Extending London Overground to Thamesmead from Barking?

Transport for London have just begun consultation on plans to extend the London Overground line from Gospel Oak to Barking onwards to Barking Riverside. This would see the line terminate just over the Thames from Thamesmead. George Osbourne signaled his support in the budget back in the spring. The extension can be seen on the dotted orange line below, where it extends from Barking to the north bank of the river.

GOB Map Serious consideration should be given to further extension over the Thames to finally give Thamesmead the station badly needed for years. The regeneration potential it offers is huge. In addition, the greatly expanded transport choices presented would not only benefit Thamesmead, but also the wider area by providing direct links between major transport interchanges north and south of the river.

South of the Thames there would be connections at Abbey Wood with Crossrail and the North Kent Line. An extended LO line heading north to Barking would meet the District Line, Hammersmith & City line, and c2c trains. The c2c line heads west through East London to Fenchurch Street and east to give fast links to Essex. Places like Southend, for example, with its quickly growing airport is just 39 minutes away. The London Overground also offers numerous destinations in East & North London. Abbey Wood to Barking is not far as the crow flies, and the trip between the two would be speedy.

Barking & Dagenham Council Support

An extension across the river is publicly supported by Barking & Dagenham Council. Leader Darren Rodwell has called for an extension to head south from his borough to meet Abbey Wood in Greenwich, offering an interchange with Crossrail as early as 2018.

“I’m confident it will happen,” he said. “We want to link in with Crossrail at the top and the bottom of the borough as well so I hope George Osborne will say something nice to us in autumn.”

“Both the Mayor and the borough are very positive so hopefully if you’ve you got the two elements that really want it, we’ll get a positive outcome.”

Correct me if I’m wrong but I’ve never heard the leadership of Greenwich or Bexley Council publicly calling for this, despite the huge benefits it would bring. It’s not an understatement to say it has the potential to radically change Thamesmead and the perceptions people have of it. The leader of Barking & Dagenham is being smart by getting the Mayor on board, who can exert public pressure. It may not work but what’s the harm in trying? It would be good to see such action from those south of the river. In the little kingdoms of Greenwich and Bexley it seems anathema to form wider campaigns. MPs have been quiet too. There seems to be a real chance here so just why are the various local politicians not grasping it? If the leaders of Greenwich and Bexley joined with the leader of Barking and very publicly called for it, alongside Boris, it may help the chances of approval at TfL and the Department for Transport.

The need for a station

Whilst South Thamesmead is close to the forthcoming Crossrail station at Abbey Wood, it is a different story for North Thamesmead. It’s cut off from Crossrail at Abbey Wood by a dual carriageway, terrible walking and cycling routes, and a major sewer bank running above ground from Plumstead to the sewage works at Crossness. It also has a fair amount of land that can be developed for much needed housing to help with financing any extension, as well as further strengthen future demand and the extensions business case.

LO map 2A tempting option for an extension would be to follow the dual carriageways of Thamesmead to Abbey Wood after rising from a deep tunnel under the Thames. The line in black shown above is the proposed extension as TfL propose. The line in red offers one possibility south of the river. A future north Thamesmead station could have substantial over-station development to help fund construction costs, alongside developments in close proximity which would bring in additional funding.

A line that did run below ground could be constructed using cut and cover tunnels, which is cheaper to construct than deep level lines. An alternative is to run above ground on viaducts following the dual carriageways for much of its route. This method would however be tricky when it reaches the elevated sewer bank and road bridges.

Thamesmead Dual carriagewayUnlike much of the rest of London, Thamesmead has plenty of spare land which would help lower the cost of construction. The road network is rarely busy, as it was built for a population that has still yet to be reached – mainly due to a lack of infrastructure. As such there are roads like Carlyle Road above. During construction one half of the road could be closed, the other made two-way to minimise disruption, and a tunnel dug below, tracks laid and then covered over using the cut and cover method before the other side of the road reopens.

There’s many run down areas in North Thamesmead that could see both redevelopment and greater housing density, and a new rail line would enhance that potential.

station location

The final stretch south to Abbey Wood, past the road bridges, dual carriageways and sewer bank, again has plentiful land to construct a cut and cover tunnel whilst allowing the road to remain open throughout.

Harrow Manorway

Travel options from much of Thamesmead would switch from slow, meandering buses to a five minute dash on the Overground to Crossrail and the North Kent line at Abbey Wood. Heading north it would take 10 minutes to get to the many options at Barking.

Due to some laissez faire 1980s and 1990s planning, much of north Thamesmead is a bit of a mess of various cul-de-sacs, dead ends, and winding roads which can make using local buses a bit of a crawl. The town also lacks any sort of heart. The 1980s town centre was a decent effort that utlisised the canal running through, with a small parade of shops around, a pub, and a supermarket that integrated with the smaller shops and square. This was one of the very few examples of utilising the canals and lakes that run across much of Thamesmead.

Subsequent expansion of that area was along the lines of the out-of-town retail barn method. Massive car parks, drive-thru Mcdonalds and huge, soulless retails sheds. The whole place is extremely uninspiring and completely ignores the lake next to the site. The entrance to Safeway (now Morrisons) was located far away from the old centre. As such the formative attempts at creating a heart stalled and then declined. Those in charge also didn’t help with symbolic moves such as concreting over a water feature which saw water cascading down to the canal below.

