Huge 1600+ place school at Greenwich Peninsula approved despite transport issues

St Mary Magdalene school

Greenwich council have approved plans for a large school on the Greenwich Peninsula at the junction of John Harrison and Millenium Way. The forthcoming St Mary Magdalene school will accommodate 1,646 pupils and approximately 200 staff with a 26 place nursery, a 420 place primary school, a 900 place secondary school and a 300 place 6th Form.

They’ll be only 14 car parking spaces. Normally this would be welcomed but at the Peninsula transport planning and provision can be sorely lacking. Unless large changes occur it will mean many staff and pupils travelling on buses which are often already beyond capacity, dropped off in cars congesting local roads, or walking from buses or trains at Maze Hill and Westcombe Park along unsafe paths with that lack suitable crossings. Some will come via tube but it’s likely most pupils will reside in Greenwich borough.

I wrote about the pedestrian experience and road network across the area. It’s dire with outdated design. There’s often no pedestrian crossing at junctions where roads converge, as seen below. The school site will be on the right:

This post will come across a bit groundhog day but it really does bear repeating once again. Developments across the area continue to proliferate and street design is far from keeping up. Accidents continue to happen, sadly including two fatalities in the past two weeks.

Poor street design will dissuade many from walking. This adds to pressures on local transport and harms businesses in east Greenwich as newcomers are put off visiting. Those that do walk face a multitude of poor design completely unsuitable for this area.

It’s not only school children at the new school who will be contending with the issues of anti-pedestrian design. Turning around 180 degrees from the view above and we see the large number of new flats being built by Knight Dragon.

knight dragon roundabout

People moving here who wish to head to Greenwich Town centre for a drink or shop will be passing through this spot. Or maybe they’ll take their money elsewhere to another town outside the borough. I don’t think the o2’s plastic bars will keep many happy for long.

On the subject of who manages what road, here’s a crap map, but from what I’ve read and been told this shows how management is divided. Red is TfL. Green is RBG. If wrong please let me know. The vast majority it appears are managed by Greenwich council.

peninsula road management

The Parkside roads with the Busway are a mess of a layout and confusing. But aside from that and the Blackwall itself, most appear not to be TfL’s responsibility.

Greenwich council have an email address for suggestions on new or altered crossings, which are pretty badly needed at numerous places across the Peninsula. You can contact them here: traffic_management@royalgreenwich.gov.uk 

They also have a web page here with information on crossings. Much of the Peninsula now meets the criteria. The page states:

“Pedestrian crossings are used in locations where pedestrians frequently need to cross the road.

This includes major road junctions, near shopping areas and outside schools.

If there is a busy road near you that has no crossing, you can make a request for one to be built.”

Dual carriageways and roundabouts

Giant roundabouts and roads meeting them are a particularly big problem. This includes the junction of Peartree Way and Bugsbys Way, as well as John Harrison Way, Blackwall Lane, Bugsby’s Way and Millenium Way.

Those heading south from new housing developments will reach junctions where crossings are either non-existent or require large detours. Placing pedestrians a very poor second in hierarchy of priority has two impacts – vulnerable users like the elderly or disabled have longer to walk than necessary. Clearly that isn’t fair. While those who are able bodied will just walk the quickest way, which often puts them in a more dangerous spot as they have to walk along the kerb.

Many people will always do that because it’s human nature to walk the shortest and quickest route. It’s why so many pedestrian schemes failed post-war. People aren’t robots and do not walk far further than necessary just because a Highways engineer thought they should and believed cars need primacy.

Yes, working will need to be done with TfL on some elements, but how is that much different to any other area of solely managed RBG roads? There’s many major streets all across London that are managed by councils alone and improvements are continually made.

