Bramshot Avenue subway in line for upgrade from Silvertown Tunnel money

Siebert Road subway
The upgrade is designed to make the subway more pleasant and cycle-friendly

The subway linking Bramshot Avenue with Siebert Road is to get a £50,000 upgrade as part of measures to mitigate the impact of the forthcoming Silvertown Tunnel on the area, Greenwich Council documents reveal.

The revamp of the 50-year-old subway is among an expanded package of measures to go with the controversial river crossing between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, which is due to open in late 2024 or early 2025. Work on the tunnel is due to begin by the end of this year.

A scrutiny panel of councillors rejected an earlier £349,000 package of “neighbourhood enhancements” which focused on expanding the current, limited, low emissions neighbourhood in east Greenwich in May. This has now been increased to £700,000.

There is very little for Charlton in the new package, but it does target some areas just outside – commuters who use Westcombe Park station will notice some difference by the time the work is finally done, which may not be until the tunnel is completed.

The new package includes £50,000 for improvements to Siebert Road subway, which links Westcombe Hill in Blackheath with Eastcombe Avenue in Charlton – a busy route for local schoolchildren and commuters using Westcombe Park station or buses to North Greenwich. It is partly aimed at making it safer for cyclists to use. Similar subways at the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout already permit cycling.

Improvements promised include “lighting improvements to the entrances and within the underpass itself, “planting on ramp approach to tunnel to enhance public realm and slow cycles”, “planting and environmental improvements on Siebert Road side to make link more appealing to users”.

Footbridge improvements

Another £50,000 will go on improvements to the footbridge over the A102 between Farmdale Road, east Greenwich, and Westcombe Park station. This will comprise of “lighting along the entirety of the bridge”, “resurfacing with buff anti-skid surfacing”, “repainting railings” and “planting where appropriate and minor bridge repairs”. 200m long 4m wide bridge.

Soap fans will recall the bridge from a 2005 episode of EastEnders…

The bulk of the extra cash, however, is going at the footbridge’s eastern end, with a £275,000 scheme to improve the approach to the bridge at Farmdale Road. Before the A102 was constructed in the late 1960s, this was the end of Westcombe Hill – and the road has barely been touched since it was severed decades ago.

Plans here appear to be encouraging a pedestrian and cycle route towards the Thames – arguably, this is something that perhaps should have been included in the Ikea planning agreements, which merely include signage along this particular route. They include “footway improvements, decluttering and planting on Farmdale Road”, “resurfacing of Farmdale Road”, “continuous footways on both Farmdale Rd and Aldeburgh Street”, “toucan/parallel [pedestrian/cycle] crossing shifted to ped/cyclist desire line into Aldeburgh Street”, “greening on both sides of the railway bridge”.

A further £75,000 is set aside for the decades-overdue screening of the western side of Farmdale Road from the A102 slip road.

Separately, a planned noise barrier for the Blackheath side of the A102 will be doubled in length so it runs from near Invicta School to the railway line at Westcombe Park, protecting neighbours of the dual carriageway in SE3 from road noise, following heavy lobbying from residents. No such protection is planned for the Charlton side, where there has been no lobbying.

The council paper discussing the improvements can be read here, full details of the improvements can be seen here. (See also From The Murky Depths’ take on this.)

Siebert Road subway graffiti
Occasional graffiti has livened up the bleak subway under the A102

Council still backs the tunnel – despite what councillors said

The tunnel, which is backed by Greenwich, Bexley and Tower Hamlets councils, but opposed by Newham, Lewisham, Southwark and Hackney, was given planning consent by transport secretary Chris Grayling in May 2018.

An attempt to change Greenwich’s stance on the tunnel was defeated in an internal meeting of the council’s ruling Labour group last week, in part thanks to two Peninsula ward councillors – Stephen Brain and Denise Scott-McDonald – going back on their previous opposition to the tunnel. Neither would comment on their change of heart on the tunnel, but The Charlton Champion has been told that Brain changed his mind because of the increase to the mitigation package.