How to fund?

Thamesmead needs a centre, and London needs many new homes. A new station at North Thamesmead station could greatly help with both. A large-scale, mixed-used development above and around a new station would directly help with the costs of extension. Wider developments spurred on by the scheme would bring in further funds. There could be provision for a large amount of retail and public uses at street level. Thamesmead lacks a lot of things most towns take for granted – cinemas, bars, pubs, restaurants, various retailers, banks etc. They could be provided in just such a development around a new station.

In terms of wider developments away from the station site, there is undeveloped sites such as Tripcock Point which has long stalled plans for up to 3500 homes. There’s also some poorly designed estates that could benefit from alterations or rebuilding. The last stage built from the original Thamesmead masterplan was the Moorings estate. It is far more basic in design than earlier stages due to cost cutting, and lacks much architectural value. The later stages also use land inefficiently with things like excessive on-street parking. Redevelopment plans should include these areas. The shot below shows a shopping parade in this area and close to the dual carriageway seen above. Not great is it, but with a station nearby the potential is obvious.

Shopping centre

If redeveloped it could offer far more – new housing, more retail, better public areas, and the canal made into a feature to be enjoyed. It seems a tall order now, but with fast links to many forms of transport this could sustain a comprehensive development and greater housing density.

Previous Plans

Many schemes have been proposed for river crossings at Thamesmead and associated schemes over at least 50 years. There were plans for the Jubilee Line to terminate at Thamesmead with an extension from Charing Cross in the 1960s & ’70s. It didn’t open until 1999 and the terminal ended up at Stratford.

Masterplans for the original Thamesmead development also showed a road tunnel crossing the Thames. By the 1980s and early 1990s this had become a road bridge. This plan was abandoned after heavy opposition as it would have passed through Oxleas Woods.

After cancellation the plans for a Thames Gateway Bridge arose. Various public transport options were mooted. The Greenwich Waterfront Transit line from Abbey Wood to North Greenwich via Thamesmead which would have met another route which crossed the river on the Thames Gateway Bridge. Downgrades eventually led to glorified bus routes that had as many downsides as benefits, before the whole thing was scrapped along with the bridge plans in 2009.

Best option?

With new plans for a bridge at Thamesmead in limbo, and little action looking likely soon, this could well be the most plausible scenario for Thamesmead to get its long awaited and much needed railway line. Greenwich Council belatedly supported the call to re-zone Woolwich Arsenal from zone 3 to zone 2/3. Yet has done nothing to push a London Overground extension over the Thames to aid the deprived north of the borough. It’s the same with Bexley Council. Not even a public push for a feasibility study. There’s quite a few reasons that SE London probably has the worst public transport in London, and the reticence of local politicians is a big part of it.

Thamesmead needs a big boost and a river crossing would give it that. London also has a huge housing crises. Thamesmead can provide thousands of new homes but it needs the infrastructure to do it. A enhanced bus route or two is never going to be enough. Alternative options such as the DLR from Beckton to Thamesmead are likely to take far longer and offer much more limited connections north of the Thames, and be worse for those living north of the river too.

The public consultation is available by clicking here


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Poor Woolwich suffers again

Woolwich Tesco side 5Tesco’s much derided Woolwich Central development has been awarded the title of  Carbuncle of the Year. The unfortunate lump beat off some stiff competition to claim the trophy from architectural magazine Building Design. It is the second time in three years that a building in Greenwich borough has won – the previous being the iffy Cutty Sark refurbishment and glass bulge it developed at its base. This have given the poor place another avalanche of bad publicity across the national media.

Bath uniTo be fair I don’t actually think it should have won. The shortlist had some buildings that appeared even more dire, such as the Bath University building as seen on the left. Stratford’s new student tower does much to damage its regeneration. Trinity Square in Gateshead, another Tesco (current profits of £2.6 billion a year) development, is dire with the cheapest possible materials. The housing blocks above the shops are a real lowlight of anything thats gone up nationwide in many years, and worse than the blocks above the retail part of Woolwich. It’s an incohesive, disjointed blotch on the area going by the photos.

However, I’m only going by photographs (though they’re damning of the other schemes). Photographs aren’t always the best indicator , particularly of scale and context. And that is one major failing of the Tesco development, labelled “oppressive, defensive, arrogant and inept” by judges. It’s ok from the front, but the side is a horror show of cheap trespa cladding (the stuff that looks like plastic).

Just what you need to improve a blighted town

Just what you need to improve a blighted town

Not content with such cheap cladding, the architects (or perhaps cost-cutters tasked with aiding the project) then choose to clad much of the side in a dreary shade of grey. Windows are barely visible. Perhaps this utter mess on the side is an attempt to hide a paucity of windows, and natural light for the inhabitants. Pretty much everything on the side of the building is abysmal. The relationship with the street is woeful. Tesco had promised in 2007 this would have an active frontage. Shops were included in earlier plans but dropped. Replaced with, well, nothing. The street frontage is dead.



The doors leading to the housing units look like they’d be more at home on a cell at Belmarsh than on a major town centre scheme intended to regenerate a town in desperate need. Directly over the road is Pugin’s St Peter’s Church which deserves better than to face this.

According to a great post from former Greenwich Councilor Alex Grant, chair of the Planning Board when the building was given permission, many alterations were made post-planning approval. But even the original proposals would’ve stunk out the place. Where were the Greenwich council officials before it got to that stage? The process of discussion with developers at preliminary stages need big improvements.

