Night tube begins tonight…at long last!

Night Tube Pocket Map-August 2016(c)

About bloody time. Finally London joins the modern world and night owls will no longer be reliant on expensive cabs or painfully slow night buses. After all the delays and upheaval people wont need to anxiously check their watch for that last tube.

It’ll be goodbye to night buses for many, at least for entire journeys. Despite big improvements over the past 15 years, not using them can’t come soon enough for some. Sure, they’re ok if you live in zone 2. But with many forced further and further out by high rent and house price costs, a night bus or two to zone 3 or further is not great at all.

I have memories of two to three hour trips from nights out to SE London. Me and friends often couldn’t be arsed. I doubt we were alone. Pubs and bars suffer loss of trade. But for some in London at least, things will be much better.

One of the very early posts on this blog was about possible late night travel. I wasn’t too optimistic. But here we are. The first two lines to kick it off are the Central and Victoria. I’ve already got a couple of trips lined up that either I wouldn’t have done or would have had to curtail around midnight. And who wants to do that?

When other lines like the Jubilee kick off I’m also hoping to take a trip to Billingsgate on a Saturday morning. I’ve never been, am curious and the thought of getting up at silly-o-clock and then heading there was off-putting.

Me and a friend have long talked about going but currently it seems too much hassle. Now we can have some beers and take a night tube at 3am. I realise I’m probably alone in wanting to do this but, hey, at least we now have a reasonable chance to do so!

In the shadow of Canary Wharf. Taken from DLR

In the shadow of Canary Wharf. Taken from DLR

I’ve heard all the scare stories about crime or people being sick etc many times. If a worry about that was enough to halt late night transport we’d have no night bus service. 100 extra police will patrol the tube lines to aid safety.

South East London?

Admittedly none of this is much good for south-east London, except for those taking the Jubilee to North Greenwich and then a night bus. Which is still better than now, but not great. And for many it’s still two buses from there. But at least now people will only have to pay for one ticket even if using two buses under new Mayor Sidiq Khan’s 1 hour transfer ticket (another thing that’s common around the world that is very welcome in London).

There’s vague talk of parts of London Overground going 24 hours on a weekend, and being a pretty much new line shouldn’t be too difficult to work around engineering work. The old east London line does pass many of the most popular night spots. If TfL takeover Southeastern routes in 2018 it’d also be welcome to see later trains on a weekend. Even a couple of hours more would help.

There’s also the DLR. I’ve no doubt the Woolwich branch would be very popular. Lewisham too, but that cannot happen until 2021 at the earliest as it was built under a private-public partnership, and contract alterations make it prohibitive. Another triumph for PPP and PFI.

Crossrail

Then there’s Crossrail. Surely this is being considered? It’s looking likely under current plans that they’ll be four trains an hour from Abbey Wood to Heathrow during the day. That looks a possible candidate to become all night given it serves an airport. Four trains from Reading to Shenfield would then give eight an hour in the core.

On the subject of Crossrail, an important milestone at Abbey Wood will be reached this week. The newly built platform 2 towards Kent should be open by Monday when trains begin serving it. The new track will be connected and the old platform 2, in use since 30th July 1849, will be served no more. The wrecking balls will take it out soon enough and the new island platform serving Crossrail will begin construction. Many more weekend closures to come.

Comprehensive photo updates of the work to rebuild the station can be seen at Bexley is Bonkers here.

Late night transport brings life and vitality to cities. Shutting up shop at midnight in much of London seems utterly bizarre if you’ve spent time living in most other UK cities – where people can walk home, a cab is cheap or night buses aren’t too arduous, – let alone the rest of the world. Tonight is hopefully the first step on the road to that all changing. It does mean however that other battles have to be won, including over-zealous authorities trying to limit and close venues across the capital.

 

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Five new riverside towers at Woolwich

Berkeley Homes recently consulted on revised plans for five towers by the Thames. Initial plans in 2013 were for 764 homes in three blocks which has now morphed into five. The towers are located in what is currently the Waterfront leisure centre car park. The leisure centre is due to move to Wilkinson’s site on General Gordon Square close to the DLR and Southeastern station.

riverside tower riverside view

In some ways the revision is welcome. The three blocks appeared as giant slabs from certain angles. Five towers breaks up some large massing. The issue now is that we have five towers which are all pretty similar possibly creating a large and quite dull wall effect. The flat roofs on all five exacerbate this.

