Welcome to another action-packed edition of the EGRA lockdown Newsletter, there’s still lots going on despite the third lockdown. We have all had to live our lives differently over the past year, so we plan to have our AGM via Zoom sometime in March. We will send the details in a separate email once we have a date.
RBG Zero Carbon Initiative - Patrick Ives
Greenwich Council recently launched its Zero Carbon initiative with an online consultation. The consultation runs until the March 7th https://carbonneutralgreenwich.commonplace.is/
The council is currently retrofitting the Flamsteed Estate on Blackwall Lane and the Ernest Dence Estate on Old Woolwich Rd with high efficiency insulation, heat pump heating systems and solar panels in line with their Zero Carbon policy. They are also looking at trialling schemes involving groups of houses with a heat pump providing heating for multiple properties, more information on that as we get it. Changing how we heat our homes, cook and provide hot water is something we are all going to have to do in the near future to cut the huge carbon impact of domestic energy use. Congratulations to Greenwich Council for making a start on this.
Silvertown Tunnel Works - Sheila Keeble
We continue to engage in the community liaison process run by Riverlinx and TfL. This has proved to be pretty frustrating as it seems more of a PR exercise than genuine consultation. We have been very critical at the lack of information on the new footbridge and anything to do with getting from East Greenwich to the Peninsula. We invited/challenged TfL to a site meeting with us to walk and cycle over the Tunnel Avenue footbridges to show the difference in ease of use between the old bridge at Boord Street (easy to cycle over) and the newer bridge at B&Q (almost impossible to cycle across). They have accepted the challenge but without a firm date so far. Should anyone wish to attend the community liaison meetings they can register with Riverlinx at email@example.com. The next online meeting will be held on the 9th of March from 18.00 to 19.30.
Destruction of Trees After the shortest ever planning application, withdrawn after 10 days, the 111 trees threatened with removal are now (temporarily?) safe again, but what was TfL’s and Riverlinx’s plan? Surely they must have realised that this level of tree destruction would not go unnoticed? Cynically, we may well anticipate a barrage of new lesser planning applications with 20 or so trees scheduled for chopping down rather than this rather rash mass extermination. Following a walk round the site with the list of previously doomed trees, it looks impossible for the tunnel works to go ahead without a lot of further tree loss. Some of the named trees are on the tunnel portal site while others are on the site intended as a multi-storey parking area off Millennium Way. Others would potentially be under the new flyover out of the southbound Blackwall Tunnel and yet more in the cut and cover element of the new tunnel. Noise Barriers EGRA joined an online meeting between TfL, the Westcombe Society and concerned local residents to discuss the noise insulation measures that TfL propose for the short stretch of motorway between Seibert Road and Charlton Road. It was concerning on a number of levels. Firstly, only that one section of road on the Westcombe Park side of the motorway is being assessed for any remediation at all, so residents of Tunnel Avenue who back on to an elevated section of road or those on the Peninsula who will overlook a sea of roads from high-rise buildings are not even in the running for noise barriers, nor is anyone on the Charlton side of the road. This seems extremely poor practise and rather different from the experience of other developed countries where noise barriers are normally installed wherever busy arterial roads traverse residential areas. Roads and Cycleways - Fiona Machen Harrison and Patrick Ives The many and drastic changes to local roads have been in place for some time now. The cycle lane from Christchurch Way to the Angerstein Roundabout, the newly implemented East and West Greenwich Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) will all have had effects, good and bad on local streets. Greenwich Council are consulting on further changes, primarily to alleviate problems of displaced traffic from West Greenwich by filtering traffic on Westcombe Hill, Vanbrugh Hill, Maze Hill and Halstow Road. The filters will be put in about where roads cross the railway line. There will be a physical barrier on Halstow Road but the rest will be rely on cameras to control vehicle movements at peak times. There is an explanation and consultation in the link below. The consultation runs until 8th March at https://greenersafergreenwich.commonplace.is/ The many road changes are such a big and controversial subject that it is impossible to cover them properly in this newsletter. We would welcome any feedback members would like to send in to firstname.lastname@example.org. We could then set up a traffic blog on the EGRA website. There are a number of changes which have caused a lot of negative feedback:
Trafalgar Road and Blackwall Lane pedestrian crossing at Rodmere Street is dangerous with a five-second pedestrian crossing light and a narrow cattle grid pedestrian refuge which makes social distancing very difficult. There is no stop light for traffic coming from the east so the crossing is often blocked. We have been in contact with TfL over the many problems with this junction and are not at all satisfied that they have done enough to make it safe.