So what’s positive? Well, the front isn’t too bad with curtain wall glazing. The giant Tesco logo ‘every little helps’ is tacky though. I’m surprised they went with it – it doesn’t make them look good. It’s more in keeping with the branding of the now defunct Kwik Save. The green space outside is nice and the building works well with General Gordon square. There’s a nice feeling of spaciousness. In a place that’s overcrowded like Woolwich, that is appreciated. People are seen enjoying the space below

Woolwich tesco front grassBut even that is a lucky break. The square was originally to have a tower. One that looked atrocious. It appeared to feature grey, plastic like cladding with narrow horizontal bands of windows. It was far from elegant or graceful. Also, notice how the dreary shades on the side of what was built appeared a light shade in this rendering – similar to the tower. If the tower went ahead at the same time it may well have had a similar colour scheme. To my mind, if it had gone up then the development would have risen above other contenders like the terrible Bath Uni building and won hands down. They could have given the award to it for the next 5 years too as not much would risk displacing it.

Original proposal

Original proposal

The Tower replaced a Victorian Post Office building. The blog post by former Councillor Alex Grant contains a pretty damning paragraph -

“In practice, most members of the planning board were very relaxed about the demolition of the Post Office and the promise of an “iconic” tall building in its place, and outline planning consent was granted in January 2007 with no councillors voting against. I had tried to argue for its retention, but the prospect of a tall building in place of the Post Office was actively welcomed: “Build it high and build it quick” was the verdict of one of my Labour colleagues.”

Build it high and build it quick. Sod the design quality. Do it fast and hope for the best. Sums up the council in recent decades when it comes to architecture, public realm and street design. Even good schemes like General Gordon Square facing Tesco wasn’t funded or designed by Greenwich council.

Some Councillors seem to shrug off local criticism of developments and the widespread terrible public realm seen in most of the borough. The fact the borough is regularly getting a pasting in national media should wake them up to the fact the issues are real. When local people and visitors say how poor some new developments are, along with terrible public realm (new and existing), it’s coming from people who visit other parts of the country and see just how unfavourably much of Greenwich borough compares, away from Greenwich town centre.

This approach that Councillors take to design quality is shown below, which refers to an earlier tower proposal to the one above -

“In 2006 CABE said that this tower “would not meet these test of CABE/English Heritage guidance” and that the council should not give it planning consent without more detail: in other words it was simply not good enough. CABE added that the “local authority cannot afford to consent a tall building that is not of the highest quality. It would be better not to have a tall building on the this site than one that does not represent the renewal of Woolwich”: advice that the council did not follow when it approved outline plans for the tower in January 2007.”

Fortunately Tesco didn’t proceed with either tower proposal but the possibility remains. It’s prime land and they may not leave it as a nice green area for too long. The curious thing about the image above is that the entrance to the store looks to be hidden. Wedged behind that turd of a tower. But what’s next to it – a translucent box where an attractive parade of buildings now stands. The buildings are in great condition, unlike many other wonderful buildings in Woolwich. But don’t think that makes them safe. They could go, and an entrance to the superstore created where they stand.

How long will these survive?

How long will these survive?

That is a wonderful parade of buildings. Beautiful ground floor frontages too and an insight of Woolwich as it was. But this is Greenwich Council after all. They have permitted demolition of things like this many times before. They just don’t seem to value the many assets Woolwich has. They were happy to see the art deco co-op demolished before the credit crunch reprieved it. That building was ‘beyond saving’ and structurally unsound apparently. Now it’s being refurbished to become flats. The latest is the former cinema next to the town hall, recently the Woolwich Grand, for which demolition was recently approved. An austere building, it would look great with some art deco signage to remind of its former use, as the current users intended.

Greenwich Council approved for demolition

Greenwich Council approved for demolition

So Woolwich now has a new blot on its landscape. Yet there appears to be no improvement to the town centre. Marks & Spencer have recently announced they are leaving after many decades and departing their handsome and under-appreciated building in the town centre. What will happen to that now, and all its original features and detailing? Greenwich clearly find the departure of M&S from Woolwich embarrassing, and are pushing the laughable line that Woolwich may get an M&S food store at some future point in time, to make up for it, which just smacks of desperation. So might every other town in London at some indeterminate point in time. It means nothing now.

M&S were one of the last quality retailers to remain (albeit in a outlet store) and are also opening in a retail warehouse in Charlton, which is a factor in this. They are moving to an out-of-town retail park in an inner city location, and away from the major town centre in the borough. Another planning failure by the council is encouraging that part of Charlton to remain as a suburban retail landscape of giant retail sheds and swaths of tarmac, and indeed expand. An incredible waste of land when London has the fastest population growth in a hundred years alongside the lowest number of homes built for decades. Greenwich is projected to have the fastest population growth in London too.

A fundamental reappraisal of that part of Charlton is needed long term, with greater housing levels to meet the desperate need. This should be done with mixed-use developments and attempts to create something akin to a high street by the large retail units, which retailers will not simply abandon given it is an efficient use of space. This will not be at all easy, and will take many years, but is needed. Woolwich has declined to such an extent that preventing M&S leaving is tough, but it wouldn’t be so bad if they were at least moving to a development that provided more than just large car parks and single storey units.

