More on Southeastern & Crossrail

New build above Woolwich Crossrail

New build above Woolwich Crossrail

Another transport related post today. Firstly a bit on southeastern and then at the end Crossrail. Here’s a few more snippets regarding changes to southeastern services -

The last train will leave Charing Cross at the same time as now but will not head straight to London Bridge after Waterloo East. Instead it will head to Cannon Street after Waterloo East, then on to London Bridge. After its detour to Cannon Street the last train leaves London Bridge at 00:36 instead of 00:26. Good news if drinking around Cannon Street or London Bridge – an extra 10 minutes drinking time. From 2015, people having a late drink can use the 24 hour tube on weekends to go North Greenwich.

Later trains from Cannon Street should perk up the pubs, bars and clubs in the City. The area already has quite a bit more late night entertainment than it used to, and this will only increase when people easily can stay late. Places like the ‘one new change’ shopping centre nearby, with its late bars and restaurants, are another sign of the City changing from a late night ghost town, which the addition of later trains will encourage further.

As I covered last week the Greenwich line sees the biggest cuts in the number of trains but capacity is maintained through longer trains. The forthcoming changes to trains on the Greenwich line sees 16 evening peak trains cut to 13 – a 19% reduction. Assuming each train averages 8 cars, then those 13 services need to see 24 extra carriages added to maintain current levels.

I said this in the last post but worth repeating it again – it is well worth reading this through post to see why SE London has not had the longer trains it should have had for years. First work was done in early ’90s. Millions spent and then scrapped due to recession, then impending privatisation. After a long delay hopes were for a mid-2012 introduction. Constant overruns since. The latest news was that now January 2015 would see maximum length trains to coincide with cuts in frequency. However at the end of the article there are recent comments from ‘SEDriver’ who states -

“12 car testing did take place and our health and safety reps at the depots were unhappy with the sighting on some platforms, they went to southeastern with their issues and basically my employer haven’t been exactly rushing to sort the problem out (contractors need to move cameras etc etc) so far nothing has been rectified and no more 12 car tests have taken place to my knowledge.”

He also added -

“We don’t have the stock as the networkers are getting on years, the metcams especially are falling apart (never should have been built they are so much more complicated than brels) also I think they missed a trick, they should have kept the class 365s as they were compatible with 465s and 466s. Would have had more stock to play with.”

Another person wrote -

“A pal (living in Hayes as it happens) sent this to me a couple of weeks ago: “It looks as though 12-car Networker workings have been suspended: in the latest CWN, what were 12′s from January are now listed simply as 10-car 465 and 466 XXX instead of showing unit diagram numbers; this may be because of sight lines on curved platforms, which the drivers were unhappy about; or maybe they can’t keep enough 465s in running order.”

Assuming these are true then delays to introduction could persist yet further into the time of service cuts. What impact will that have? Have Southeastern, Network Rail or the DfT carried out forecast modelling of crowding with the intention of 12 car trains, and if so what happens if they do not run? Two 10 car trains with a longer gap between may not be enough. And what’s the plan in two years time when many new housing developments are complete if stock levels are only maintained and yet reliability declines.

IMG_20140708_140751

Viewed from ‘dial arch’ square.

As for Crossrail, the flats above the station in Woolwich are now visible with the tarpaulin removed. In common with much of the Arsenal development Berkeley seem to have done a good job on the architectural front. The buildings are handsome additions, with a solid framed frontage and recessed balconies. The red sections within the grid are not terracota panels but red brick, and look all the better for it. Thankfully the frames and penthouse are a classier black and not drab grey as seen so often.

IMG_20140708_140519These aren’t going to set the world on fire, but given some of the dross around and what Woolwich has suffered from then this does fine. The detailing is good, windows a decent size and the brickwork varied on the tower to the right in the pic above. Retail will be on the ground floor. This is a rare case of the finished article looking better than the render -

Woolwich crossrail phase 4

 

With the removal of some of the Arsenal boundary fence (seen on the left in the render above) and further improvements along the dual carriageway, to remove clutter and mess beyond the improved section, this should help connect the two sides of the road. The dangerous building, that was fenced off on the other side of the road to this development, has finally been demolished. That whole parade is a bit of a mess and could do with rebuilding to provide high density housing with retail at street level.