Original bulky three  towers planned on the right

Original bulky three towers planned on the right

There’s minimal difference in height in all five towers under the new plans – a small range from 18 to 22-storeys. All three riverside towers are exactly the same at 22-storeys. The tower planned at Callis Yard over the road is also 18-storeys. It’s similar to Mast Quay’s planned tower just west. And the tower planned at Mortgramit Square covered the other day.

A riverside wall effect is not desirable. The best skylines have drama and variation. If what people in Woolwich town centre see when looking to the Thames is a wall, and all people from the river see is a wall when looking towards Woolwich, then you get none of that. Six towers in close proximity that are all within 5-10 metres in height is not desirable. Variation is.

It would be better if at least one tower was a figureheads, say 25 to 30-storeys – or even more – to break up the monotony. Another 10-storeys of penthouses could also allow more income for social housing. It’s not ideal, but in the constrictive world of development that exists at this moment, council power is very limited. Taller could also mean more slender, as these have some heft and are dangerously close to slabs looking at models:

waterfront tower side

I know many recoil when it comes to heights but tall and elegant beats short and stumpy, imposed due to needless height decreases. This site doesn’t overlook housing. Be bold and go for something with panache that soars.

Altering roof lines of some of the towers would help. Currently its five boxes with nothing interesting at the peak. Flat roofs. Have a taper on one of two to improve visual interest.

One very appealing feature of the plans is the corner treatment. It reminds me a bit of a neglected building on Powis Street, as well as the refurbished co-op building beside:

bay window

bay window 2

There also appears to be less poorly located balconies attached which are increasingly becoming a bit of a mess on many new-builds – obscuring form and lines and too often randomly placed. Balconies here continue the stepped effect on the facade.

The facade appears to be metallic, which further pushes the art deco feel. I do hope this is not altered for a drab shade of grey further down the line.

The increase in permeability from the revised plans is also welcome.

Restaurants and pubs, right?

One big apparent flaw in the revised design is a big shortage of commercial space at the base of the towers in areas facing the river. The renders appear to show one space, and the rest as blank walls. It’s likely that this is due to car parking being placed there. A crazy set of priorities if true and I would hope that Greenwich Council planners would pick them up on that.

realm01

Only commercial space on left?

This top down image is worse. It only shows commercial in units facing Woolwich High Street looking at beautiful Riverside House. Who would rather do that than face the river?

waterfront site map

The council fund a CABE review panel (which is very welcome) to analyse large developments and I’d expect them to raise questions and ask for revisions if that’s what has happened. This is a great riverside spot and many thousands of people are moving into the vicinity and they’d love to have a meal or drink by the river. As would many others in the area who would be attracted to Woolwich if such a setting existed. One commercial space isn’t enough. The most attractive areas in cities have a wide choice in close proximity.

If its for car parking then it could be too many spaces are planned. In such a spot close to Crossrail, DLR and Southeastern (London Overground by the time this opens in all likelihood) plus river boat services with Thames Clippers, then only the disabled would need a permanent car. Car club rentals should suffice for others.

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Ridgeway user group created to promote Plumstead to Thamesmead cycle link

I’ve been asked to promote a new Facebook groups which supports the Ridgeway link. And as it’s a bit unknown though is recently upgraded cousin to its popular east London cousin the Greenway, then why not. Click here to find out more about the Ridgeway group.

As for what the Ridgeway is, well it’s an elevated direct route ranging from Thamesmead to a spot by Plumstead station passing Abbey Wood en route. It sits atop the sewer running to the Crossness Pumping Station, where a new museum happened to open last week. A BBC News report can be seen here.

The track was previously grass which was often overgrown. However, Greenwich Council upgraded their stretch last year and Bexley will shortly do the same. £250k is to be spent on upgrading the remaining stretch of the three and a half mile route on the Bexley side.

On the Greenwich borough side, grass is now gravel and entrances have been made more appealing. I took a walk along it about a year ago and it’s a decent improvement.

ridgeway 2 (3)

This poor quality image shows the new surface and sloped access. It also shows the chronic failure of Greenwich Council departments to maintain public spaces or at times even apparently giving a damn. As ever, broken fences, barely any landscape maintenance and poor quality street furniture were all in evidence.

Apparently the unpainted steel fence was supposed to be removed but it never happened. If it did go and the weeds and bushes cut back, plus an attractive fence installed, then this would be a whole lot more appealing. Even painting it so it doesn’t look like it’s a cast-off from nearby Belmarsh would help. Except even Belmarsh is more appealing.