But even if any Charlton development was mixed use, the council may just permit another blight on the landscape for future award nominations. At this rate, Greenwich are winning the award so much they might be given a life time achievement soon.

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New Lewisham Developments – Part 2

Following on from my recent post looking at the big developments now going up in Lewisham, here is part two. These are generally smaller in scale, with most now under construction.

Riverdale House


This is Riverdale House from Galliard Homes, which will contain 137 flats. Completion is scheduled to be in Autumn 2015. It is just off Molesworth Street, next to the Ravensbourne river and opposite Lewisham shopping centre. It’s a refurbishment of an interesting office block dating from 1980-81. The plans seem to retain details from that era, such as the same type of brick extending from the main building to the front wall, staircase, and slope from street to wall. It’s good to see these kept.

52-54 Thurston Road


Thurston RoadFamily Mosaic are behind this development, on an awkward site between two converging rail lines. It appears very budget. Small square windows and grey panels on walkways, as just about seen above through a train window. Just because it’s facing a rail line doesn’t necessitate such small windows and poor detailing. It doesn’t look too promising at all sadly.

There will be 62 DSCF4163units in total. Above left is a render showing the frontage facing Thurston Road. It’s not much better than the rear, and if the quality of materials in evidence on the section facing the railway line are replicated at the front this will be one ugly development.

Sherwood Court

Sherwood court

This proposal is directly next to the development above, and opposite Thurston Central. It’s decent for student accommodation (damning with faint praise I know), though the dark brick may appear a bit gloomy and overbearing. The stripes of yellow are intended to relieve this. The proportions are good, and the double height street frontage is welcome. Many have complained of lack of amenities for all the new builds. Those ground floor units look like they could accommodate some shops, pubs, bars etc, and with this being student housing it may be easier to get late licenses at the end away from the social housing block and next to the new bus stand. A decent place shouldn’t struggle for custom.

142 student housing units are planned with 410 bed spaces in total. Unlike the others, this has not yet commenced.

Premier Inn Hotel

premier inn lewisham

This is a 60 room hotel located on a small site by the (soon to be removed) roundabout outside the station, and is next to the railway line from Blackheath. It is almost complete.

All these new developments close to the station will not only result in more rail capacity needed for additional commuters, but also an eventual rebuilding of Lewisham station. There have been suggestions for many years that rebuilding Lewisham station is needed, but the complexity of the job seems to bring a shudder to Network Rail, both in terms of cost and also the difficulty in carrying out the work. With more and more development around the station, large scale rebuilding is increasinly difficult. Perhaps the proposed Bakerloo line extension from Elephant & Castle will be the trigger to finally get the ball rolling.

One possible way to help finance maybe over-site development. Is there scope for a tall development where the DLR’s blue shed roof is? TfL are short of cash and have made noises about over-site developments to gain revenue, either by selling the land or building themselves and then letting out. This is common in many countries but the UK has been slow to adopt it.

In the short term an entrance to the north facing Tesco is a must. Currently people entering or exiting the station and heading north are forced on a lengthy detour. There was an exit to the north but this was closed recently under spurious safety reasons. A petition has recently been set up to reopen this gate and provide an easier exit. It would also divide entrants and exits to the station and move some users away from the main entrance. This would lessen congestion, which will become more evident as additional commuters use the main entrance, coming from new developments to the south.

No doubt Southeastern do not want to open the gate as they fear losing revenue, which is fair enough. So the obvious solution is to have a staffed entrance and exit with barriers. If they deem that to be too expensive it could be a gate line observed by CCTV. This happens on quite a few London Overground stations since they took over Southern stations. Perhaps this kind of proactive approach will only ever come about if and when TfL take over southeastern’s metro routes.

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Crossrail & London Bridge Rebuild

Crossrail work continues this weekend between Abbey Wood and Woolwich with another closure of the line from Plumstead to Dartford, with dozens of workers on the line. One reason for the closure is that the east bound track between Plumstead and Abbey Wood has been re-positioned to the south by a metre or two. It now follows the re-aligned London bound track, which was moved a month or two back. It’s not too easy to make out below in this phone picon my clapped out mobile, which doesn’t have a decent zoom.

Crossrail track & bridge work

Crossrail track & bridge work

In the foreground the foundations have been laid for the replacement footbridge. Another footbridge around half a mile closer to Plumstead at Church Manorway has had its main span installed, after work had to be halted on a previous weekend closure.

It’s just behind the bridge foundation that the tracks curve to the left. This is to allow space to install two Crossrail tracks to the right. Other big jobs coming up are to build the temporary station at Abbey Wood and then demolish the existing buildings. There’s also some houses to demolish around Abbey Wood station including the two closest to the platforms seen below

Abbey Wood houses demolitionThe houses have been completely gutted since this image was taken and the road fenced off. Demolition looks to be very imminent.

Another big infrastructure project in London currently in full swing is Thameslink. At London Bridge station major work has been taking place over the past week on completing platform building. This has resulted in a complete closure of the station for all trains on the side of the station served by Southern. This is a precursor to platform closures on the Southeastern and First Capital Connect platforms.

It’s impressive just how much has been achieved during the closure. Passing by the site on the train shows a mammoth amount of work going on, with a huge amount of workers involved in installing new bridges, tracks, station platforms and buildings.

DSCF4237DSCF4238Work on these particular schemes should be complete tonight and the lines reopen tomorrow.