Also regarding Crossrail there is a public information meeting being held from 3:00-7:00pm on Wednesday 16 July at Abbey Wood Community Centre, 4 Knee Hill.

Work continues with line closures over the past three weekends on the southeastern line. The temporary station at Abbey Wood doesn’t seem to be making much progress despite an opening date of ‘summer 2014′. This needs to be complete before the current station is demolished.

 

 

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Southeasterns’ 2015 timetable released

Southeastern’s draft timetable for services from January 2015 has been released today. Half the platforms will be closed at London Bridge meaning alterations are needed. The bad news is the removal of 1 train to central London in the morning peak and 3 heading out in the evening on the Greenwich line. The good news today is the long awaited extension of Victoria to Dartford via Lewisham from its current last train at 20:39 to 00:09.

The three trains cut at London Bridge are the 17:37, 17:58 and 18:21. The 18:57 also doesn’t stop at London Bridge as it starts at Charing Cross so is unable with the platform reductions. The 17:14 is no longer running, as shown in the consultation, but this actually results in an improvement. It is replaced with one two minutes earlier at 17:12 making the gaps slightly more even.

The last train from Victoria to Dartford will stop at Lewisham at 00.33. This is 2 minutes before the last train from central London to Charlton, Woolwich, Plumstead, Abbey Wood, Erith, Dartford etc so a quick connection will be possible. This is very good news for those who are in Victoria, Peckham, Denmark Hill etc late in the evening. This benefits those coming on a late southern train to Victoria who then want to head to SE London, as well as people arriving at Victoria on late coaches, and hospital users at the two big hospitals at Denmark Hill. This is a great improvement and well done for extending this service.

Train lengthening is a pressing issue and needed on many services as it is, without less trains and 3 years of future route growth. A 10% rise in passengers on the line over the next 3 years is not an excessive estimate with many new developments along the line. Last years growth was 2.8%. With three services cut from 5:30 to 7pm, and one not stopping at London Bridge, the pressure will be even greater up to 2018. It is to be hoped that a substantial amount of fast trains are 12 carriages and slow trains are 10 on the Greenwich line – the maximum possible due to short platforms at Woolwich Dockyard.

Off the top of my head there are large developments along the line at Slade Green (Howbury), Erith Park on the site of Larner Road estate, Cross Quarter in Abbey Wood, Peabody’s £200m ‘garden city’ at Thamesmead South, Woolwich Arsenal, Woolwich Dockyard estate demolition and rebuild, Victoria Way in Charlton, Convoys Wharf at Deptford and the development by the station. Merely maintaining capacity with longer, yet fewer trains, may not be enough. If those longer trains are not the maximum possible length then new stock to extend them may be needed before confirmed new trains in 2018.

Here’s an excellent and comprehensive overview from London Reconnections of why 12 carriage trains have not been introduced so far and the difficulties involced. It is well worth a read to explain the problems and slipped dates over the past few years. They should have been introduced 20 years ago. Then the plan was scrapped after much work was done due to lack of foresight in the early ’90s recession as well as impending privatisation before resurrection of the idea 10 years later, with work starting again a couple of years ago. There was some hope 12 carriages could be up and running by the Olympics which didn’t happen. Then the plan was for January 2014. Hasn’t happened. Southeastern boasted of thousands of extra seats from January and longer trains. No word on why it hasn’t happened though. Southeastern famed communications are in evidence again. There have apparently been issues with union agreement, driver rotas and trains going to be re-painted in Doncaster.

One comment on the site raises an interesting suggestion. It is to close the existing Woolwich Dockyard station which is in a cutting making platform extensions expensive. Every other station can accommodate 12 car trains on the Greenwich line except Woolwich Dockyard. An idea is to move the station slightly west to the open ground by Morris Walk estate. This would put it at a more even distance between Woolwich Arsenal and Charlton. The station is the least used on the line and saw the biggest decline in passenger numbers last year.

The estate is to be demolished soon and rebuilt to a greater density, though it loses some social housing which is unacceptable. Not only should there be more social housing, but money from the developers could be used to partly or wholly fund a new station and increase permeability between the two sides which the railway slices through. This would then allow 12 carriage trains on all-stopping trains.

