We’ll oppose Charlton Athletic leaving Greenwich, council leader says as EFL warns club

The Valley
The Valley is owned by Roland Duchâtelet, but the club is not

Greenwich Council says it will oppose any attempt to move Charlton Athletic out of the borough as the club’s future hangs in the balance following its relegation from the Championship last week.

Supporters had rejoiced last October when the Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet sold the club after five turbulent years to a group called East Street Investments (ESI). But promises that the new owners would invest in the side were not followed through – wrecking hopes it would stay in football’s second tier – and ESI collapsed into acrimony last March, with leading figures Matt Southall and Tahnoon Nimer trading insults on social media.

To make matters worse, Duchâtelet – apparently attempting to recoup the millions he lost during his time in charge – has held onto The Valley and the club’s training ground at Sparrows Lane in New Eltham. Last month, the club claimed ESI had been sold to Manchester-based businessman Paul Elliott, but that deal has yet to be ratified by the English Football League.

Tonight, the EFL confirmed it had not received sufficient information to approve the takeover. “The club is aware of the consequences of not meeting those requirements,” the EFL said, effectively warning Elliott and his lawyer Chris Farnell, who sits on the ESI board, that the club risks expulsion from the league.

Last year, a similar situation led to Bury being expelled from the league. Farnell was also Bury’s lawyer. The Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust has warned the club could be thrown out of the league in less than seven weeks.

Last week, the Eltham MP Clive Efford told the House of Commons that the situation was “undermining the future of the club”. Both he and the Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook have written to the EFL to demand action.

Supporters fear The Valley could be redeveloped, but Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe has told The Charlton Champion the authority wants to see the club remain.

“Generations of Greenwich residents have supported Charlton Athletic and they would have been devastated by their relegation last week. The council has very close ties to the club, especially its Community Trust which has worked with us to coordinate over 1,000 volunteers to deliver food and other vital support to residents during the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

“I wrote to Mr Duchâtelet two years ago when there were protests about his ownership and had hoped that winning promotion last year and new ownership would bring about some stability to the club. Sadly that hasn’t happened, and relegation could make things even worse.

“The stadium and training ground sites are designated for specific uses and we would not be interested in any proposals that involved a change of use. Charlton Athletic belongs in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and we will oppose anything that could lead to them being moved out of the borough.”

While The Valley is generally thought to be a difficult site to build on – a large sewer runs underneath it and road access is limited – fans have feared development proposals for many years. Duchâtelet’s predecessors as owners, Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez, had explored the idea of moving to Greenwich Peninsula and striking a deal to have The Valley used for social housing, a court case in 2017 revealed.

Further back, a separation in the ownership of club and ground led to Charlton leaving The Valley in 1985 for Crystal Palace’s ground at Selhurst Park, leading to a damaging seven-year exile from the area. Greenwich planning policies designate it as “community open space”.

However, there is also concern at Woolwich Town Hall about the fate of Sparrows Lane. While it is designated as Metropolitan Open Land – giving it one of the strongest protections against development – councillors fear a planning inspector could still allow building there.

A Premier League side as recently as 2007, Charlton were relegated back to League One last week after a 4-0 defeat at league champions Leeds United. Fans fear the relegation and off-field drama will lead to the departure of manager Lee Bowyer as well as several key players.

The club said tonight: “Getting the change of ownership approved is the top priority of everyone at the club and there is no delay on the part of the club.

“The club will be in touch with the league on Tuesday morning with aim of getting this process concluded.”


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Have your say on controversial Pocket Living plans for 48 ‘compact flats’ on The Heights

The Heights development
The blocks would sit behind two-storey homes on The Heights

Controversial plans to build homes little bigger than studio flats on Greenwich Council land at The Heights have been submitted to town hall planners.

Pocket Living plans to build 48 flats on land currently used for car parking space. It specialises in building “compact flats” – 40 of the planned homes will be one-bedroom apartments of just 39 square metres, designed for one person to live in. Planning guidance gives the minimum size for a studio flat as 37 square metres. All 48 homes will have shared living rooms and kitchens.

Pocket Living Lewisham development
This Pocket development at Marischal Road, Lewisham, was completed in 2016

The flats are designed for first-time buyers, and would be sold at 20 per cent off market rates to Greenwich borough residents – meaning they qualify as “affordable” housing. Pocket developments have already appeared in Lewisham and New Cross, but this is the company’s first scheme in Greenwich borough.

Two linked blocks of four and five storeys are planned for the site, overlooking The Valley, with two car parking spaces for residents – 21 spaces for existing residents will be relocated. The blocks will be next to the two-storey homes of The Heights estate.

Greenwich Council had hoped to sell three plots of land to Pocket, investing the proceeds in new council housing elsewhere. But proposals to sell land off Lewisham Road and Kidbrooke Park Road were abandoned after protests from residents and Labour councillors. Of 41 Labour councillors in post at the time, 12 attended a protest meeting at Charlton House. Many were angry that the council was not developing the land itself or handing the site to Meridian Home Start, its spin-off housing company.

However, plans for The Heights, which sits on contaminated land that Pocket will have to clean up before it starts work, have continued.

Pocket Living render
The flats would overlook The Valley

The company is financially supported by Sadiq Khan’s administration at City Hall, while former Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford sits on the board of the company. A viability assessment submitted with the proposal shows that the company can expect to make a 17.5 per cent profit on the scheme.

Residents have until 19 August to have their say on the proposals on the Greenwich Council website (or search for reference 20/1967/F)


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Work on 20mph scheme for Charlton Village gets back under way

Victoria Way ramp works
Taking work home with you: The unusual sign on the Victoria Way road works

Work has resumed on creating a 20mph zone through Charlton Village, several weeks after activity stopped in the early stages of the coronavirus crisis.

Most of the work is relatively minor, but as reported on this website in March, involves building speed tables in Charlton Road, The Village and Charlton Church Lane, while there will be news parking restrictions at the junctions of Victoria Way and Eastcombe Avenue with Charlton Road.

“Continuous footways” will be introduced along Charlton Road in an attempt to nudge people into driving more considerately in and out of Invicta Road, Sherington Road, Wyndcliff Road, Couthurst Road, Hassendean Road, Bramhope Lane, Mascalls Road, Cherry Orchard and Victoria Way.

Work began on Victoria Way at the end of March but was abandoned after a few days. Now road crews are back, with a sign telling passers-by that the workers all live in the same household – and asking for people to email with concerns rather than approach the crews.

Victoria Way ramp
Work had been abandoned for several weeks

Greenwich Council says: “The government is encouraging highway work sites to return to business as usual with amended working practices, revised risk assessments and guidance.

“Staff working on these sites will strictly comply with the government and health guidance, with safe systems of work in place, while providing an essential service. Please be kind and considerate and assured that work is being carried out safely and for everyone’s benefit.”

When work is finished, there will be a 20mph restriction on Charlton Road and The Village between the Springfield Estate and the junction with Fairfield Grove. However, speed limits on the stretches of road towards Woolwich and Blackheath will remain unchanged – including the stretch of Hillreach where three teenagers died in a collision with an out-of-service bus in 2008.


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