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New Developments in Lewisham

I havn’t covered Lewisham too often on this blog. Other great sites such as se13ure have been covering the developments at Lewisham Gateway, which is now in full swing. Passing through on a train shows the many development sites close to the line. My recent posting about developments along the Greenwich line has inspired me to do a round up of Lewisham developments, as so many are visible from the line. As with the Greenwich line, the many developments will add to the pressure on southeastern rail services in the near future.

Lewisham Regeneration sitesThe rudimentary map on the left shows various development sites across Lewisham, and I will expand upon each individual site below. The mostly completed site is in orange. This is the very good Loampit Vale / Renaissance development that includes a leisure centre.

Sites now under construction are in red. This includes Thurston Central, Lewisham Gateway, a Premier Inn hotel, 52-54 Thurston Road and Riverdale at the far south.

The blue area is a development given approval on an industrial estate, which is still awaiting a start.

Thurston Central

Taken from passing train

Taken from passing train

This block is now very visible on the train to London Bridge from Lewisham. 406 flats are under construction here. This is one serious block and could end up with a  monolithic appearance if the cladding is poor. There is also a large retail store included within the development. On the left is a Matalan, and other shops are in that block. The site is now almost surrounded by new developments, and this site is to include some housing under Lewisham Council’s plans, though no specific proposal has come forward. The current single level store and associated car park is an inefficient use of land so a redevelopment is welcome.

Lewisham Gateway

lewisham gatewayDSCF4159Nine long years after consultation begun in 2005 this site has finally begun. Stage 1 has commenced including 193 new homes.

A massive worksite has been created which is opening up parts of the river previously covered, and working on the future road layout. The roundabout near the station will be removed. Walking links between the station and town centre should be much improved.

Progress can be followed on the Se13ure blog here.

Loampit Vale / Renaissance

Loampit Vale788 new homes in this large Barrett Homes development. I’m not keen on most Barrett’s developments but this is the best I’ve seen from them. It is mostly complete but some buildings are still under construction. I really do like this with the varied towers – some brick and some with blue panels, the varied materials used across the whole development as well as the leisure centre and its lighted tiles. The base of the towers also integrates extremely well at street level with it’s double-height shop frontages.

Two issues though – why no segregated cycle lane on the very wide paving here to avoid the extremely congested road? Cyclists must also contend with very busy bus stops.

Secondly, have any of the well designed retail units at the base of the towers been let? Last I saw they weren’t, and ludicrous London rents may well be playing a part again here. There are often complaints that these developments just create dormitory towns and that there just aren’t the amenities nearby. High rents often act as a block to independent retailers wishing to give things a go or making a success of things without charging high prices. With reasonable rents units would be let and thrive. We see the problem of empty units in many new developments in London. It isn’t as bad in other UK cities in my experience, where rents are less.

Wide paving & no cycle lane.

Wide paving & no cycle lane.

Empty unit. No cycle lane.

Empty unit. No cycle lane.

Heathside and Lethbridge Estate Regeneration

heathside estateThis is a £200m scheme which has rebranded the area as ‘Central Park’.

There were 565 homes on the estates. Over a number of phases 1201 new homes are being built.

These are located to the north of Lewisham station past Tesco. The towers with blue cladding have stood out in views of Lewisham for a while now.

By the way, when looking on streetview at this area I noticed how bad the streetscape was. Not like Lewisham council to be so bad I thought. Then I saw the Greenwich council street signs. Parts of this area are a bit of a Greenwich Council enclave, and based on streetview you can really tell. The usual public realm fails and neglect are evident.

Looking around at some of the estates in Lewisham (including some to be demolished) shows a much better streetscape. Even though demolition is imminent they still appeared to be looked after (see image below). You have wooden, low rise fencing by the areas of grass, and not the cheap nasty stainless steel ones Greenwich uses. The concrete housing blocks had red window frames, green garden fences, and decent front doors to soften the effect of the concrete buildings. It appears pretty green and leafy. Not everything looks well maintained but there’s enough nice touches. It looks like some care is given.

lewisham managed estateHere’s another Lewisham estate nearby called Orchard Gardens. Looked after well. Nothing radical or expensive. Just the basics done well.

Lewisham Orchard Gardens 3
Then there’s the Greenwich council areas a minute away, shown below. Swaths of tarmac which isn’t supposed to be a car park so is a cheap replacement for paving, cheap stainless steel street furniture, the cheapest ugliest bins they could get, a bent street sign and not much greenery to welcome visitors. It all looks miserable. Sure, this is a snapshot of one day on streetview and that sign could have been fixed, but it matches the maintenance standards seen over almost all the borough over such a long period in Greenwich.

Greenwich estate nearbyTo be fair, when scrolling along there it isn’t all as bad, but it looks as though the better bits are a legacy of things put in quite a few years ago.

There’s many sources of funding they could use to improve areas. The huge amounts of development in the borough have seen millions of section 106 and CIL payments flood in. TfL give millions each year to Greenwich, and improvements to public areas are allowed to be spent from a section of that budget. Other London councils do. There’s the council reserves which have swelled by hundreds of millions in recent years. EU funds may be worth looking into as well for deprived areas.