On the subject of new trains, maybe one reason the powers that be havn’t prioritised new stock as they look at southeastern usage figures and see the lowest growth of rail franchises serving London. But one wonders how accurate that is when riding without a ticket is so easy – few staffed stations, no staff on trains, few barriers and those in operation open most of the time. London Overground’s predecessor was Silverlink on part of its route (North and West London line). It ran at poor frequencies, had no barriers and much unpaid travel. London Overground took it over, staffed many stations from open to close with barriers, put staff on some trains, upped frequencies and passenger growth has been phenomenal. London Overground now goes deep into south London, west London, North London, and east London. Next year it takes over Greater Anglia routes in North East London. SE London gets a couple of stations and only close to central London which are difficult for connections. The Greenwich line trains does not interchange with New Cross.

South west London doesn’t have many London Overground services but are getting hundreds of new carriages currently to extend suburban stock and that’s without cuts and major disruption to services.

The tube has seen billions invested. Many new trains. In 2015 it will run all night over the weekend. SE Londoners and people heading to Kent will still have to rush for a packed midnight train. Fair enough up to 2018 with substantial building works. After that though hopefully some later trains at weekends.

Southern and Thameslink are also seeing hundreds of new carriages coming into operation currently. The orders for these trains have an option for additional extra trains. Shouldn’t these options be taken up, or extended, and go to southeastern? The options have been there for years. If taken up some new stock could perhaps have been introduced in time for January 2015, or on a rolling program after.

The next few years will be difficult for many. It’s not all bad and in some cases an improvement. New trains are needed though. The options on the table for extending current train orders should be taken up as soon as possible to make the next 4 years more tolerable and cater for the coming growth.

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Southeastern trains likely to be cut

Southeastern train

The Greenwich line could see three  services cut in the evening peak, and one in the morning under planned timetable changes starting in January 2015 .The upcoming London Bridge station rebuild will see some substantial alterations to services. With less platforms in operation, it is looking likely that the Greenwich line could bear the brunt. We should find out imminently with the release of the proposed timetable in operation throughout the first stage of the rebuilding work, up to August 2016.

Southeastern carried out a consultation at the end of last year on their proposals. One of them was to cut the all-stations 17:06 service from Charing Cross (calling at London Bridge at 17:14) via Greenwich. This would leave a 22 minute gap between trains from London Bridge to Deptford, Maze Hill etc. The previous train stops at London Bridge at 16:58 and the next at 17:20. There is a train at 17:10 but this is a fast train which only calls at Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich Arsenal and Abbey Wood.

The proposed cut service calls at all stations to Slade Green then swings back round via Sidcup to go back to Charing Cross. The consultation proposed starting it at Slade Green heading to Charing Cross via Sidcup. I used to use this train to get home, and it was comprised of 8 carriages.

It will be interesting to see what is done to alleviate this. The 17:10 London Bridge train could become an all-stopping train but this would still be a reduction in capacity. One possibility is that it is lengthened to 12 carriages after the rebuild of platforms along the Greenwich line. If this happened it would not be able to stop at Woolwich Dockyard which can only accommodate 10 carriages. One to keep an eye on when the timetables come out.

Recently there have also been mentions of additional long distance southeastern services. With the severe pressure on capacity from 2015 it could mean that these are at the expense of ‘metro’ suburban services. One of these possible new services is one from Ore. Other proposals are a new fast service from Ashford.

If this does happen Southeastern may justify it by claiming that trains which are currently  6/8/10 carriages will become longer, with some perhaps going to 12. However 12 carriages can only operate on fast trains. The issue with short platforms at Woolwich Dockyard prevents 12 carriage running. Many trains across the UK have had ‘selected door operation’ installed to allow trains to stop when longer than the platform. The Networker trains southeastern use have not had this despite the millions spent on upgrading every platform on the Greenwich line to 12 carriages, along with power supply upgrades. The other trains southeastern have (ordered by Connex) can be no longer than 10 carriages due to a lack of forward planning when ordered around 10 years ago.

There won’t be any new trains as things stand for at least 3 years – when the London Bridge upheaval should be over. This is in contrast to pretty much every other London based franchise. South West trains have additional carriages from southern, who in turn have ordered hundreds of new carriages to not only cover those but extend their services. London Overground trains are being lengthened over coming months. They are also taking over some Greater Anglia lines and purchasing new trains. Thameslink are to receive hundreds of new carriages, and some of those will likely go to First Great Western in a couple of years.