The elephant in the room – the A102 roundabout

Nothing in this agreement deals with the dangerous junction between Woolwich Road and the Blackwall Tunnel approach. It was originally due to be dealt with as part of plans for Cycle Superhighway 4 to Woolwich, which was then cut back to Deptford Creek Bridge.

City Hall has pledged to deal with the junction by “late 2023”, according to papers released by the mayor’s office last year.

Woolwich Road roundabout
Two cyclists have died at the Woolwich Road roundabout in the past decade

Now the A206 will be covered a by a new, separate plan for a cycle route between Greenwich and Woolwich. A consultation earlier this year on removing Greenwich town centre’s one-way system was the first step in that process. (Locals will get a preview of how this could work on Sunday, when The Big Half half-marathon closes part of the town centre.)

City Hall’s walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman said on Tuesday: “I’m excited about that, because unlocking that town centre unlocks the cycle route down to Woolwich. We now have the funding for that cycle route and we are working with the borough to deliver that.

“The plans are working well, it is unlocking the next phase and the money is in place to do that. The designs are being worked up for that new route all the way down to Woolwich.

“The Angerstein roundabout will be part of that. Greenwich is working up an interim scheme to make it a bit safer.

“But, as part of the longer route from the town centre to Woolwich, that is a core focus. That and the Woolwich Ferry roundabout are two hotspots for road danger.

“I’m seeing initial plans to make that [the Angerstein roundabout] safer for cyclists and pedestrians, at the moment it is a horrible area. That work is ongoing, the new [council] leadership are really behind it, it’s very exciting.”

While the flyover dates from the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach in 1969, the original layout of the junction featured a more complex arrangement with traffic lights and longer slip roads from the A102 to the south. The current roundabout dates from a reworking of the junction about 10 years later, which itself had traffic lights installed in the late 1990s.

Will Norman material from Tom Bull, the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. See how The Charlton Champion uses material from the Local Democracy Reporter Service.


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Charlton stores among sticking points for Sainsbury’s and Asda merger

Asda Charlton
Asda has been trading on the Bugsby’s Way site since 1984

Sainsbury’s and Asda are likely to have to sell one of their Charlton stores if the two supermarket giants are allowed to go through with their plans to merge, according a report from the competition watchdog.

The two superstores are among 629 locations where a tie-up between the two companies could result in a “substantial lessening of competition”, the Competition and Markets Authority said in a provisional report on the merger plan, released on Wednesday.

The two supermarket giants announced plans for a tie-up last April, and it has been widely reported that the combined company would take one pound out of every three spent by UK grocery shoppers. But the CMA says a combination of the two firms could mean shoppers would “face higher prices, reduced quality and choice, and a poorer overall shopping experience across the UK”.

While the strength of the CMA’s concerns about the merger could force the two companies to abandon their plans, Sainsbury’s and Asda have said they want to go ahead with the tie-up.

The full report was made public on Thursday afternoon. As well as the two Charlton stores, the CMA has raised issues about stores in Lewisham, New Cross, Abbey Wood, Kidbrooke, Peckham, Deptford, Old Kent Road, Isle of Dogs, Bexleyheath and Belvedere.

Both retailers also have petrol outlets within close proximity of each other, as Sainsbury’s retailed the filling station from its former Greenwich store, now replaced by an Ikea. These outlets are also highlighted by the CMA.

As well as their two Bugsby’s Way superstores, Sainsbury’s also has a Local supermarket on Charlton Church Lane. This is not included in the CMA’s list of concerns.

The Charlton Riverside Sainsbury’s store opened in 2015

Of the two Charlton superstores, the Asda branch is arguably the most vulnerable to a sale. The store has been trading for 35 years, making it the second oldest in the Charlton retail area (Makro is 10 years older) and its facilities are dated. It could be seen as a target for Lidl, which is currently applying for planning permission to convert two units in an adjacent shopping park into a supermarket, or the new Tesco low-cost brand Jack’s.

The Charlton store only opened in 2015, and there have been anecdotal reports that trading has been slower than expected – one consequence of its move from east Greenwich was that the store was cut off from shoppers who would take a bus down the hill from Blackheath. But a new store could be attractive to a rival such as Morrisons, which lacks a store between Peckham, Welling and Thamesmead.