What is needed is an audit to be carried out of EVERY area in the borough, then a department created dedicated to working through improvements. They should gain design input and come up with street guidance plans for departments to adhere to whilst undertaking future work. Easy jobs can be done first, like removing the many examples of broken street furniture, fencing etc and/or any other superfluous clutter. Then replace those that are necessary by removing the cheap & ugly examples of various street furniture with better quality equivalents. Think about how to improve the greenery.

After the simple things are done move onto removing or rebuild the more expensive things such as broken walls, raised planters etc which are seen all over. Finally, funding permitting, the big stuff like putting in children’s play areas etc, building exteriors, new facilities such as bin stores, secure cycle storage etc. The first couple of stages would hardly cost a thing as funding is sought for bigger changes.

Whoops, I went into another anti-Greenwich moan there. But they get this stuff so wrong so often. Anyway, there’s quite a few more sites under development at this moment in Lewisham, and others that have plans drawn up. There will be a follow up post in the coming days covering these.

EDIT : Greenwich are apparently spending £1.6m on refurbishing the Orchard estate in that area. It is very close to the ‘Orchard Gardens’ estate in Lewisham shown above. Very few areas get that treatment (if it involves improving public areas) and I wonder if they were shamed into it by being so close to Lewisham. It could however just be internal work, windows etc which is far more widespread as part of the ‘decent homes’ initiative.

If this scheme is above and beyond the work councils are required to do then I welcome Greenwich investing substantially in improvements. But it’s hard to know who or what is being done as there is NOTHING on Greenwich’s website about it. You’d have thought such a large £1.6m scheme would garner a bit of attention. There is a separate story though that £50k was spent on improving communal areas so credit to them for that. The funding was secured from outside bodies DEFRA and SITA, which is the kind of thing Greenwich could benefit from more widely. Add those external funds to the ample revenues they already receive and much could be achieved to improve the borough.


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New developments by the Greenwich Line

Royal_Arsenal_Block_C1_view_03_A_rev-CA large number of developments are now under construction close to the Southeastern line running via Greenwich, which will see cuts in the number of peak time trains in just over four months time. So it was a bit worrying to read a comment from ‘SEdriver’ on the London Reconnections blog casting doubt on longer trains being ready to run by January 2015. As previously reported, nearly 20% of trains will be cut in the evening rush hour on the Greenwich line. Capacity is supposed to be maintained by extending the remaining 80% of trains. If 12 car trains do not run then will this be achieved?

But even if capacity can be maintained at current levels, it still raises the question of just how long will that be sufficient? Overcrowding and passenger numbers continue to increase, yet southeastern lines in SE London are some of the few in London with no plans for additional trains any time soon.

After reading the latest comment casting doubt on longer trains, I decided to look into just what developments are now under construction, or due to start imminently. I’ve listed them below from Slade Green up to Deptford, and included only those that will see a reasonable number of people walking to stations.

Slade Green

Ratio – 372 new homes. Close to Slade Green station and developed by Red Row. Construction is ongoing with first occupants moving in from September 2014.


Erith Park – 622 new homes. Construction has begun. Replaces former Larner Road estate.

Erith Park development

Erith Park development


Belvedere Park. 402 properties. Some complete whilst others are still under construction.

Abbey Wood

Cross Quarter. 220 homes. Construction has just commenced.

(Thamesmead) – 296 homes in Southmere Village Stage 3 under Gallions plans. New owner Peabody Homes is revising scheme. The development is within walking distance to station.


No large developments nearby at present.

Woolwich Arsenal

A large number under construction. Commuters moving to Woolwich have the option of DLR & river boat services but many will use Southeastern. At the Royal Arsenal there are various stages of development at different levels of completion -

Stage 4. 592 flats. Under construction. Located in towers above Crossrail station.

Stage 5. 92 properties. Under construction. Located closer to Thames.

Stage 6. 219 flats. Above Crossrail station. In two towers next to Stage 4. Imminent.

Stage 3. 234 properties at ‘Laboratory Square’. Not yet begun despite following stages beginning. Presumably next?

There are also 2,032 more flats planned in the Berkeley Homes masterplan and also other developments such as Crossrail’s planned development of 394 flats, but these are not advanced enough to add immediate pressure to the rail line.

Connaught Estate rebuild – 654-684 new homes (Replacing existing homes here and at both Morris Walk and Maryon Grove listed below under Woolwich Dockyard). Net increase of 500 at three sites with 1100 homes demolished and replaced by 1600 new build. Work beginning summer 2014.

Former Co-op department store. 74 flats in refurbishment of existing building. Under construction.

Tesco ‘Woolwich Central’ stage 2 – 512 additional homes. Located next to currently built section. Construction not yet begun but should start soon.

Woolwich Dockyard

Morris Walk Estate rebuild as One Woolwich – 696-766 new homes

Maryon Grove rebuild – 150-165 new homes


No large developments nearby.

Developments at stations past Charlton have a wider choice of transport to major areas of employment. Some commuters will be using the DLR or Jubilee Line. However SE still provide quick access to central London and will be used by sizable numbers of commuters.

Westcombe Park

Victoria Way –  145 properties under construction

Greenwich Millenium Village Stage 3. 500 properties currently under construction. Located about 10 minutes walk from Westcombe Park station so reasonable to assume a decent number will use southeastern trains along with the Jubilee Line.

The many other developments on the Peninsula (many now under construction) will be closer to the Jubilee Line so the numbers using southeastern are likely to be limited.

