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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Mayor Sadiq Khan rejects Rockwell’s Charlton Riverside development

Atlas Gardens
Residents in Atlas and Derrick Gardens say the new development would loom over their homes

London mayor Sadiq Khan has thrown out plans to build 771 homes off Anchor & Hope Lane – the first major scheme to come forward as part of the redevelopment of Charlton Riverside – at a meeting at City Hall today.

Greenwich Council rejected the plans last year, saying it was against the masterplan for the riverside land. But within weeks Khan “called in” the proposal to decide himself. Local councillors and residents fear that approval will set a precedent for the riverside, which has no major infrastructure improvements planned, to be developed with tower blocks rather than family housing. Many thought Khan would simply rubber-stamp the scheme.

The mayor said the site was easily accessible, and said council planning committees needed to bear in mind London’s housing crisis.

But he told the audience to cheers: “In my view, this scheme is not of sufficient design quality, and the layout and massing leads to a poor residential environment and poor quality public realm.”

He also voiced concerns on the effects on local businesses.

Neighbours and local businesses had lined up to reject the scheme, and Khan praised the contribution of residents, calling them “the opposite of NIMBYs”.

The chair of the Charlton Central Residents Association, Jodie Coughlan, laid into Rockwell’s lack of consultation – something highlighted by Khan in his verdict.

“This is a serious insult to the intelligence of the public, and our confidence in the GLA as a planning authority,” she told the mayor. “For something of this scale, an intelligent approach should have been taken from the beginning. Many residents are saying ‘why bother?’ … CCRA would strongly urge the mayor to reject this application and send Rockwell back to engage with the community.”

Squeeze singer Glenn Tilbrook – whose recording studio is next to the site – also spoke, to say he had been “locked out” of meetings between Rockwell and the Greater London Authority since 2015.

Rockwell revised scheme
Rockwell’s revised scheme will be examined by City Hall, not Greenwich Council

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.” Other objectors include local MP Matt Pennycook, who says the scheme remains too dense and should be cut from a maximum of 10 storeys to six storeys, while it also needs more family-sized homes. He also calls the design “sterile and monotonous”, and says there needs to be a cut in car parking.

Rockwell wants to build 771 homes, with the possibility of 165 homes (21.4%) for “affordable rent” and 127 (16.4%) for shared ownership with a City Hall grant.

Residents, who believe the development would tower over the cul-de-sacs at Atlas and Derrick Gardens, have accused Rockwell have circulating misleading images of the scheme.

You can see a recording of the hearing, which began at 2pm and lasted two hours, on the City Hall website. Brief updates on what happened follow…


Live updates (most recent first) – refresh for updates


5.05pm. And that’s that – a surprising verdict, but not too much of a shock to those who heard the residents’ testimony this afternoon.

4.50pm — DECISION REJECTED

Khan says he called in the population to give it more scrutiny and that London has a booming population and needs housing. “In Greenwich alone, I’m told there are 17,000 households on the waiting list. We must optimise the development of underused sites while protecting the green belt… this needs to be recognised at a local level by council planning committees.” He criticises Rockwell’s lack of consultation, but says council planning committees need to bear London’s needs in mind. He says the site is clearly accessible… but then rejects it to cheers from the public gallery, citing a poor quality environment, poor quality public realm. Blimey.

4.49pm Khan is back in the chamber.

4.04pm Smith says Rockwell has had interest from three providers to take on the “affordable” housing. Khan is now going to retire to consider his decision. “Hopefully it’ll be today when I come back,” he says.

4.03pm Khan questions Greg Smith on Rockwell’s lack of consultation. He claims to have attended five different consultations. “We feel we’ve done everything we should be doing, and we’ve tried to do more.” Asked engagement with the riverside industries, Smith says Rockwell has agreed to send construction materials by river rather than road. Questioned about Glenn Tilbrook’s objections, Smith says Rockwell did engage, but Tilbrook responds but he did not get sufficient details in the answers given to him. “There is nothing in the reports about sound going into my premises, and I’ve asked.”

