to generate even more disquiet about how the council spends funding from developers – known as Section 106 money, which is used to mitigate the impact of development in an area and contribute to community projects and facilities.

Greenwich Council is currently sitting on hundreds of thousands of pounds from developers of schemes nearby which could fund improved lighting. Figures released this month show that the construction of Primark and other stores on Bugsbys Way, for example, means £125,000 is available for public safety projects, with £41,752 for public realm projects (“30 Bugsbys Way” in this document.) Meanwhile, £53,000 is available for public safety projects following the construction of the new housing at the end of Fairthorn Road (“40 Victoria Way”) – a figure agreed seven years ago. (Those figures will be discussed at a cabinet meeting this evening.)

The petition response will be discussed at the full council meeting on Wednesday 27 February. If you wish to ask a question about it, or any other matter in the borough, email committees[at]royalgreenwich.gov.uk by noon today (Wednesday 20th).


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Charlton Riverside: Khan rejected Rockwell scheme because it was ‘growth at any cost’

Anchor and Hope Lane
Rockwell had hoped for approval for its development here

London mayor Sadiq Khan has set out his reasons for rejecting plans for 771 homes off Anchor & Hope Lane, calling it “the wrong development for this site”.

The scheme, which included building 10-storey blocks, was bitterly opposed by residents in Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens, who said the buildings would loom over their homes. It was rejected by Greenwich councillors in July, despite council officers recommending they approve it, because it did not conform with the recently-agreed masterplan for the Charlton riverside.

But Khan overturned the decision a month later, “calling in” the scheme to decide himself. City Hall’s planning officers recommended he approve a slightly amended scheme, but the mayor made the surprise decision to reject the scheme himself after a hearing last week. (See the full documents.)

In his written summary, Khan says: “This is an underutilised, brownfield site in an opportunity area and very accessible. It is well-connected and in an area capable of accommodating growth. It is precisely the kind of site that we need to bring forward in order to create vibrant and active places, ensuring a compact and well-functioning city.

Neighbours feared the development would loom over Atlas and Derrick Gardens

“However, I am clear that we must deliver good growth, not growth at any cost, where people have more of a say and don’t feel excluded from the process. I have listened carefully to the concerns of residents and considered the substantial amount of work done on the Charlton Riverside Masterplan. I consider that this is the wrong development for the site.”

Khan outlines four reasons: poor design; its effect on Imex House, a commercial building next door which houses Squeeze singer Glenn Tilbrook’s studio; the lack of space for existing local businesses on the site; and the lack of a Section 106 agreement for “affordable” housing and other mitigation of the scheme’s impact.

Rockwell revised scheme
Neighbours disputed Rockwell’s images of what the scheme would look like

In his reasons, he urges Rockwell to “go back to the drawing board, in partnership with the community, the council and the GLA, to come up with a scheme that delivers on the strong ambitions we all share for the future of Charlton Riverside”.

Khan’s reasons may raise eyebrows elsewhere in Charlton, where 10-storey blocks at Victoria Way – just outside the masterplan area – were approved by Greenwich councillors in January 2018 without any explanation to objectors, a decision that was later ratified by the mayor. Indeed, Rockwell can still appeal to planning inspectors and challenge Khan’s decision.

The scheme was the first to come forward for the Charlton Riverside. Two others are in the pipeline and may now overtake the Rockwell proposal: one from developer U+I for the former Siemens site just east of the Thames Barrier, where public events will be held next week, and a second for 500 homes just to the west of the barrier, called Flint Glass Wharf.


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Charlton Riverside: Revised Rockwell plans released – tell City Hall what you think

Rockwell revised scheme
Rockwell’s new plan includes an “active frontage” along the new east-west road

London mayor Sadiq Khan has launched a new public consultation into the developer Rockwell’s controversial plans to build 771 new homes off Anchor & Hope Lane.

Khan took control of the planning application in August, weeks after Greenwich Council’s main planning committee threw out the proposed development.

The amended scheme, created after discussions with Khan’s officers at City Hall, sees two storeys lopped off a block that overlooked homes in Derrick Gardens, meaning the historic cottages of Atlas and Derrick Gardens will now have a four-storey block behind them.

Another block, to the south of Atlas Gardens, has also had two storeys removed, cutting it down to five. Other blocks around the site have been increased in height to compensate.

Rockwell plan

The number of homes – 771 – remains the same, but with the possibility of 165 homes (21.4%) for “affordable rent” and 127 (16.4%) for shared ownership with a City Hall grant. (See more details in the design and access statement.)

Rockwell scheme
Rockwell’s revised scheme, with Atlas Gardens at the centre

Rockwell’s new scheme is unlikely to satisfy critics, who say the developer’s plans go against the recently-adopted Charlton Riverside masterplan, which sets out a vision for lower-rise developments aimed at families in Charlton to sit in between the towers of Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich.

All 11 councillors on Greenwich’s planning board rejected the scheme, with chair Sarah Merrill declaring: “This application in no way resembles the spirit of the Charlton Riverside masterplan, in terms of height, massing and design. It’s reminiscent of Stalingrad.”

But Rockwell – which has retained former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts’ company Cratus Communications as lobbyists – insisted it was “fantastic opportunity to kick-start the regeneration of this area”.

The public now has until 11 January to comment on the scheme, before a public hearing is held at City Hall. Revised documents can be seen on the GLA website (the design and access statement is probably the best place to start) together with a summary of the scheme and the mayor’s reasons for calling it in.

Comments and requests for information can be sent to VIPtradingestate[at]london.gov.uk.


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