If the cuts occur then at best we will see capacity maintained through longer trains despite the reduction in frequency. This is probably a best case scenario and it will be intriguing to see how this increase in capacity is managed throughout the peak to avoid pressure building up at certain times. It’s very unlikely that capacity will be increased despite rapid population growth and large scale developments along the line. It will be a tight squeeze up to 2017/18 when rebuilding is complete and crossrail opens.

Another thing to keep an eye on is a better service from Victoria to Dartford via Lewisham. It currently has just 2 trains an hour off-peak, and does not run after 8pm or on Sundays. There have long been calls for this to be improved. Southeastern propose this and it is likely it will run to a midnight departure from Victoria. It’s an important link for SE London to an important London terminal, and connection to London Overground at Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye. It also serves the large hospitals at Denmark Hill. Yet it currently has a service more suitable for a quiet rural line than one in London serving important destinations so this would be good news. Longer peak trains are needed but a lack of stock again prevents this.

Southeastern last week came bottom of Passenger Focus’ nationwide passenger survey. This is a few months after they came dead last in Which magazines nationwide survey. Southeastern blame the weather. They were badly affected but so were many others like Southern and South West trains. Where southeastern fall down is communications. The rolling stock issue also comes to the fore again. Issues happen which often aren’t southeastern’s fault but are compounded by short trains.

OvergroundNegotiations with the Department for Transport (DfT) continue regarding the Direct Award contract to run the franchise from October 2014 until June 2018. Until this is concluded it is not impossible that another company could operate the trains including the state owned Directly Operated Railways which currently runs East Coast, and operated Southeastern to a good standard before it was privatised again by Labour in 2006. I suppose there is still a very slim chance TfL could get the suburban routes if negotiations go badly, but this is very unlikely. Operating the service throughout the rebuild is a bit of a poisoned chalice, but TfL could perhaps bring passengers round by ordering more stock as they have on other routes they’ve taken over, and greatly increasing off-peak services. TfL would also be more likely to put a challenge to the peak time cuts. Still, it seems that ship has sailed.

It’s not looking very good for the Greenwich line, nor other southeastern suburban routes. The TfL takeover which promised so much has now seemingly been put on the back burner. No new trains will arrive any time soon, services to Charing Cross will permanently cease for those past Charlton from January and peak time trains could be cut. The area also currently has some of the lowest off peak frequencies in all of London. If the new timetable confirms peak time cuts and doesn’t greatly improve the off-peak frequencies,  southeastern passengers will rightly be asking quite a few questions about the service they receive and local politicians will need to make themselves heard.

When the timetable is out I will write a new post regarding what services, if any, are cut, and what will happen to other services.

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Are Greenwich & Bexley Councils Taking Maximum Advantage of Crossrail?

crossrail abbey wood cropped

Work on Crossrail continues apace between Abbey Wood and Plumstead. New track is down and trains will be using it from tomorrow (Monday 16th June). The not particularly exciting pic above shows the track heading to central London from Abbey Wood. Trains will veer left onto new track that has been laid over the past few weeks. The link to the old track is already cut, as can be seen by zooming into the pic. Sadly the quality isn’t too good as it was taken on a not very good phone.

IMG_20140615_125625I’ve recently found a report which casts a poor light on Greenwich and Bexley Councils ability to take maximum advantage of Crossrail and may be letting opportunities go to waste. A recent Future of London Report on how communities and towns can take advantage of the benefits has some worrying comments. They are concerned with how both councils have failed to draw up a master plan for cohesive planning.

The report states -

“A Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Supplementary Planning
Document was produced jointly by Greenwich and Bexley
councils and adopted in 2009…However, no detailed masterplan has
come forward for the area, despite acknowledgement in
the SPD that a “comprehensive masterplanning exercise” is
required to avoid “piecemeal development”

“The area has significant scope
for further development, including the intensification of
existing land (highlighted in the Thamesmead and Abbey
Wood SPD); going forward though, there is a genuine need
for closer partnership working between public and private
sectors and the development of a more defined spatial
vision for the area to allow Abbey Wood to maximise its
potential.”