Greenwich Millenium Village

As I’ve said a few times the potential for conflict is continually growing. GMV stage 3 is moving ever south to the roundabout where Bugsby’s Way meets Peartree Way. The latest housing block is now up to about floor 4-5, and is part of the section coloured orange below. Those in blue are just about complete now for imminent occupation. The roundabout with a non-existent crossing is just visible on the left:

GMV site plan

It’s only a 15 minute walk from these new blocks to places like the Greenwich centre with its swimming pool, gym, library and nearby shops and restaurants. Yet those that do that walk will have to contend with a dangerous road layout. It’s the same story when heading to the nearest railway station at Westcombe Park, which is closer than the tube station.

GMV to stations

GMV

Below is that very poor spot – where Bugsby’s Way meets the roundabout. This area is an accident waiting to happen. No crossing is provided, and the road dips below the railway line. This obscures pedestrians crossing from seeing approaching traffic, and likewise prevents vehicles seeing people. Have a scroll around that entire roundabout. Awful design.

The image is from the latest google maps image from November 2015. The concrete frame of GMV housing blocks can just about be seen on the left heading closer to this roundabout. The dip in the road is on the right.

Hotel, retails parks etc

There’s many more developments that will increase pedestrian numbers and the likelihood of accidents. The new ibis hotel on Blackwall Lane opens imminently – located five minutes away from the new school site. It’ll be occupied by at least 100 tourists a night with many heading to and from the tube and o2.

There’s also all the retails sheds such as Ikea and those coming at Brocklebank Retail Park, which is located on Bugsby’s Way. Greenwich council have backed themselves into a corner by continually supporting large retail park expansion in the vicinity which are almost completely designed for cars. Everyone knows it – no one is fooled by nonsense about an extra bus stop or two.

454 car parking spaces

454 car parking spaces

And yet look across London – over in Southwark they’re moving away from retail park domination at Old Kent Road. It’s hard to think of other parts of London around zones 2/3 that would welcome such things with open arms. Stratford went the way of Westfield not giant PC Worlds with masses of tarmac on single level car parks.

Lewisham council fought for years against Bell Green, and that only eventually went through after a decade long battle as plans were originally applied in the early ’90s when thinking was much different. Sainsburys at Charlton applied in 2010s! Same with Brocklebank.

Some of those at Greenwich council sometimes seem keen to deflect an awful lot onto TfL. We know TfL’s design and planning has its own issues but they don’t manage many of these problematic and dangerous streets. They didn’t approve retail parks at various locations bringing additional traffic nor enact a deeply flawed masterplan in recent years.

The council on one hand doesn’t seem to know what the other hand is doing. Strategic planning is weak. Having a large expanse of land on the Peninsula becoming a bustling urban environment of schools, housing, leisure and smaller commercial sites placed cheek by jowl with dated ’80s ideas for retail parks and mass roads inevitably brings conflict. But still, much can be done. In the near term more crossings are a must. I have a feeling they will stick up more obstacles for pedestrians instead. It penalises many pedestrians and others just ignore. It won’t work.

Longer term planning on comprehensive redesigns are needed. Lose the giant roundabouts and roads more suited to rural environments. This is far from cheap or easy. Fortunately huge amounts of development brings with it much cash from developers to do just that. The council havn’t used much in the past 10 years to improve what is there. What about the next 5-10 years?

I’ll end with a spot which shows how our European neighbours do these things much better so much of the time. To no ones surprise, it’s Barcelona in this instance. Yeah, sure, this may seem a bit fanciful. But the basic concept and ideas could easily apply. No major roundabout at this junction; just a road with one bus lane and one car lane in each direction plus segregated cycle lanes. Add in logical positioning of pedestrian crossings.

Throw in much greenery here with high density buildings set back from the road, offering wide paving areas and seating space for commercial premises at street level. Street furniture is logically laid out and good quality. It’s great for users and is a fundamental aspect of makes these areas beautiful.

Major roads don’t have to mean anti-pedestrian spaces or be spots people don’t want to stop for a coffee or beer. It’s timeless design which is common all over the world. Greenwich Peninsula is changing fast. This could be the model enacted.