The full Competition and Markets Authority report will be released in April.


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Inside Greenwich Ikea: Flatpack heaven with a little bit of greenwash

Ikea meatballs
Don’t forget the meatballs (and veggieballs)

Ahead of its official opening on Thursday, Greenwich Ikea has been holding preview days for members of its loyalty club (including Saturday – details here). The Charlton Champion‘s DARRYL CHAMBERLAIN, who has followed the saga since the store’s plans first emerged in 2013, signed up and went for a look.

We’ve been here before, of course. 19 years ago, Jamie Oliver fired a little white cannon on this site to declare the “environmentally-friendly” Greenwich Peninsula Sainsbury’s store open. Inside, you couldn’t move for reminders that this was something different – even the flooring in the toilets had a sign telling you that it came from recycled plastic.

There’s very little of that in the new Ikea which has taken its place after Sainsbury’s found some of those eco-features didn’t work and decamped half a mile down the road to somewhere bigger. For all the claims that this is Ikea’s most sustainable store yet (TM), it feels little different from any of the chain’s other London area outlets.

Some residents’ groups had pinned their hopes on something like its Harburg store in Hamburg, a high street outlet full of signs exorting German shoppers to use cycle delivery services and take public transport. There’s very little of that here.

Ikea Greenwich
Spot the spelling mistake

First impressions matter, and for those bruised at seeing the blue behemoth land in their neighbourhood, the in-store DJ’s choice of Rihanna’s We Found Love (“we found love in a hopeless place…”) seemed bleakly apt. After all, if the council had seen anything of value in this end of east Greenwich, between the traditional neighbourhood and the Millennium Village, it wouldn’t have encouraged a multinational to plonk its warehouse here.

If you love Ikea – and most people do, even if they pretend not to – then you will fall in love in this hopeless place. It’s an Ikea, doing the things Ikea do reliably well. The smaller footprint of the store means this is a little bit more cramped than other stores – but just as Ikea show you how to ingeniously squeeze stuff into your tiny flat, its twisty route through the salesfloor shows it can do this in retail too, even though it can feel a little claustrophobic at times.

Ikea Greenwich
This way forward..

Ikea-spotters will also note the marketplace – the bit where you pick smaller items off the shelves – is on two levels, with garden plants downstairs. Between the showroom and the marketplace is the restaurant, which was packed – it is likely this will be as much a draw as the furniture will be. But faced with an unpleasant walk around some of London’s most forbidding public realm to get there, will diners travel sustainably?

Ikea Greenwich

The major nod to the community is tucked away upstairs, with a roof terrace and an indoor space that can be used for events and meetings. A day of dire weather was not the best opportunity to show the roof terrace off, but views up towards Blackheath and Canary Wharf will look better when the sun’s out. Shame about the dual carriageway in between, which may make you think you’re taking a break in a motorway service station. A second nod to the community is a “learning hub” downstairs.

Downstairs, the warehouse section – where you pick up your flat-pack purchases – was seeing very little trade; somewhat surprising, as today would have offered the ideal chance to pick something big up before the crowds descend. But cheapskates will be delighted to know that Bargain Corner is already well-stocked, while the food outlet was doing a roaring trade (although the booze was taped off, clearly someone forgot to get the licence in time). Yes, there are plenty of meatballs.

Ikea Greenwich
The community hub and roof garden

In conclusion, it’s an Ikea, and if you expected anything different, go back to the start of this sentence and read it again. The store was reasonably busy for a Friday lunchtime, and the roads seemed to be holding up okay – despite the impatient (and totally unsustainable) horn-honking out on Peartree Way. How things will be next week, when the store’s first Saturday coincides with a Charlton match, is anybody’s guess.

Long-standing residents who remember this as a sports field will wince at the “sustainability” claims. This store has created jobs (about 100 have gone to people in the borough, councillors were told this week) but it would have created jobs if it had opened on the empty dual carriageways of Thamesmead – or on Eltham High Street, for that matter.

But they winced when Sainsbury’s came here, and that turned out to be something people become rather fond of. Will the people of SE10, SE7 and SE3 – so powerless when this was decided five years ago – learn to love the big blue beast in their midst? Only you can answer that.