Maze Hill

Greenwich Square  – 645 in total. Former hospital site. Some buildings almost complete. Occupation begins soon.

The Peltons – 86+ across three sites. Opposite side of junction to Greenwich Square. Parts complete September 2014.

Alcatel Telegraph works – 272 flats. Planning permission April 2014. Cathedral Group.

Lovell’s Wharf/River Gardens – 700 properties in total. Not entirely sure how many have so far been constructed, how many under construction now and how many to be built in future stages after planning permission refused in 2013.

Enderby Wharf – 770 homes. Barrett Homes.


Movement – 181 residential apartments, 358 student apartments, 104 bed hotel. Some completed. Located directly next to the rail and DLR station.

New Capital Quay – 980 homes. Completing now.

Caledonian Wharf / Hilton’s Wharf – 85 homes. Half this development seems to be under construction. This building runs alongside the Creek.


Now under construction directly next to Deptford station

Now under construction directly next to Deptford station

Deptford Project – 127 homes right next to station. Can be seen above. Construction now begun.

Paynes & Borthwick – 257 homes. Is this completely finished and occupied now? Last I saw it it mostly looked complete and I know some people have moved in.

There’s also Convoys Wharf with 3500 new homes. This isn’t as advanced as many others listed above, as it has been in planning discussion and dispute for years. Though in March 2014 the Mayor gave outline planning permission and it is likely work will begin soon.

There are many more developments in Deptford that are planned with many towards Rotherhithe. Their location will see a decent number of people using the London Overground but some will possibly head to Deptford station.

Have I missed any others along the entire line that will place pressure on services? I’ve excluded many that do not look like starting any time soon. This also doesn’t include other developments that aren’t within walking distance of a station. Of course at other developments people will still drive, take a bus or cycle to a station but the list would just be too long.

In addition there will are many more proposals at various stages of planning. Recent masterplans at Woolwich and Charlton would also see much induct rial land used for housing purposes particularly in some of the areas mid way between Woolwich Dockyard and Charlton.

Pressure on services

The excellent new Royal Greenwich Time blog has a recent post showing that Greenwich is projected to have the largest population growth of any London borough from 2011-2013, yet the biggest reduction in employment. This will put massive strain on transport networks as more people are traveling further to work. Though this post focuses on rail there will of course be big pressure on roads, health, housing, education and more from this growth.

With all these developments under construction right now, or in advanced planning and likely to start soon, it is imperative that issues are overcome to ensure 12 car trains can run as soon as possible. In addition the process of securing additional trains for the line should begin as soon as possible so every train can make maximum use of new infrastructure. Greenwich council belatedly supported the push for re-zoning Woolwich Arsenal station. They now need to be joining Lewisham, Bexley and Bromley councils, as well as Dartford and Kent, in lobbying for more trains, as should local MP’s. The current vague plans which will only provide new trains in 3-4 years may be too long to wait.

Click here to see a good blogpost from the Barneystringer blog which highlights that Kent has some of the highest numbers of people working in London compared to locally, compared to other counties surrounding London.

I’m sure some readers are thinking why procure additional trains for a couple of years up to 2018, when Crossrail will render them surplus to requirements? Well, even with Crossrail the Greenwich line is in an area with the biggest population growth in London, so long term demand is there. Plus, many trains on the line arrive from Kent, where future growth will be focused to add to the numbers traveling into London, with large scale developments planned at Dartford, Rochester, Chatham, and Ebbsfleet Garden City (next to Northfleet station). Any new stock would find a long term use.

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Progress on the South Eastern branch of Crossrail


Areas along the Crossrail route continue to evolve as work advances at both stations and development sites nearby. Starting at Abbey Wood, construction is ongoing with much track work in progress between the station and Woolwich. A trip along the line by rail shows numerous orange-clad workers and machinery on the route. Abbey Wood station has also recently seen the installation of a new bridge at the station. This comprises both the first part of the planned temporary station as well as the the first installment of the permanent station.

Temporary station site and stairs

Temporary station site and stairs

The section on the left of the bridge (shown above) will be in place up to 2017, and will form access from the temporary station now under construction behind the fence and blue hoardings. The section of bridge to the right of that, which includes the span covering the tracks with two sets of stairs heading down, will remain after the dismantling of the temporary station and form part of the new station when it opens in 2017. The curved roof line above the steps, just about seen on the right, shows the higher spec design compared to the temporary stairs on the left. A better image showing the curved roofline is below -

Permanent staircase - first section of new station

Permanent staircase – first section of new station

A Crossrail track heading from central London will go to the right of the platform and bridge, where the land has been cleared. The track on the right side of the existing southeastern lines becomes the Crossrail track heading to central London.

The image below of the temporary station from Network Rail and Crossrail does not seem to match the bridge installed. Plans for the temporary station must have altered. Perhaps the station will be at ground level and not elevated on stilts.

Stairs on newly installed bridge do not match plans

Stairs on newly installed bridge do not match plans

Further along the line a new pedestrian footbridge has almost finished at Church Manorway near the Abbey Wood and Plumstead boundary. The final lifting of the main span had to be abandoned recently due to high winds. Work is also now underway for bridge replacement at Bostall Manorway and Mottisfont Road. Once completed the entire stretch between Abbey Wood and Woolwich will be wide enough to move the current tracks (parts already have been) and install Crossrail tracks.