Here’s the email again to request more crossings: traffic_management@royalgreenwich.gov.uk 

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Deptford’s 1132 home ‘Timberyard’ development moves forward

 

The Timberyard Deptford Aerial CGI

Timberyard in centre, Convoys Wharf site top right, Greenland Place on the left

The development formerly known as ‘The Wharves’, aka ‘Oxetalls Road’, has now re-branded as ‘The Timberyard’, and it appears to be moving forwards toward imminent construction. Sales are to begin in mid February on this vast scheme in north Deptford.

Here’s one of those puff pieces advertising the scheme. It does though have some nice aerial visuals of the entire site.

Lend Lease are behind this. They’ll be two towers – one of which is 24 storeys. 1132 flats and houses will be included in total. The Victoria pub is thankfully to be retained. A comprehensive look at the scheme by Deptford Dame can be seen here.

timberyard deptford

timberyard site plan

Substantial car parking spaces will be provided, both here and at other large developments nearby. With proposals to toll the Blackwall tunnel if the Silvertown Tunnel opens (which will also be tolled) many people will head straight to Rotherhithe’s tunnel which’ll greatly increase congestion in this area. This lies between the two. TfL formally applied for permission to build the tunnel today.

London Overground isn’t much cop as an alternative. It’s packed as it is. The extension of every train to five carriages only just completed has already seen most of the additional capacity almost entirely taken up according to TfL board papers. Going up to six carriages isn’t possible without extensive rebuilding of stations which would likely mean some stations closing permanently such as Rotherhithe and Wapping, and others for long periods during reconstruction such as Canada Water.

Comprehensive and workable plans for this increase are needed. They’re yet to appear.

 

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Woolwich housing & school plans approved

A couple of new developments I’d previously covered were approved by Greenwich planners this week. Firstly, a former office block in the town centre beside Lidl:

Sovereign House Woolwich proposals

28 flats will be located within this block. No ‘affordable’ housing is included. As the building currently appears:

Sovereign House Woolwich

Next in line for office to resi conversion

Over near Woolwich Dockyard a former care home is to be demolished and replaced with this:

sunbury street flats

sunbury aerial

48 flats are contained within this block on Sunbury Street. 35 per cent of flats are so-called affordable. ASRA housing association are behind this.

A new branch of Plumcroft primary school was also approved beside Woolwich Arsenal station on Vincent Road. 420 places are provided.

plumcroft school

It’s to be located on the site of a recently closed sheltered housing scheme.

woolwich housing demo plumcroft

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What happened to £400k street improvements?

Last year I wrote a post praising a Greenwich Council scheme to spend £400k on improving some of the uglier and more dangerous street across the borough.

streets for de-cluttering

I was reminded of it again when the Bexley is Bonkers site revealed that the grotty area of shops on Wilton Road by Abbey Wood station was due to receive some funding from this scheme. When reading the site I vaguely recalled some of the streets that were due to be improved, and I didn’t think any of them actually had been. With the financial year end fast approaching, could it have been scrapped? Fortunately not, as council documents this week show.

However, they do state that all the schemes are due to be complete by April. A tall order in just two months perhaps? But then again, a lot of it is blindingly obvious improvements that can be done quickly and cheaply.

As can be seen in the list above, Wilton Road in Abbey Wood is not mentioned. Is it’s inclusion now possibly a bit of a panic move after realising that most investment from Crossrail and other funds doesn’t actually cover 95% of Abbey Wood’s main street beside the forthcoming Crossrail station.

Long neglected high street in Abbey Wood. £150k won't go far.

Long neglected high street in Abbey Wood. £150k won’t go far.

£300k from a separate High Street fund will go on this street, but that will never achieve much. Half of that is simply going on reports and design guides anyway.  A separate £2m award last week to Bexley council could well completely miss out this area again and be spent up the road creating a rival High Street, in an area where homes are now being vacated for imminent demolition. All very odd.