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Wassail away in East Greenwich Pleasaunce this Sunday

East Greenwich Pleasaunce Wassailing poster

Local storyteller RICH SYLVESTER brings us news of East Greenwich Pleasaunce’s annual Wassailing event:

Dear friends and neighbours – I hope you can join us to welcome the New Year with a Wassail In the Pleasaunce. It’s on Sunday 13th Jan, 1-3pm, and we would be really grateful if you can spread the word!

This is the fifth year the local community have come together for this traditional “New Year” celebration – with music dance and song. Wassailing also involves pouring an offering of cider on the trees of the community orchard. Cider and apple juice from London, and Kent apples will be on sale.

Wassail 2019 will feature:

A flavour of previous Wassails:

Alongside the café and playground of this well-used local park, amidst the roots of the old trees there are memorial stones and a mass grave dating from 1857 when the bodies of 3000 sailors from Greenwich Hospital were re-buried. The Wassail will naturally take a moment to remember them.

Meet at Pistachios Café, East Greeenwich Pleasaunce, Chevening Road, London SE10 0LA.

To find out more contact Rich Sylvester on 07833 538143.


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Greenwich Ikea opening date revealed: Store faces Addicks test on its debut weekend

Ikea
There are widespread fears Ikea will bring traffic gridlock to Greenwich and Charlton

The first weekend of trading at east Greenwich’s new Ikea store will coincide with a big match at Charlton Athletic’s ground, threatening serious traffic issues across the area.

Yesterday the Swedish flat-pack furniture giant confirmed it would open its doors on Thursday 7 February. Signage appeared on the building, on the site of the former “eco” Sainsbury’s supermarket, two weeks ago and stock is already being taken into the giant blue store.

Past openings have led to chaotic scenes – most notoriously in Edmonton, north London, where five people were taken to hospital in 2005 after a midnight opening went wrong.

The Charlton Champion understands both Ikea and Greenwich Council – which has wrapped itself in the store’s yellow and blue colours, allowing it to sponsor a sustainability prize at its business awards and run a promotional stand at a recent festival in Woolwich – are keen to avoid such scenes, with rumours of a “soft” opening ahead of the advertised date.

However, the first Saturday – always due to be a concern – coincides with a home match at The Valley, raising concerns that nearly five years after giving it planning permission in the face of opposition from local residents’ groups, neither the council nor Ikea have got to grips with the potential for the store to bring the area to a halt.

Charlton Athletic will play Southend United that day, a match which usually sees the away side bring a large number of supporters to The Valley, whose proximity to the Blackwall Tunnel and the A13 to the Essex coast usually make it an easy trip. The Shrimpers are managed by former Addicks favourite Chris Powell, a factor which could also bump up the home crowd.

There are mitigating factors – Southend fans could be routed via the tolled Dartford crossing, while attendances at The Valley have dropped significantly in recent years with fans alienated by Roland Duchatelet’s ownership. But matches still cause short-term traffic congestion, and the curiosity factor around the wildly popular furniture retailer’s debut in SE10 is likely to make 9 February a difficult day to get around the local area.

Rail services are due to run as normal on the Greenwich line that weekend on Saturday, but the line is closed by engineering works on Sunday.

Greenwich Shopping Park
Other shopping centres are available: Greenwich Shopping Park last Sunday

Even after the opening weekend, there will still be fears about the potential for gridlock – withincidents of drivers being trapped in the car park of the chain’s Reading store. Issues have also been reported at its Exeter store.

Indeed, closer to home, long tailbacks regularly form inside the Bugsbys Way shopping parks as drivers queue to get out.

To mitigate this, Ikea has signed a legal agreement pledging to direct drivers to the west of the site “to address network capacity constraints on Peartree Way and Woolwich Road roundabout”, with £50,000 for new signage. (See the full legal agreement and travel plan.)