Work on the Sainsburys led development of ‘Cross Quarter’ by Abbey Wood station is now well underway, with foundation and piling work ongoing and a large crane assembled on site. Related road works will shortly reduce Harrow Manorway to one direction at a time with temporary traffic lights. Work on the flyover above Abbey Wood station has also reduced the road to one lane in each direction. These combined Crossrail and Cross Quarter works will mean much more congestion for people heading from Thamesmead in coming months.

Main route from Thamesmead. Supermarket on right.

Main route from Thamesmead. Supermarket on right.

I still think Harrow Manorway (shown above) will need to be widened from its current two lane status to four lanes, with a dedicated bus lane in each direction. The road is already quite wide so a great deal of additional space would not be needed. There’s ample space alongside its entire stretch to widen, along with implementing a segregated cycle lane alongside running all the way from the station and supermarket to the pedestrian bridge over Thamesmead’s dual carriageways. This would help buses avoid inevitable future congestion on the way from Thamesmead, as well as make cycling a more enticing option.

Harrow Manorway is the major (and only practical) route from Thamesmead to Abbey Wood station and usage will only increase with additional homes planned for Thamesmead. Add in a large new supermarket and housing development facing it at Cross Quarter, and the major Peabody Homes development just off it in Thamesmead and congestion will become severe. The transport assessment for Sainsburys stated that it would bring traffic up to the maximum capacity. That’s before the numerous other developments and Crossrail.

Thamesmead towerWork on the aforementioned £200m redevelopment of Thamesmead South (formerly Tavy Bridge and now ‘Southmere Village’) has halted whilst new owners Peabody Homes look to alter the scheme. Originally drawn up by Gallions, the plans (see left) were for a tower facing a roundabout and a square behind next to the lake. Gallions had a pretty terrible record with new developments and built some awful stuff across Thamesmead (though those plans looked better), whilst Peabody have constructed some great buildings in recent years and place far more emphasis on quality architecture, so hopefully the re-worked plans will transform the blighted name of Thamesmead.

The former Thamesmead new acres library remains standing – a small stump left over whilst all else was demolished in 2013 before plans were halted. I’m not sure why it hasn’t gone like the rest of the site, as even if plans are altered, it is presumably not part of any new scheme. Then again perhaps it will be, and Peabody want to retain part of what made Thamesmead unique. The architecture is interesting and would look great if cleaned up. Without the early modernist stages of Thamesmead, the town is just a bunch of squat Barrett boxes, some terrible 80s and 90s planning, rubbish post-millenial Gallions built dross and an out of town retail park for a town centre, which helped kill off much of the formative attempts at a town centre. So if it is retained it’s not such a bad idea, with some modifications.


Large new Crossrail facility highlighted in orange

Large new Crossrail facility highlighted in orange

Construction is also well advanced on the Crossrail train maintenance yard at Plumstead – details can be seen here. This facility hasn’t gained much attention, but is pretty sizable and includes eight lines for stabling trains and three for maintenance trains. There will be 100 parking spaces for staff and 20 for Crossrail lorries and vans. The plans for this facility only came to light after much of the proposals for Crossrail were submitted, and initially registered as being temporary. It is now a permanent facility. It should provide many new jobs locally, and isn’t situated too close to residential areas so hopefully noise will not be an issue.

At Woolwich station work continues inside the box to fit out the station with the installation of platforms, track bed, escalators and lifts. Above ground a couple of the Berkeley Homes towers are complete, and the concrete core of another has topped out at about 20 stories high. The completed section looks to be good quality. Heading past that and the Thames tunnels have both been complete for some months now.

Custom House stationThe Victorian tunnels under the Royal Docks, formally used until 2006 by the line running from north Woolwich and Richmond, have completed refurbishment for Crossrail use.

The next station along the line is Custom House, with a render of the completed station on the left. It’s a basic design of prefabricated modular parts shipped and formed on site, located adjacent to Custom House DLR station and close to the Excel centre. The station structure is taking shape pretty quickly at the moment with around a quarter complete.

Construction well underway at Custom House

Construction well underway at Custom House

Moving along from the site of Custom House station and work has just finished on one tunnel from Limmo Peninsula to Victoria Dock on the way to Canary Wharf . The second tunnel should be completed soon – It took about 9 weeks to dig the first. Work will be complete by the end of 2014.

A couple of moderately tall buildings in a development named ‘Hoola’ have recently secured planning permission close to Custom House station and construction has begun.

'Hoola' is the two towers at bottom left

‘Hoola’ is the two towers at bottom left

The last remaining station before the line merges with the north east branch from Shenfield at Stepney is Canary Wharf, which is now externally complete. Work inside on the shopping centre is ongoing and it will open in May 2015. The lattice roof has gaps along the length to allow trees to rise through.

Tom Lawson

As at Woolwich, the station box is seeing platforms, track work, lift, escalator and ticket office work. Much work has now been completed for the entire south east branch. The entire tunneling work for all of Crossrail could well be complete by the end of 2014. Station and track works will then be the main focus.

Many proposed developments close to stations on the south east section will continue construction in future which I will report on, along with any new plans that are bound to emerge. Who knows, if Bexley and Greenwich councils get their heads together and come up with a masterplan for Abbey Wood, as strongly urged by Crossrail, we could see some cohesive planning for the many areas nearby that will be redeveloped.



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