Greenwich recently produced master plans for Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich and Eltham but not Abbey Wood despite the huge forthcoming changes. The new leader of Greenwich Council is Denise Hyland, who represents Abbey Wood (though lives in Eltham). Will she do more to promote a clear plan for future growth and improvements for the area? Considering she has presided over continued decline of the area in the past hopes shouldn’t be set too high. The report continues -

“There are a number of hurdles
in delivering regeneration and development around
Abbey Wood station…Good work on strategic planning guidance risks
being lost if masterplans are not created to carry
their principles forward”.

abbey-wood-station-design-architects-impression

The report recognised good work from both councils working together to achieve a good quality station design after poor early proposals, but that subsequent progress has been lacking -

“Despite good cross-borough work on station design
and the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Supplementary
Planning Document, progress has stalled in creating a
masterplan for Abbey Wood between RB Greenwich and
LB Bexley. Opportunity stemming from the new station
should not be lost, so potential levers to encourage its
delivery should be considered by all stakeholders involved.”

A master plan for the area will set out a clear framework for developers offering guidance in what can be built. It would also allow local people and business a say in future development. It is not a panacea to all problems, and we have seen Greenwich Council allow developers to ignore the carefully crafted (and expensive to formulate) master plan in North Greenwich. However they do offer an important role and a lack of movement on this is bizarre. Development plans are already happening in the form of the Sainsbury’s supermarket, hotel and housing by the station given permission last year. In addition Peabody Homes have taken over Gallions Housing Association and have plans for a £200 million mass redevelopment and the creation of a ‘Garden City’ within walking distance of the station. There are quite a few more sites developers will be looking to buy and build on in coming years.

Both councils have long neglected Abbey Wood. They seem to ignore the continuing decline. Public areas are in a very sorry state all over the town. With Greenwich Council in charge of almost all of the town the blame must overwhelmingly lie with them. Greenwich have been claiming since the late ’90s (long before it was confirmed) that Crossrail will bring improvements to streets and public spaces as though that was a fix-all solution. Though public realm work around the station will happen in 2018, this will be after 20 years of decline and promises, and will only cover a fraction of Abbey Wood. No plans for other improvements are apparent. There are no mentions of future funding bids to TfL for major town improvement works.

There was also no mention of Abbey Wood at all in Greenwich Labour’s manifesto for the recent local election, nor from ruling Tories in Bexley.

Crossrail’s chief exec Terry Morgan has also expressed surprise that Bexley Council had not pushed more heavily for Crossrail extensions into their borough, as almost every other London borough had done when their was a chance of greater transport infrastructure. The long term plan is to extend through Bexley to terminate at Gravesend. This would give Bexley stations at Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green.

In other Crossrail news there is an exhibition showing plans for public realm improvements at various stations. The Crossrail Places and Spaces exhibition is at RIBA from 16 June and at the Building Centre from 21 July. The Woolwich render appears to show the removal of the tall brick wall surrounding the Arsenal development.

Woolwich Crossrail render

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: The Bexley is Bonkers site has many photos (much better quality than mine above) of Crossrail work taken both yesterday and today (Monday 16th June). See here

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Eye-Opening Plan to Demolish Victorian Pub in Woolwich/Charlton

I was just told about this application and felt like I have to write a quick post on it. Normally I wouldn’t focus on such a small plan but this is something else. Plans have gone in to Greenwich Council to demolish an attractive Victorian pub building. It’s the highlight on a pretty grim stretch of road that should see some decent changes in coming years.

White Horse pub

Here is the proposed replacement -

Pub replacement

Ignoring aesthetics (as hard as that is) this proposal would only have 9 flats and 8 car parking spaces. The existing three storey pub building is a fair size and looks as though it could accommodate a sizable number of units. The top two floors could be converted to residential with the pub remaining open. If the pub is not viable, and that is quite possible in that area, then an alternative use could be sought. If that is not possible then the ground floor could be converted.

The current pub is on a stretch of road that has mainly industrial units, car parks and some poor examples of post-war housing. The current pub looks in good condition externally. It’s well maintained and the owners havn’t wrecked it. I can’t see any justification for its demolition, let alone what it is to be replaced with.