The new cycleway is often blocked by pizza scooters, delivery vans and thoughtlessly parked vehicles.
Many cyclists still do not use the cycleway anyway even at Angerstein roadabout where it has made life much safer.
There have been unannounced closures at the ORNC for Christmas, filming etc. which force cyclists back onto Romney Road. This needs to be resolved.
The Tfl contact person for the Trafalgar and Woolwich Road traffic works is email@example.com should anyone wish to comment directly to TfL on problems. Ward Councillors are also aware of many of these issues and can be contacted via email (addresses at the end of this newsletter and on the website).
Our Local High Street - Have we changed how we use it? - Louise Fletcher
We are lucky enough to have many independent stores such as Greengrocers, Butchers, Bakers, Delis, Cafes, Dry Cleaners, Chemists and Off Licenses as well as convenience stores such as Co-Op and Iceland all within walking distance along Trafalgar Road. There are also many takeaway food outlets and, possibly less desirably, a number of betting stores. There are some absences such as Banks (not unique to our high street), Fishmongers, Bookstores, Organic or Packaging free shops and we're sure other types of shops members would like to see. We thought now was a good time to understand if the ways in which we use our local high street have changed and whether there is anything that we should be lobbying for? Have you changed the way you use Trafalgar Road during the pandemic and do you think this will permanently change the way you use it when this subsides? There are currently multiple planning applications for additional residential flats to be added above Co-Op, Boots and two Dry Cleaners, what are your views on these developments? Please let us know your thoughts so that we can start a discussion and represent members’ views effectively.
Vanbrugh Tavern - the end of the line? - Tom Stanworth
The Planning Inspectorate has recently approved plans to build a house on the outdoor space behind The Vanbrugh public house, nearly a year after the proposals were rejected by Greenwich Council.
This was the third such planning application from the pub’s freeholder, Isle of Man based Hamna Wakaf Ltd, which would see the loss of 29% of the pub’s outdoor space, including part of its beer garden. Plans show that the 3-bedroom house would face onto the public space adjacent to 59 Vanbrugh Hill, with the large street tree (which is subject to a Tree Preservation Order) retained.
Greenwich Council had previously refused the plans on the grounds that the development “would fail to provide a high quality living environment” because the proposed amenity space is split between two different locations, with much of it located beneath the upper floors of the proposed house. The application received 379 objections, including from EGRA and Westcombe Society. However, the Planning Inspector overturned the decision, stating that “whilst the form of amenity space provision may not match the normal perception of a suburban garden, it would nevertheless to my mind be fit for the purpose intended in terms of quantity and quality.”
Plans to develop the site have attracted significant opposition from the local community, with fears that the pub’s viability would be affected by the loss of part of its beer garden. However, amenity space was the sole issue that this application hinged upon as this was Greenwich Council’s sole reason for refusal and the Planning Inspectorate’s sole reason for dismissing the appeal on the previous application. Had the Planning Inspectorate dismissed the latest appeal, opponents of the development were seeking to reopen economic viability of the pub as grounds for refusal in the event of a revised application. This was particularly in light of the new London Plan Policy HC7 which seeks to resist development within the curtilage of a public house which compromises its viability. The pub operators current lease expires in March 2022.
Cladding and other Fire Safety Defects - Sheila Keeble
However bizarre the last year has been for many of us with lockdowns, Brexit and home schooling, the situation for residents of the very many properties with flammable cladding and associated fire safety building defects has been far more stressful. The borough of Greenwich has the second largest number of high rise affected properties in the country and many of these are in Peninsula and West Greenwich Wards including The Greenwich Centre, Seren Park Gardens, New Capital Quay and at least two blocks at River Gardens.
Flat owners are now stuck in unsaleable homes with massively increased insurance costs, often paying for permanent on-site fire wardens on top of other service charges. The government's recent policy announcement of additional funding for the so-called ‘Building Safety Fund’ (BSF) has only succeeded in adding to the confusion. Low rise buildings are not covered at all by the fund and the BSF only covers the removal and replacement of cladding and none of the costs of the myriad other building quality problems that have been uncovered by investigations into cladding. Some of these defects will cost flat owners as much, if not more than, cladding removal! We have already seen some spectacular building failure issues unrelated to flammable cladding including panels falling off the Knight Dragon blocks at North Greenwich.