3.57pm Sadiq Khan commends planning chair Sarah Merrill for her engagement with residents, adding that “it is an example for other councils to follow…. the residents are “the opposite of NIMBYs”. But he asks her: “If an applicant reduces height and density, do you appreciate that it results in fewer homes and affordable homes?” She responds that Greenwich could make up the numbers because Charlton Riverside as a whole is such a land area. “If we’re given the leverage, we can deliver the affordable homes that would be lost here. We believe that this is housing at any costs… and we need to spread the housing along the vast area of riverside,” she said. Asked about Rockwell’s plan for businesses: “Our view is it’ll provably be Costa Coffee for want of a better word. We would have liked to have seen a greater mix with low-scale manufacturing and industry, not just retail space.” Senior planning officer Victoria Geoghegan backs her up.

3.51pm Now Greg Smith of GVA, Rockwell’s consultants says the site “has excellent transport links”, and says existing industrial occupiers will be helped to move locally. Rachel Huff of Simpson Huff architects promises a “vibrant, mixed-use” development, and outlines some of the changes to the scheme since the mayor called it in. It will “create a new working, thriving, living neighbourhood,” she says.

3.45pm London Assembly member Len Duvall speaks. “This site is simply too small for the number of homes planned on it, I’ve had people come to me and say the previous scheme that went to the council was better.”

3.42pm Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze thanks the mayor for his over-60s Oyster card, then says Rockwell and the GLA have spent 16 hours in meetings since 2015. “We’ve been locked out of them,” he said. “The model of the proposed development was a model of misrepresentation – existing buildings were depicted as being larger than they are, I wish my studio was a three storey building.” He adds: “The GLA have ignored us and swept our concerns away.” He says he faces a loss of income from studio rental and a loss of access for his tour bus. “We thank Rockwell for the offer of soundproofing, but this needs to be dealt with by independent professionals answerable to us.” He adds: “Where’s the hope and where’s the love in this development?”, calling the scheme “a kick in the teeth for residents”.

3.37pm David Gayther of Charlton Together, a network of community groups, says the community feels “let down” by the GLA in calling it in. “Mr Mayor, you’ve said over and over that Londoners should develop their own communities, but nowhere in London is doing that better than Charlton. We have better relations than ever with our own council.”

3.33pm Phil Connolly of the Atlas and Derrick Gardens Residents Association. “I have Parkinsons disease, so I’ve joined the movers and shakers before I met you,” he jokes. “The planners have lost the plot a little – they think significance is related to quantity and scale,” he says, pointing out that Rockwell hasn’t monitored for PM2.5 pollution. “We have 13 deaths a year in our council ward… the Rockwell development is set to make that worse.” He adds: “You’re our mayor – we elected you. We beg you not to leave you in the bands of Rockwell, getting darker and colder, and we don’t want the pollution Rockwell is threatening us with.”

3.27pm Carol Kenna of the Charlton Society: “We believe the masterplan as it stands at the moment is a very good starting point for the development of the riverside area. On the contrary, at our first resident with Rockwell, the developers were offered sweeties – to tick a box if we wanted a creche. We were told we couldn’t discuss principles, and we feel we are not being treated that way. We were given two days notice of the latest consultation – two, two-hour slots at the weekend. The model was inaccurate, we were told by one representative it was in scale, another that it wasn’t in scale, and they had a public disagreement.” She says she is “puzzled” that the GLA has called it in based on inadequate Greenwich housing figures – but the GLA did not respond to a query on why. Kenna would like to know where Khan stands since he has recently called for community-led development.

3.23pm Jodie Coughlan from the Charlton Central Residents Association criticises Rockwell’s approach to consultation – four hours right at the end of the consultation period, with a 3D model produced right at the end. “This is a serious insult to the intelligence of the public, and our confidence in the GLA as a planning authority,” she says. “For something of this scale, an intelligent approach should have been taken from the beginning. Many residents are saying ‘why bother?’… CCRA would strongly urge the mayor to reject this application and send Rockwell back to engage with the community.”

