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.


PLEASE SUPPORT THE CHARLTON CHAMPION

We tell the SE7 stories you won’t read elsewhere. We can’t do it without your help.
– Please tell us about your news and events
– Become a monthly supporter at patreon.com/charltonchampion
– Donate to our running costs at paypal.me/charltonchampion
– Buy Darryl a coffee at ko-fi.com

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.


PLEASE SUPPORT THE CHARLTON CHAMPION

We tell the SE7 stories you won’t read elsewhere. We can’t do it without your help.
– Please tell us about your news and events
– Become a monthly supporter at patreon.com/charltonchampion
– Donate to our running costs at paypal.me/charltonchampion
– Buy Darryl a coffee at ko-fi.com

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).


PLEASE SUPPORT THE CHARLTON CHAMPION

We tell the SE7 stories you won’t read elsewhere. We can’t do it without your help.
– Please tell us about your news and events
– Become a monthly supporter at patreon.com/charltonchampion
– Donate to our running costs at paypal.me/charltonchampion
– Buy Darryl a coffee at ko-fi.com