Though some of the improvements are very welcome the quality of the environment is still far behind what is happening in other places. For example, this post by Deptford Dame shows a just-opened cycle link in Deptford that Lewisham Council secured using developer contributions. It’s a night and day difference in quality and appeal.

Future improvements

Where work really needs to happen is at the Plumstead end. The route ends close to the station yet reaching it is far from pleasant. It’ll put many off. However, that could change with £3 million pounds to be spent, possibly in spring 2017, on the area by Plumstead station, though links to the Ridgeway may not be part of this scheme.

Where it should be, however, is upgrades brought about by the 930 home Peabody scheme by the bus garage. If that is ever to become a successful development then links to Plumstead station must be vastly improved. And those links pass the Ridgeway.

930 homes planned close to Plumstead station

930 homes planned close to Plumstead station

Some separate work on improving the Plumstead station area is just beginning for which Greenwich Council are to be praised. After so much neglect some work is finally happening as part of a £1.2 million road upgrade scheme, though this does little for the Ridgeway.

So if it’s improved and appeals the Ridgeway will hopefully be a crucial link for Thamesmead residents to reach nearby Southeastern and Crossrail stations. Many would ideally take a bus to Abbey Wood but congestion continues to increase on the approaches to Abbey Wood station, and plans for 1500 homes by Peabody and a 29-storey tower in Abbey Wood – just increased from 27-storeys – will not help.

There’s still no confirmation that the main route to Abbey Wood station from Thamesmead, Harrow Manorway, will be upgraded with a continuous bus lane. Without that, buses will be very slow, and the Ridgeway at least provides an alternative route to stations.

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A walk around Woolwich

Woolwich station towers

Woolwich is almost always in a state of flux. There’s a slew of things to cover in this post; riverside towers rising quickly, the long-stalled Phase 3 of Berkeley’s Arsenal scheme is finally underway, early plans for another tower with upto 300 homes, and an expansion plan at a listed church.

I’ll start with Berkeley Homes’ riverside towers; two of which are now underway. This stage is called Waterfront I and II.

London Aug 2016 (16)

London Aug 2016 (11)

Here’s how they should appear when complete:

First two under construction are those on left

First two under construction are those on left

The third tower of this phase should soon begin. Another three were planned (those on the right above) but this has been revised to five. I’m working on a post about that.

A water feature has been installed by the new towers:

London Aug 2016 (13)

Woolwich towerThe final tower built above the forthcoming Woolwich Crossrail station has also been revealed as protective sheets are removed. One issue with some new builds along here are the tacked-on balconies. It looks so cheap. Balconies that are contained within the main form of a building are far more elegant. If they are to be tacked on then randomised placing certainly doesn’t help.

Phase 3 of Berkeley Home’s Arsenal Masterplan is also finally underway. It has been usurped by Phase 4 and 5 in the building stage, but the first concrete core is now finally visible:

Phase 3

Phase 3 in foreground with towers behind

And here’s how Phase 3, or ‘Pavilion Square’ will look when buildings complete from 2017:

phase 3 laboratory square

Royal Arsenal next stage

The Premier Inn hotel – opening spring 2017 – has seen some of the first room modules installed. The previous plan saw many modules installed. The developers then fell into difficulty and they were all removed. Now a different bunch of modules are being installed.

Another tower proposal

Elsewhere in Woolwich another pre-application submission looking at sites for towers has been submitted. The latest is a 24-storey tower on the car wash site opposite Waterfront Leisure Centre. Apartology has covered it here. Planning Ref is 16/2567/EIA.

Developers United Living are seeking opinions on 250-300 homes in an area which also comprises Mortgramit Square. I’ve long thought that a more competent and ambitious local authority than Greenwich Council would’ve embraced the idea of using the characterful narrow cobbled lanes and backstreets here to encourage and create an interesting destination.

Mortgramit screening

A great example would be to encourage an artist presence from the nearby Thames-side art studios (the recently re-named Second Floor studios and the biggest in London with 450 artists) with members from a variety of disciplines. And also work to bring food stalls such as at Lewisham’s Model Market.

It’s worth scrolling around to see the lanes. There’s some real character in these narrow backstreets which is like a glimpse back 50 years. Such potential. Google streetview also shows the redevelopment of the co-op on Powis Street. Residents should start to move in within a month or two.