3.18pm Local resident Yann Leclerc thanks Rockwell for listening to community concerns – but says the scheme still isn’t good enough. “The play street is a lovely idea, but in reality I doubt it will be used very much,” saying it will not be an attractive setting and will be used as an access route for industry. “How many children will actually use it?,” he says, pointing out the lack of family housing and the overshadowing.

3.15pm Phil Aust of Day Aggregates, representing the riverside industry. He talks about the importance of the aggregate industry to London – a third of the capital’s building industry’s needs comes through the Greenwich/Charlton wharves. This development itself will require “tens of thousands aggregates” – but he says current plans will mean that this will come by road, not by river.

3.12pm “The scheme is a complete travesty of that masterplan… this is housing at any price, and its legacy will be that it is a social mistake,” Merrill says to applause.

3.07pm Greenwich planning chair Sarah Merrill says that the leader of council was “not comfortable” with it, and says it “in no way” reflects the Charlton masterplan, which took six years and £1 million of work. She cites overdevelopment, adding that the new plan compounds this; points out the reduced level of family housing; and the effect on business neighbours such as Squeeze’s recording studio. “We don’t want Squeeze squeezed out,” she says.

3.06pm Provisions are in place for a “potential bus transit route”, while Rockwell will pay £2.1m for a new west-east access road towards Warspite Road. “Although there are planned public transport improvements, these will not be delivered before this is determined,” the City Hall officer says, justifying the large amount of car parking on the site. There will be £830,000 for bus services (presumably the “bus transit route”).

3.04pm Dealing with Glenn Tilbrook’s criticism that the scheme will damage his use of his recording studio, the City Hall officer this there will be access for a tour bus, heavy works will be taking place at agreed times and Rockwell has agreed put in soundproofing to protect the studio if needed.

2.55pm Residents’ windows on Atlas and Derrick Gardens will, at most, experience a “minor adverse impact”, apart from one which will be in a room where there is another window that isn’t affected. So that’s alright then.

2.52pm. We are being shown views of the scheme from Atlas and Derrick Gardens. Many locals say these visualisations aren’t accurate.

2.48pm. A City Hall planning officer has been talking. His delivery isn’t too exciting, but to sum up, he says the scheme is in “sustainable location” and complies with London Plan policies – the London Plan is the mayor’s masterplan for all of the capital. Those who struggles to take buses to North Greenwich this morning may beg to differ…

2.43pm. WE’RE BACK! Thank you to reader Paul Chapman for suggesting randomly hitting the “play” button on the webcast. Let’s hope City Hall’s planning decision-making is more sound than its IT.

2.16pm There is currently no sound on the City Hall webcast, rendering this attempt at a live blog rather pointless. If the sound reappears, we will try to resume it, otherwise, we will catch up with the result after it is announced. Apologies.

2.05pm. Still waiting to start. It’s fair to say that many local decision-makers are expecting Khan to approve the scheme. Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has already written to Communities Secretary James Brokenshire today to ask him to consider calling in the scheme to be decided by a planning inspector if Khan gives it the green light today.


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Pennycook criticises Rockwell Charlton Riverside as City Hall deadline looms

Rockwell revised scheme
Rockwell’s revised scheme will be examined by City Hall, not Greenwich Council

Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has told City Hall planners that major changes need to be made to developer Rockwell’s plans to build 771 new homes off Anchor & Hope Lane before they are approved.

London mayor Sadiq Khan took control of the planning application in August, weeks after Greenwich Council’s main planning committee threw out the proposed development, and a public hearing at City Hall is due to take place on 29 January.

Neighbours in Atlas and Derrick Gardens had complained that the development – likely to be the first development on the Charlton Riverside to get planning approval, albeit from Khan rather than the council – would loom over their homes, while Greenwich’s planning chair Sarah Merrill called it “reminiscent of Stalingrad”.

While the plans have been altered to reduce the impact on the two cul-de-sacs, Pennycook says in a letter to Khan’s planning team that more needs to be done to make the scheme acceptable.