The plan is still being decided. It went in on 7th April so a decision will be soon. You can comment on this here or emailing janet.stewart@royalgreenwich.gov.uk

Next to the pub is a temporary car wash. I initially thought this proposal was part of some bigger plan including that site which would have kinda made more sense, though it still wouldn’t justify its demolition. But no, it is demolishing just the pub, a good building in an area sorely lacking them, and replacing with a small number of units on the same small site. There seems to be a separate proposal for the car wash site.

Having a scoot around on the aerial views on google maps shows what seem to be a lot of wasted land around there, which matches the impression you get when passing through. Some of the unused or under-utilised land could be used to build housing to help with the housing crises. Future housing that could use the pub or another community facility within it.

There’s a derelict site a minute walk away by a roundabout. It’s overgrown with weeds and pretty sizable. Mcdonald’s recently applied to build a drive through which was rejected. It seems a decent spot for new homes.

Woolwich Overhead image

When looking around that area on google I also saw the usual mess of street signage and ugly street furniture Greenwich Council excel at. Here is a barrier put in by the traffic light that seems to serve no purpose.

Morris Walk Guardrail

There’s loads of the usual neglect and wasted money on unnecessary street clutter around there.

Other sites nearby for possible redevelopment are sites  like the single-storey storage place over the road from the pub, and various big car parks. The Charlton area masterplan came out recently and that can act as a trigger for changes. There is an intention to make the area where Woolwich meets Charlton near the river residential. The council could utilise the power it has to develop projects and also encourage private developers to take an interest in this area. The Morris Walk estate nearby is to be demolished and rebuilt which is good news. Alongside that the other wasted land can be developed but local assets like the White Horse pub need to be integrated within that.

 

 

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Forthcoming Cycle Lane Improvments in Greenwich

Greenwich Council recently published their new cycling strategy. With cycle use actually declining in the borough there is a need for some decent projects to change behaviour. One project to be implemented is changing the road layout from the Blackwall Tunnel flyover west into Greenwich, from Tunnel Avenue to Blackwall Lane.

aerial image cycle lane

The proposals seem decent on which is a constricted road. £132,500 is to be spent and is coming from TfL. They are however vague in parts – stating that continuous lanes will only be in place if there is ‘sufficient room’. Is that sufficient room just on existing tarmac or looking holistically at both road and paving space? If it the former there is little space for a dedicated cycle lane where bikes must dice with buses, lorries and cars as the road narrows. If an approach is taken consisting of space including paving then there is adequate space for a cycle lane, segregated from traffic, and pedestrians lose no space. Here is a very basic mock-up image of what i would like to see alongside how it is now -

greenwich cycle lane before and afterThe cycle lane would ideally cross the junction and the stop line on the road to the left moved back. A feeder lane could be installed on that road. Cars may block the lane as they move out but there’s a CCTV camera right next to it which could monitor the situation. This set up would be safer and more inviting for cyclists entering from the roundabout, Westcombe Park station and Combedale Road. It also removes the excessive street clutter and alleviates the ugliness of this spot, which is a very poor first impression of Greenwich upon exiting the dual carriageway. Kerbs, small bollards or ‘armadillos’ could be used to segregate the cycle lane from the path and road.

Greenwich crossing completeThis whole area is a spot in which no one wants to stay for very long. The parade of shops, pub and future owner of the library site (when it moves) would benefit from a more attractive space. ‘Humanise’ it so it is less hostile to pedestrians along with cyclists. Remove excessive clutter.  If some railings and signage are needed at least paint them and use higher quality materials. Hang some greenery. If nothing else you’d expect the council would want to make it a nice spot so they’ll have more interest if they sell the library site when they move.

Further along the road the paving narrows and the current cycle lane begins on the road. Itcycle lane bus stop will be widened from 1.2 metres to 1.5 metres. TfL and the police opposed this as this left just 3 metres each way for buses which are 2.25m wide. TfL and the police were worried traffic would then encroach into the widened cycle lane. A compromise has been reached so the central road markings are removed. A bus stop which juts out into the road will also be altered. The paving will no longer widen at this point.