The current appalling situation was fuelled by the perceived housing shortage in London coupled with the massive rewards for developers in an over-heated market. Financial inducements like London Help to Buy and Shared Ownership schemes, only offered on new build properties, have showered huge bonuses on developers while leaving all the risk with leaseholders. Responsibility for building inspection was taken away from local authorities so now developers pick their own inspectors who often never visit the site in person relying on desktop analysis instead. At the same time construction workers have been in short supply and not necessarily well-qualified. It's difficult to see how the situation will ever be remedied without the government (and taxpayers) initially picking up the tab and then recouping much, if not all of the costs from the developers via levies and the ‘polluter pays principle’ to ensure that such building safety failures are not repeated.
Meanwhile we are still anticipating a flurry of new high rise developments at Enderby Wharf, Morden Wharf, Greenwich Peninsula and Greenwich Millennium Village although recent reports that London has lost some three-quarters of a million inhabitants since last March might make these projects less attractive, particularly while the current issues remain outstanding.
If you are affected by the cladding issue or related sub-standard building problems, email local M.P. Matthew Pennycook who has been at the forefront of the Labour Party response. His contact details are at the end of this newsletter and/or sign the new national petition calling on government to protect all flat owners from the costs of fixing unsafe buildings at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/end-our-national-cladding-scandal
Green Projects - Patrick Ives
Thames Path at Trinity Almshouses - These four neglected beds have been taken on by a number of local residents and members of EGRA and the Greenwich Society. The project was initiated by a group of people from Highbridge Wharf. Greenwich Park provided a large number of spring bulbs and bedding plants, Christchurch School Community Garden donated a number of roses and other shrubs. The transformation of this space is great. There will be more gardening to be done a bit later on once it warms up a bit. If anyone is interested in lending a hand on this or any other of our greening projects please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will keep you up to date
The Rose Garden - We have been informed by our Ward Councillors that they intend to form a friends group to maintain and care for the garden. The friends group has to be independent of local associations like EGRA although EGRA members would be welcome to join. The Councillors are prepared to help finance any improvements needed from their ward budget. This is a great initiative but we haven’t seen any signs of it happening yet. Time is marching on and the real gardening season is nearly upon us. In the meantime, we recommend some guerilla gardening by anyone who has time and spare plants. We continue to press RBG to put the Rose Garden on their list of parks and open spaces. This will give it much needed protection from the threat of disposal as we saw happen last year.
Christchurch School Community Garden - Despite pandemic and some seriously cold weather the Community Garden continues to make great strides. Mace, the Greenwich Centre developers, have just contributed some very useful path-making materials and we have a free greenhouse promised by a Westcombe Park resident. We are also preparing for the arrival of some chickens later in the spring, courtesy of the Greenwich Neighbourhood Growth Fund.
Local Clean-up and Gardening Projects - Once the current lockdown restrictions are lifted, we will be organising some small-scale tidying up including for the Vanbrugh Triangle and the Thames Path. If anyone has any other sites that they believe would benefit from a spring-clean, then contact EGRA for assistance and tools.
Millennium Leisure Car Park Proposed Development - EGRA, the Greenwich Society and the Westcombe Society have been contacted by a developer who plans to build housing on the site of the car park that IKEA, B&Q and the other businesses use. It will be interesting to see what they propose and how they plan to accommodate retail parking. No idea yet what buildings are being considered but the developers claim they will be installing Europe’s longest living wall. Just as well as whatever they build will be right next to the motorway. We haven’t had any meetings with the developers yet, dates are being discussed.
Who to contact?
In addition to the specific contacts mentioned above, our three local Ward Councillors are aware of most of these issues and it is always worth copying them into correspondence:
Denise Scott-McDonald (Deputy Leader of RBG) email@example.com
Stephen Brain (Chair of RBG Planning) firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Lloyd email@example.com
Matthew Pennycook M.P. can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We need more people to get involved
We are searching for members who want to join the Executive Committee or would like to help out on our sub-groups - planning, licensing, traffic and transport and environmental and greening issues. If you would like to get involved please email email@example.com. Without this help we are limited on the issues that we can tackle.
Stay in touch As always, for further details and updates you can check our website: http://www.egra.london/ or follow us on Twitter @EGRA_London.