Rockwell is holding two brief exhibitions this weekend about the proposals from 9am to 11am today and tomorrow at the Anchor & Hope pub, while comments about the scheme need to be sent to VIPtradingestate[at]london.gov.uk by Monday to be considered by the mayor’s team.

Pennycook says the scheme remains too dense and should be cut from a maximum of 10 storeys to six storeys, while it also needs more family-sized homes. He also calls the design “sterile and monotonous”, and says there needs to be a cut in car parking.

“If approved, this application would constitute the first major development within the Charlton Riverside masterplan area and would set a clear precedent for all other developments that would follow,” he said. “That is why I have always argued that it is critical that we get this development right.”

“The masterplan stresses that the development of Charlton Riverside requires a very different approach to that taken in other parts of the borough, such as Greenwich Peninsula. Yet in too many respects, this revised application is at odds with the spirit of that masterplan.

“I continue to support development on Charlton Riverside but I urge the mayor to refrain from approving the application until the applicant is persuaded to bring forward further amendments along the lines I have suggested.”

Charlton ward councillor Gary Parker has also submitted an objection.


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Developer Rockwell to hold last-minute, four-hour Charlton Riverside exhibition

Rockwell revised scheme
Rockwell’s revised scheme will be examined by City Hall, not Greenwich Council

The developer behind controversial plans to build 771 new homes off Anchor & Hope Lane is to hold two short consultation sessions this weekend to explain their proposals to residents.

London mayor Sadiq Khan took control of the planning application in August, weeks after Greenwich Council’s main planning committee threw out the proposed development, and a public hearing at City Hall is likely to come in a few weeks. (Update: The Charlton Champion understands this is likely to be on Tuesday 29 January.)

Neighbours in Atlas and Derrick Gardens had complained that the development – likely to be the first development on the Charlton Riverside to get planning approval, albeit from Khan rather than the council – would loom over their homes, while Greenwich’s planning chair Sarah Merrill called it “reminiscent of Stalingrad”.

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.

Rockwell is now holding a last-minute public exhibition about the proposals – however, it will only run from 9am to 11am on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 January, at the Anchor & Hope pub.

The City Hall consultation on the scheme has been extended until the following Monday to take account of the brief opportunity for neighbours to talk to Rockwell about the proposals.

See more on the revised plans here.


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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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Housing campaigners plan public meeting on Rockwell Charlton Riverside development

The planned development would be built here, behind Atlas and Derrick Gardens

Housing campaigners are to hold a public meeting on Monday 8 October about developer Rockwell’s plans to build 771 homes off Anchor and Hope Lane.

London mayor Sadiq Khan overturned Greenwich Council’s refusal of the scheme during the summer, meaning City Hall will now decide on the application.

The Charlton Champion understands a new proposal has been submitted to the mayor’s office, however it has not yet been made public.

Khan’s decision to “call in” the decision came with criticism of Greenwich Council for not allowing enough “affordable” housing in recent years – Rockwell’s scheme would have 32.4% “affordable” housing.

Residents in nearby Atlas and Derrick Gardens – built in the early 20th century for workers at the nearby Cory bargeworks – say the Rockwell development will loom over their homes and deny them natural light.

Atlas Gardens
Residents in Atlas and Derrick Gardens say the new development would loom over their homes

Local businesses have also voiced fears that they will have to move or close, saying the new development’s residents will not want them as neighbours.

Rockwell’s plans for 32.4% of the units to be “affordable” housing were inserted into the scheme at the last minute. Of those, 162 would be for London Affordable Rent – roughly £150/week for a one-bedroom flat – and aimed at those on low incomes, with the remaining available for shared ownership.

Greenwich Housing Forum recently held a meeting to discuss Greenwich Council’s plans to sell land at The Heights as well as on estates off Lewisham Road and Kidbrooke Park Road to developer Pocket Living. Video of that meeting can be seen here.

The meeting on the Rockwell scheme will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 8 October at Charlton House.