Mortgramit

This parade of shops will likely go:

Powis Street west

Church expansion

The church next door to that site are also looking to expand in a separate application, with a commercial unit facing onto the roundabout and windows inserted into the facade along with an extension. This was formally the site of a Granada Cinema:

ebenezer church plans

Planning Ref is 16/1624/F and 16/1625/L. Not sure why there’s two. Here’s the other side of the building facing onto Powis Street, shown in a promotional drawing from the opening in 1937:

granada cinema

Whilst building on the scruffy patch of land that now exists is welcome, based upon this rendering the planned addition seems sub-par for a Grade II listed building:

ebenezer church plans 2

The proposed materials are listed as mostly grey windows and doors, grey brick and grey metal cladding. Is that good enough for a listed building on a very visible site across from the ferry and roundabout?

The rest of the proposals seem decent enough.

More photos of Woolwich and other developments can be seen on my Flickr account here.

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Visiting new developments in Greenwich & Deptford – Part 2

Convoys_Wharf_-_Designed_by_Farrells

My last post showed progress at a number of developments in Greenwich borough, alongside the almost complete neglect of public spaces at council estates in close proximity. Now we move to those underway in Lewisham borough.

First up is Faircharm. Crosswhatfields covered issues during construction. Many would have seen this on your left as your train heads over the Creek towards London Bridge.

Greenwich walk (24)

Greenwich walk (22)

It’ll comprise 148 homes (just 15% ‘affordable’) and some artists studios, but less than the 130 who used to reside here. More info from Transpontine here. Here’s how the finished article will appear:

faircharm 2

faircharm

Kent Wharf

Kent Wharf 4

Two minutes walk up Creekside reveals the shell of Kent Wharf from Bellway. Crosswhatfields wrote an extensive post on this development, as did DeptfordDame here.

143 homes, just 13% ‘affordable’ here, and the tallest building tops out at 16 storeys.

kent wharf 5

Not great

How the site currently looks:

Greenwich walk (31)

Kent Wharf

There’s also a hell of a lot more in Deptford coming along:

  • The Anthology site has been leveled. 316 homes there. They market it as being in Deptford but this could well be in New Cross.
  • Timberyard development is underway. 1132 homes there.
  • Preliminary work has finally begun at the vast Convoys Wharf site, two years after Boris called in the planning decision as the developers needed an urgent decision. After approval developers Hutchinson Whampoa did very little. 3500 homes are eventually planned.

Convoys_Wharf_-_Designed_by_Farrells

The Deptford Project development is also finally completing. The homes and shops will be occupied over coming months. DeptfordDame has covered the businesses moving in.

As I recently covered, this all happens as trains calling at Deptford station drop substantially in the evening peak from next month.

Cuts for Deptford, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park stations will see 11 trains from 5-7pm drop down to 8 – a 27% cut.

 

 

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Visit to new developments in Greenwich & Deptford

Charters Wharf

I was recently around Greenwich and Deptford, and with time to kill, thought I’d have a look at how the new developments are shaping up. I’ll get on to that in a bit, but despite the plethora of new builds bringing thousands of homes and millions in developers cash to councils, adjacent areas such as Greenwich’s council estate by Norman Road still look a mess.

Pleading poverty is no excuse for the state of these areas; the severe mismanagement long predates cuts and Greenwich council has more money coming in from nearby developments, that can be utilised to boost deprived spots, than almost all other councils.

What is it – not giving a damn or not being able to due to chronic and systemic management problems? They either don’t want to turn long-neglected estates and poorer areas into attractive, safe, welcoming spots, or lack the ability to do so. I hope it’s not the former, so Councillors need to be asking real questions of funding priorities (ie don’t siphon it all off to select areas) and Council Officers in charge of departments. For one – the Housing Department need serious questions being asked of their neglect of public spaces. It’s endemic across many, many areas.

But then again Greenwich Council have just launched a new propaganda newspaper at high cost after spending many thousands trying to fight off the closure of the old, despite being in breach of rules. Maybe that shows what they care about most.

Anyway, back to the new builds bringing many new homes, albeit not many very affordable to most. Charters Wharf has almost finished. This is by bptw architects, who were based in a former building on site. They will move back to the site once complete. This is the second stage of this development on Deptford Creek.

Greenwich walk (16)

The architects have moved to a building at the junction of Norman Road and Greenwich High Road. Just last week a screening option went in to demolish this and rebuild as housing. A block up to 12 storeys and 63 flats. The planning ref is 16/2376/EIA

norman street

Back to the Creekside block, and it’s all a bit drab and monotonous across the Creekside facade except parts where the two blocks merge which appear pretty cluttered and messy. A newly created waterside walk is a big boost to the area, but generally it’s a dull addition. when looking at the Creekside frontage.