Ikea Croydon checkout
Coming soon: Meatballs to the right, bargain corner to the left

However, there are no signs yet of promised “improvements to pedestrian and cycling access links to the development from Westcombe Park and Charlton railway stations”, due to come from £750,000 to promote “travel by sustainable modes”. Work to widen Peartree Lane to create a southbound bus lane has started, though, and extra pedestrian/cycle crossings are being installed on Bugsby’s Way, which could address a promise to improve links from North Greenwich station. The store also pledged to pay £500,000 for extra bus services.

In a press release not sent to this website, Ikea promises to be “being a good neighbour and a true partner in the local community”, offering “a wide choice of affordable delivery services will be available, from 24-hour delivery for those living within the Royal Borough of Greenwich, to a Zedify bike courier service, competitively priced mini cabs and Hertz EV [electric] van hire”.

For the first 10 weeks the store is open, it will also have a special offer on home delivery for those who live within 40 minutes on public transport – although if pessimists’ predictions are true, that could be a very small area indeed on the opening weekend.


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Woolwich Road roundabout ‘not fit for humans’, council deputy leader says

Woolwich Road roundabout
Edgaras Cepura died at the roundabout in May this year

East Greenwich’s infamous Woolwich Road roundabout, where a cyclist was killed earlier this year, is “not fit for humans”, according to a top councillor.

The junction of the A206 and A102, just west of Charlton, has been the centre of campaigns for cycle safety this year and the leader of Greenwich Council was quizzed on it last night.

Three cyclists died in the space of three weeks in south-east London earlier this year, with the third being Edgaras Cepura at the roundabout on 18 May.

Campaigners and councillors have criticised the junction for being notoriously dangerous for cyclists.

Council leader Danny Thorpe told a Q&A meeting at Woolwich Town Hall: “In relation to the tragic deaths of a number of cyclists over the last year particularly at the roundabout we held a visit with TfL and officers because its a very hard thing to resolve on your own.

“We don’t control all the infrastructure around there but we have to make sure there are changes because it is one of the most horrendous places to be if you’re on foot or bike.”

The council has carried out some safety improvements such as road markings but the road is under the control of Transport for London.

‘Awful roundabout’

It comes as London mayor Sadiq Khan revealed designs for the roundabout are being brought forward.

He told City Hall last month that TfL was working with the council on designs and funding to improve the roundabout “as soon as possible” ahead of a larger scheme of the cycle superhighway.

Cllr Thorpe added: “We have been lobbying hard to make sure a cycle superhighway is extended from Greenwich down to Woolwich too. In this area there is such enormous potential and demand we need to tap into.”

It comes as a wider plan for safety schemes was passed at a cabinet meeting last week.

Deputy leader Cllr David Gardner said: “That is an awful roundabout, it is not built on a human scale. It’s not built for human beings, it needs drastic surgery to make it safe.”


LDRS logoTom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Scheme is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
The Charlton Champion uses LDRS content to supplement its own coverage. Find out more about why we are part of the scheme.


The River Ale House: Have you been to Charlton’s new local micropub yet?

The River Ale House

Okay, it’s actually in Greenwich, but we couldn’t resist giving a mention to The River Ale House, which opened a couple of weeks ago just down the Woolwich Road.

It’s in the former Under Cover Experience lingerie shop – the bottom fell out of the knickers market, and owner Trevor thought he’d try his hand at beer instead.

So far, The River Ale House is doing a good trade in the evenings – providing somewhere to go in a stretch of Woolwich Road that’s long lacked a decent pub.

There’s a rotating range of ales on, plus ciders, wines and spirits. It’s also very dog-friendly.

The River Ale House

It’s the eighth micropub to open in south-east London over the past few years, joining The Long Pond in Eltham, Door Hinge in Welling, Hopper’s Hut and Hackney Carriage in Sidcup, Broken Drum in Blacken, Penny Farthing in Crayford and One Inn The Wood in Petts Wood. Another one, The Kentish Belle, is due to open in Bexleyheath later this year.

If the River Ale House gives you a taste for the smaller boozer, here’s a micropub crawl of south-east London that’s been tried and tested by the Charlton Champion team.

The River Ale House is at 131 Woolwich Road SE10 0RJ and is open 12noon to 11pm every day. You can find out more on Twitter and Facebook.