MP criticises ‘bad practice’ at Fairview New Homes’ Synergy development on Victoria Way

Fairview Synergy development
The Synergy development is now poking into the sky above Charlton

Local MP Matt Pennycook has reacted angrily after the developer behind 330 new homes being built on Victoria Way shrugged off complaints about the impact of construction work on the site’s neighbours.

Fairview New Homes dismissed a series of issues raised by Pennycook on behalf of residents about dirt, idling construction vehicles and work taking place outside permitted hours.

Its senior site manager, Matthew Hook, said “we can only assume that the points raised are generally historical” and said that Greenwich Council was happy with the cracked state of the road outside the development site, which is being branded Synergy.

After effectively being told residents’ complaints were groundless, Pennycook has now said he will name the company in Parliament as an example of bad practice in the construction sector. He is also asking for residents with complaints to get in touch with him and the company.

Greenwich had threatened Fairview with an unlimited fine in December 2018 after complaints that contractors were working outside permitted hours. Hook claimed that the work was actually being carried out by a utility firm.

Fairview Synergy
Residents have had to put up with dust and construction lorries

Hook also said that the points had been addressed in a meeting with the council on 25 February, and that no further complaints had been made since.

“So to summarise, all of the concerns raised in your letter have already been discussed, reviewed and mitigated following a meeting between [Fairview] and [Greenwich Council] on the 25/02/19 and to date, since the meeting we have had no further complaints or correspondence from local residents or [Greenwich Council] or any other industry bodies such as the Considerate Constructors Scheme regarding the development on Victoria Way,” Hook wrote.

However, the residents’ complaints were made to Pennycook at a roving advice surgery on 30 March, more than a month after the meeting with the council, with the letter written on 14 May.

Pennycook has responded: “It is patently the case that local residents do have outstanding complaints about construction management on the site. Rather than seeking to dismiss these complaints as you did in your letter, a responsible developer would have engaged with the substance of each of them and given due consideration as to what more could be done to alleviate them.

“I intend to name [Fairview] on the floor of the House of Commons and use your letter as an example of bad practice in the sector as well as making additional direct representations to ministers at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.”

The source of residents’ gripes was clear on Thursday afternoon, with surfaces on the lower stretch of Victoria Way covered in dust from construction. While a site worker hosed down the entrance to the development, nothing was being done about dust and grime outside people’s homes. The wheels of a passing construction truck did not appear to have been washed.

Fairview Synergy site
Fairview has hosed down the road and pavement outside the site, but not outside people’s homes

An eight-strong committee of councillors approved the scheme, which includes two 10-storey blocks and 144 car parking spaces, by six votes to one in January 2018. Among the complaints from residents was a lack of consultation with neighbours about the scheme, and accusations of bullying tactics.

Fairview has not responded to a request for comment.

Cratus Communications, whose deputy chairman is former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts, handled the consultation for the Victoria Way scheme. Last month, the company published a blog post on its website claiming it was “quietly revolutionising and abolishing the traditional view of ‘faceless’ developers sweeping into town and ‘doing what they like’”. “Communication with existing residents has to be managed carefully and with tact,” it added.

If you live close to the Victoria Way development and are affected by the dirt and grime from Fairview New Homes’ Synergy development, please email matthew.pennycook.mp[at]parliament.uk, and copy in matthew.hook[at]fairview.co.uk. Comments are also open below.


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Mayor Khan confirms cut to Charlton’s 53 bus from June

Route 53 bus in Whitehall
Route 53 at Whitehall: The service will be permanently cut from June

London mayor Sadiq Khan is pressing ahead with plans to cut bus route 53, which links Charlton with central London, despite widespread opposition from local councils and MPs.

The 53 will be cut back to run from Plumstead to County Hall from June 15, and will only run to Whitehall for night services, which will be renumbered N53. Day services will also be cut from every seven and a half minutes to every eight minutes.

The proposals have gone ahead despite opposition from Greenwich, Lewisham and Southwark councils, and local MPs Matt Pennycook, Teresa Pearce and Clive Efford, and a 1,900-signature petition from local bus users.

Pennycook said: “I’m extremely disappointed that they have chosen to press ahead with cuts to the 53 bus service despite the significant local opposition that was expressed.”

He said he would press TfL for guarantees that passengers would not have to pay twice for their journeys to central London – many 53 journeys last over an hour, meaning Khan’s “hopper” fare would not apply for passengers changing near the end of the truncated route.

TfL says it will amend the Hopper fare so passengers who board a 53 will not be penalised – but but with passengers advised to change buses to a 453 at Deptford Bridge.

The cut to the 53 was first revealed on this website last year. It is part of a larger programme of cutbacks to bus services, particularly in central London, to address a fall in ridership and TfL’s financial problems. The mayor’s transport agency had its funding cut by Evening Standard editor George Osborne when he was chancellor, while coffers are also being drained by Khan’s partial fare freeze and delays to Crossrail.

But while south-east London – with few Tube services – gets hit by the cut to route 53 as well as a separate cutback to route 171, which serves New Cross and Brockley, proposals for four cuts in central London, including routes along the King’s Road in Chelsea, have been abandoned.

Plans for a new service between Kidbrooke and North Greenwich, possibly running via Westcombe Hill, were also announced today.

There are more details on the TfL website.


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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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