It’s not too bad though from Norman Road, at least the northern half which is complete. Some decent brick detailing and the balconies don’t protrude too much, giving that tacked on at the last minute feel. Windows and balconies are of good proportion and the double height street frontage is good. However, given the very high cost of retail rents don’t expect many small businesses to be able to afford it. Maybe the majority will be taken over by bptw.

Greenwich walk (13)

Over the other side of the Creek we see that site preparation for a tower is proceeding. This will be a private rented tower from Essential Living. The river defences look pretty much complete.

Greenwich walk (37)

Here’s how it will look when complete in around two years.

creekside east lewisham

It’s the green tower that is imminent. The block behind is in Lewisham borough, where recently the council and Trinity Centre agreed to sell land to enable that to proceed.

Public realm again

Back to Greenwich borough, and the mess that is public spaces in council run estates. Yep, an old topic, but inexusable. Finding one bit of street furniture, wall or fence that isn’t falling apart is a challenge. They’ve been told many times of the issues. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. Here’s a wall at the very entrance that looks a bit like jenga.

Greenwich walk (7)

A beautiful welcome for all estate residents and visitors. It’s all so crap. And turn round from this spot and just ahead is New Capital Quay – a huge recent development comprising many hundreds of homes, a Waitrose, Costa, Fullers pub and more. Millions came into Greenwich council from it. Seemingly nothing went on these neglected areas. Then add in Charters Wharf above – same story. And the Essential Living tower two minutes away. All bring in money. None helps locals and long forgotten areas.

Greenwich walk (5)

Greenwich walk (9)

This is not usable space. Certainly not welcoming. This could become a nice play area for kids. A place to sit and meet. Instead it’s dead – even in the summer holidays. No kids are playing here. No residents are meeting. And to create a welcoming space where locals and visitors would want to meet or stay would make barely a dent in the cash coming in to the council. At the very least an attractive area would increase civic and community pride and sense of belonging. Some people stop caring if those in charge do.

The estate also exhibits some failed legacy design of trying to enclose areas with large walls. A few selective knocking down of some walls would open the estate up and greatly improve it. For example, lose the wall to the left to open up the site:

estate wall 2

That could be an interim measure, as the whole area above needs a big revamp really. But it’s cheap and easy to do, if the will is there. A bit further along Norman Road, opposite the new Charters Wharf blocks, is this apparently pointless bit of wall. Knock it down, plant a tree there and add in some cycle parking:

estate wall 3

To knock down would cost very little for a nice gain. Little things, cumulatively, make big differences.

None of this kind of thing is rocket science – there’s examples of similar kind of thing happening everywhere. 

Finally, and again just two minutes away, is a development of homes and retail along Creek Road, now called The Gramercy, again by bptw. Not much is visible yet, though completion is expected shortly.

the-gramercy

I really like the look of this in renders. Solid proportions. The one part that is visible so far is concerning – the materials used on the top floor are far more drab that shown above. They are a dreary grey.

I’ve uploaded a few more photos to the long-forgotten Flickr page. It can be seen here.

 

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First homes on Greenwich Council Housing Zones in for planning

Peabody have submitted final designs for their first project in the Greenwich Council Housing Zone. It’s a small scheme of 66 homes in West Thamesmead near the Princess Alice pub.

housing zone

Housing Zones are plots of land designated for housing which the Greater London Authority designates and then aid with grants and loans for infrastructure. Greenwich’s Housing Zones will provide 1500 homes, and differs from the one in Bexley which is focused upon the large-scale redevelopment of Thamesmead’s 1960s and 1970s estate.

Those in Greenwich borough comprise this site, a spot near Plumstead station where 930 homes are planned and another site around the historic if somewhat hidden Royal Arsenal Canal, aka Broadwater Dock, which they are looking to fill in. A big mistake if they do. It could, and should, be a big asset to the area. There’s many examples of post-war filling of canals across the country that are now seen as great mistakes. Many of those retained are now thriving and buzzing areas.

Peabody Thamesmead 930 homes

930 homes planned near Plumstead station

I’m also a bit dubious of awarding all land to one developer – in this case Peabody, and across two boroughs at that. It can simply slow down the much needed delivery of homes if they’re spread too thinly. They have hardly been swift at building since taking over Gallions in Thamesmead. Some of the timescales given seem extremely long.

And not just starting building, but they havn’t even demolished the remnants of Thamesmead’s estate that were standing isolated and empty when they took over. They’re a blight and have seen numerous arson attacks. How the old library is still standing is a mystery despite its rapid decline. The sooner they get cracking on the better.

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