Some seem to think that the £6m award from Crossrail and councils will improve this stretch. Not so, except a small slither outside the station. It mainly goes towards the flyover and land to the north of the station. No benefit to most Abbey Wood residents who reach the station from the south and this parade of shops. The entire area below is not covered by the £6m Crossrail award.

Abbey Wood bollards

Far better with trees, better lighting, new paving, street furniture rationalised / upgraded etc

One thing I did read in the latest council update on the scheme was that new lights were installed on the Greenwich side of Wilton Road. Previously they were utilitarian and not very attractive. It’s simple things like attractive lighting, along with greenery, paving, painting etc that can make a big difference for not that much cost.

So I checked out Google street view and asked around. Apparently the new lights installed are just as utilitarian as before. Not a great start to public realm improvements.

Many other small town centres have had improved street furniture installed in recent years.

Attractive lamp, tree planted, new paving & clutter removal

Ladywell. Attractive lamps, trees planted, new paving & clutter removal

Off the top of my head there’s Sydenham and Ladywell over in Lewisham, with Sidcup and Erith in Bexley borough. Northumberland Heath is to soon see improvements. There’s many more. Abbey Wood’s main street, despite promises and awards in the near vicinity, is hardly getting anything. Plumstead’s the same.

Though apparently new paving is to come soon. If the lighting replacement is anything to go by don’t expect much.

Anyway, back to the wider scheme. It’s named HILL – Highways Improvement and Local Labour project. It’s pretty commendable – giving local unemployed people experience and training whilst improving the many run down streets and public spaces across the borough.

But will wide-ranging street upgrades improvements continue into 2016/17, or will it revert to new tarmac only? Public realm plans are still under consideration. The council certainly has enough money from developer contributions to keep it going. And will the work in the next two months stack up? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

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Southeastern to be taken over by TfL in 2018 – initial thoughts

southeastern-train

So it’s finally happened, and not a day too soon. Much has been written elsewhere. I won’t parrot much of it. Here’s some initial thoughts. No great insights or anything.

  • The endless churn of painting trains and station in different colours will end (for a bit) when they turn orange. Much investment when franchises are let is actually spent on branding. Southeastern spent about three years having the exterior colour changed. It’s just finished, but in two years it’ll change again, and that should be the last time for awhile.
  • Fares. Hopefully a move to equilibrium will be made with the rest of London. Many aren’t aware just how much more oyster users are charged in south east London. A perfect example is how just north of the river, where c2c operate under TfL pricing, any trip that doesn’t go into zone 1 is £1.50, and saw no rise in January. That means travelling from, say, Rainham in zone 6 all the way to Limehouse in zone 2 is £1.50 off peak or £2.80 in the peak. Cross a couple of miles south and a Southeastern journey from Erith (zone 6) to Deptford (zone 2) costs £2.70 off peak and £4.10 at rush hour. And to add insult they put that up by 10p this month, whilst fares were frozen north of the river. Its the same with onward journeys by tube. Get to zone 1 on London Overground or c2c train, for example, and a tube trip is no extra within zone 1. With Southeastern another £1.50 is added on top of an already higher train fare.
  • More and longer trains. This cannot deflect from the need for the Department for Transport to approve additional trains arriving by the end of 2016. Only they can make that decision. The DfT are still calling the shots until 2018. Southeastern submitted a report to them in June 2015, and the DfT still havn’t decided.
  • London Overground will be a big ‘ol network. Will they number each line or area of London? Cities like Berlin do, with S-Bahn lines being named S1, S2 etc.
  • TfL will capitalise on surrounding land for housing and commercial development. We saw a glimpse of that in SE London when TfL and NR submitted a scoping report for a 20 storey tower just north of Kidbrooke station last year. There’s much underused land by NR stations. TfL will be looking to push on there. Just hope it’s not like Woolwich DLR station.
  • Staffing should be much better. Even very busy stations in SE London become empty after about 8pm. Barely any staff are seen during the day at off-peak times. Trains in SE London are often not nice places to be at certain times due to this. Contrast with the feel of much of the DLR, London Overground and tube and the impact of more staff is clear. I’ve usually found Southeastern staff friendly, particularity at stations away from the centre, but there’s not enough of them.
  • Devolution works. If London didn’t have a Mayor would this have happened? Scotland wouldn’t have seen its huge improvements without devolution. Other UK cities badly need strong local mayors, as happens in just about every other city in the developed world, to push through change and allow them to thrive. Leave it to Whitehall and little happens.
  • Finally, this is massive news for South London. The fact some London-wide media are treating it as a secondary story will not change the prevailing thought that some outlets are north London centric. But anyway, sod that, things will get better. A warning though, don’t expect changes from day 1 in 2018. It will take a good couple of years as we’ve seen elsewhere.
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Further details emerge of 1600 home Thamesmead & Abbey Wood development