There is another spot where cyclists conflict with a bus stop, where there is little space to do anything. Unfortunately a recent development has been built leaving narrow paving.

new development small pavingThe development could have been a number of metres to the left. This would have enabled a vastly wider pavement with sufficient space for a cycle lane by-passing the bus stop and avoiding the road. To mitigate developer complaints an additional storey could have beennarrow paving by new development permitted. The wider expanse of the street would prevent the building from appearing too overbearing. As it is we have a spot which is narrow and congested where buses, cars, lorries, and cyclists are all vying for space. Pedestrians and people waiting at the bus stop also have little space.

Moving along the road is the large junction by the former Greenwich Hospital, which now has large scale residential development under construction on a couple of sides and potential for more. This marks the end of this improvement scheme. I’ve wrote about this junction before. It’s awful – huge swaths of tarmac and street clutter.

Approaching it the paving widens ancycle lane heart of greenwichd there is scope for a cycle lane to peel off the road running behind the bus stops, removing cyclists from traffic and conflict with bus passengers. There is though the issue of conflict with the new development, its entrances and the space taken by the raised planters. Things like that could be remedied in the planning stage. The alternative for cyclists is dicing with two busy lanes of traffic and bus stops. Anything is better than that and if we want the very low percentage of people cycling to rise then usable segregated lanes are needed, and need to be considered at every stage of planning.

This would be a large scheme and unaffordable in the £132,500 funds available this year. However space is possibly available depending on the new building. Section 106 payments to the council from the many new developments here will run into the millions. In many areas across London public realm improvements occur on existing streets and public spaces directly from s106 payments. I can’t really think of many in Greenwich. Anyone know of any? There’s also future years’ TfL money that could be used to change this particularly ugly junction. Pooling the available funds should see enough money for improvements.

 

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New Pub Blocked From Opening In Woolwich Due To ‘Saturation’ Policy

Potential Pub Site

Greenwich council have recently turned down an application for a new town centre pub at Powis Street in Woolwich. This is mainly due to a ‘saturation’ alcohol policy in place. As anyone who has visited Woolwich will know, the place is hardly saturated with pubs, let alone decent ones. The application was made by people connected to Antic pub group, who run some high quality pubs across London, and went through a similar saga in 2012 to get another pub in central Woolwich approved. Click here for information about that from the 853 blog.

I presume the council have lumped all outlets that sell alcohol together in this policy. So it doesn’t matter if it’s a good quality pub offering high quality food and drink, it will come under the same banner as an off-license selling 2 litre bottles of cider for £2.

Another reason given for the rejection was potential noise. This was to people who may move into new flats above the fantastic converted former art-deco co-op department store, which Greenwich were happy to be demolished until the financial crises stopped the plan. The building was supposed to be beyond saving. Though apparently it is now fine.

Firstly it’s a main town centre street. It’s opposite a Travelodge hotel with a bar inside. Anyone moving in should expect some noise but we’re not talking 3am closures with live music here. You can’t stifle a whole area of a town centre for some possible new flats. Stifling growth in part of a town centre with great potential is crazy. Pubs & restaurants exist in town centres all over the country near to residential areas. Pubs exist all over the suburbs near to houses. Go to town centres in just about any city in the UK and Europe and there are streets with high density housing above shops, bars, pubs etc on the ground floor.

Hare StreetThere also needs to be some distinction between applicants in a saturation policy, with high quality outlets encouraged. Woolwich is the biggest town centre in Greenwich borough. In 2011 the borough had a population of 254,557. Woolwich has good links with most of the borough and should be attracting far more people in the evenings.

Applications for many new flats have recently been submitted in Woolwich, with a few tall buildings already under construction. The borough population is forecast to grow 24.4 per cent from 2011 to 2021 with heavy growth within Woolwich itself. The DLR and future Crossrail link increases the catchment area to north of the river. It should be a buzzing, lively evening destination. Yet the council seems reluctant for any decent nightlife to appear to cater for the existing population, let alone future growth. What’s there now? A very average, overpriced Young’s pub in the Arsenal development, a wetherspoons on the main square and a few dull pubs. No live music. No cinema. It’s not much of a destination is it?