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Cllr Gary Parker’s Charlton Ward Report: Summer 2018

What has Charlton ward councillor GARY PARKER been up to? Here’s his latest report.

Cllr Gary ParkerDear Charlton Residents, this is my current ward report, this is a snapshot of my recent activities it does not cover individual case work or a range of other meetings. I try to highlight a few key activities which maybe of general interest. Please contact me direct if you want more information: gary.parker[at]royalgreenwich.gov.uk Twitter: @CllrG2013.

Charlton Society – I attended the Charlton Society meeting on redevelopment and regeneration of the village and surrounding areas, together with my co-councillors and other officers from the Charlton Society, some good ideas came forward, I will be working with the CS and others to develop and support these ideas wherever possible. A meeting is scheduled in the near future with council officers and we gave the Charlton Society some information about current funding opportunities through the council – more below.

New Funding- Charlton-based organisations or those that support Charlton residents can now bid for new funding from the council this includes the ward budget – your ward councillors want to give money to as many local organisations as possible within the £30,000 budget allowable and also from the Community Infrastructure Levy (to be launched on 17 September) – a fund from actual development to support local neighbourhoods. There is over £109k to support projects in four wards including Charlton. This is a one year fund with more money available next year – for more info see www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk.

[Charlton Champion note: read more about previous ward budget funding here]

Planning & Development Issues – I have been working with local groups and individuals regarding a range of planning issues, yet again. I opposed the recent application by Rockwell and spoke at the planning board meeting on this in July as did many local residents. The application was rejected but since then, the Mayor of London has ‘called in’ the decision for review, as he claims that Greenwich has not been achieving its affordable housing targets. In my view this call in is a challenge to local democracy, the planning board, who I have been sharply critical of in the past, did the right thing as did local residents. There is a large group of residents, community organisations, businesses and groups in the area actively opposing this development – I will support them as much as I can. If the application is upheld by the Mayor I will be encouraging the council to seek a judicial review on this issue. I will continue to campaign vigorously on this issue, which is now as much about local democracy as it is about planning issues and defending local communities against big developers.

Pocket Homes – Pocket Living is a property development company supported by the Mayor of London which builds homes for sale to first time buyers at reduced prices. The Council cabinet took a decision on 16 July to go out to consultation with residents on the sale of three plots of land to the company at three sites – in Blackheath Westcombe, Greenwich West, and The Heights in Charlton. I called in this decision with Cllr Fletcher from Blackheath ward, a “call-in” is a council process by which councillors can ask for decisions to be reviewed. I have some specific concerns which I raised about: social value, the impact in Charlton ward, land contamination at the site and the nature of the consultation. Many local residents attended this meeting and they too voiced their concerns. Since then this issue has featured significantly in social media and in the local press.

Events & Engagements – A selection

I attended two Better Together Community Engagement events covering Charlton.

I attended the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust board meeting on 17th July and raised a number of local issues including parking charges at Charlton House and access to the archives for local residents and historians – I will issue a separate report on the trust soon.

I support the John Roan- anti academisation campaign and attended the picket line to support striking workers in July.

I attended and supported the new Greenwich Housing Forum which held an open public meeting about housing issues in the Borough – I estimate nearly 100 people attended- more info @greenwich_forum

I chaired the Council’s Regeneration Scrutiny Panel on 23 July – it reviews policy and executive actions on regeneration issues in the borough.

I held a meeting with the council’s deputy chief executive about the Woolwich Creative District and other heritage and regeneration issues in the Charlton area on 24 August.

SURGERIES/CASEWORK – Raised a very large amount of housing and planning related casework, community safety and crime related issues which is ongoing. I also dealt with some issues in Charlton Park related to alleged drug dealing and anti -social behaviour and continued graffiti and vandalism around the toilets. I am concerned about the escalation of such behaviour in Charlton Park and am working with my co-councillors to address this issue.

COUNCIL  I also attended the July 2018 full council meeting and the main overview and scrutiny panel meetings of which I am a member. This received reports from senior council officers and cabinet members about major issues in Greenwich.

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