Powis Street and Hare Street highlight some of the problems with Greenwich Council’s management of neglected parts of the borough and Woolwich, particularly the forgotten areas near the Waterfront. A lack of ambition and learning from elsewhere. Encouraging new pubs is an essential part of increasing the appeal of the town which they should be actively pursuing. Along with these other ideas on how to improve the area of Powis Street and Hare Street -

  • Adopt a policy to encourage start-ups in that part of town. This will provide a reason for more people to visit that part of Woolwich. Big retailers have not shown much interest for a long time. If the council owns any of the empty retail units have a policy to let them out for short periods of time, at minimal rent, to encourage people to give things a go. Shops, restaurants etc. Liaise with building owners Powis Street estates and other landowners to do something with the run down and long vacant units. London’s biggest art studio space, Second Floor Studios, is nearby. Forge a link with them to do something with the area.
  • Improve the appearance of the place. Secure funds to improve the exterior of the attractive buildings. Use a section of the money the council receives from TfL each year to improve the appearance – new paving, benches, lighting. There are many new high rises around there being built, as reported in previous posts. Each will be contributing money to the council in section 106 payments. A small amount of this can be used to subsidise start-up retailers and restaurants, and for environmental improvements.
  • The council own a car park on Powis Street. Could this be developed and the income used for improvements? If there are worries into the loss of the car park could it be retained with housing or retail above? Or a multi-storey at the rear with other uses at the front facing onto the street?
powis street car park

Council owned car park

Behind the car park is the Travelodge hotel. A separate application for a pub on the corner there was also recently blocked. This was due to ‘unacceptable alterations to a grade 2 listed building’ which seems fair enough. However the application drawings looked fine, and Travelodge have made a hash of restoring their part of the building, particularly the part facing the car park. The ground floor street frontage is also very plain and wasn’t restored.

There’s so many ideas of what can be done with that area. The area has been dead for a long time. Boarded up shops and crumbling facades have lingered for decades yet it’s an area with some fantastic buildings. Recent improvements like the Travelodge hotel are generally a good start. You’ve now got tourists and footfall. A high quality pub and restaurant would be ideal hence the interest Antic have shown. Many people actually stay at Travelodge in Woolwich when visiting London to save money and then travel to central London to see the sites. Those tourists will be coming to London to spend money, drink in nice pubs and eat good food. Then they get to Woolwich and what do they have to enjoy? It hardly lives up to the impression many will have of a major world city with quality food and drink options. Instead of eating opposite the hotel they’ll have breakfast/lunch/dinner in central London or Greenwich. Then there’s the half-built other hotel (what’s going on there?) nearby bringing more visitors in future.

Aside from visitors left cold by poor options, there are locals who have a very uninspired choice around the borough. When I visit friends around zone 4-6 in SE London there are always complaints about just how few good places there are to go in the evening. Greenwich is about the nearest place if you live somewhere like Plumstead and you want any variety in your nightlife. Half an hour away or more. Woolwich has the Dial Arch which coasts along knowing there is little competition. Add in the thousands moving into new developments and new places are needed. The other Antic pub in General Gordon square will add a bit more choice but there will still be very limited offerings. The town centre Antic pub could have lots of live music, and the other could be quieter with a greater emphasis on food and drink.

Big strategic thinking is needed for that area of town with all the new developments. Alongside that small scale policies would foster growth and more of a buzz. In 5 years time, with Crossrail and thousands more flats around there, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine a high street with the attractive buildings renovated and with varied places to shop, eat and drink. This has happened all over London and other UK cities. South East London, particularly past zone 2, is lagging way behind. The demand is there and only going to grow. Woolwich and the local council need to seize the opportunity.

EDIT : Shortly after posting this Emma from Hop Stuff brewery followed me on twitter and I had a little look around their website having heard good things about them. Hop Stuff are a small upstart brewery based on the Royal Arsenal and I’ve been meaning to try out their beer for a while. Looking at the site it seems they are stocked quite widely with a few places to try them in Woowlich including the Prince Albert, which I confess I’ve not been to. I think the pub has come up a few times on twitter recently, with (I think) a beer festival on a while back, so the situation in Woolwich with choice isn’t perhaps as bad as stated above. However there is still a need for more options.

With a local success story like Hop Stuff, access to low cost units to rent at that end of Woolwich would clearly benefit businesses like that as well as the town itself. It could give the brewery a place to sell their own beer. Perhaps initially as a shop for off site sales, and/or a small pub?

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