Peabody plans aerial

Housing Association Peabody have submitted preliminary planning documents for the demolition and rebuild of parts of Thamesmead and Abbey Wood. The rebuilding project is split into four segments with 1661 homes planned.

Peabody plans squareSome new information is contained within the scoping report. The map above shows the first stage, named Southmere Village. Plans are most advance here, and detailed planning is due shortly.

Outline permission is also being sought for the following three stages – Binsey Walk to the north, with 330 homes planned. The flats here are now mostly empty. To the south there’s both Coralline Walk (550 homes planned) which is now seeing resdients moved out, and a section called ‘Sedgemere’ (219 homes planned). Each stage sees towers up to 15 storeys.

The section named Sedgemere is located opposite Sainsbury’s and in Abbey Wood. It currently contains some small industrial units, a petrol station and a small parade of shops. This section is almost on top of the Crossrail station.

Other information contained:

  • The road link connection Lensbury Way to the new roundabout by Sainsbury’s is likely to be severed. The roundabout was only built and opened six months ago. It probably makes sense given the messy road layout now existing, but where was the forward planning?
Lensbury Way on left. Sedgemere area behind

Lensbury Way on left. Sedgemere area behind

  • A consideration of widening Harrow Manorway between Abbey Wood station and Yarnton Way to provide a bus lane in each direction. This is essential being the main link between much of north Thamesmead and Abbey Wood station. Buses are already slowed as traffic has increased notably since Sainsbury’s opened with more traffic lights installed. Add in thousands of homes and Crossrail and gridlock is likely without action. Plenty of space exists to widen as substantial grass verges are located all along the road.
Main route to station from Thamesmead.

Main route to station from Thamesmead.

  • No mention of a cycle lane along here. There’s space, and if widening the road and paving then a segregated cycle lane would be pretty easy and cheap to install.
  • More traffic lights added to Yarnton Way & Eynsham Drive roundabout. They’re likely to be needed with many new homes and things such as Lidl’s rebuilding (which will hopefully include housing itself). The roundabout is pretty substantial and takes up much land – it may make more sense to convert to a junction to increase land available for housing on sites surrounding it, such as the car wash.
Much wasted land

Much wasted land – car wash on left

The roundabout itself is bloody huge, with land on the left in the above image severely under-utilised. Greenwich council’s beautiful Highways design and management is also much in evidence here. A new masterplan really does need drawing up by councils for this whole area. It’s just five minutes walk from the forthcoming Crossrail station.

  • Removal of the bridge over Harrow Manorway with a street level crossing. Also, a bus lane installed here.

harrow bridge

As there’s almost never any problems here with buses being held up, unlike many other areas, I’d hope this is carefully studied before money spent. Similar things have happened nearby, with other users then funneled into one lane causing congestion. The newly created queues lead back onto other single lane roads nearby which in turns slows down buses on those streets. A supposed bus improvement measure actually slows down buses.

The document also states that developers Hub, behind stage two of Cross Quarter at Abbey Wood, are looking to increase the numbers of flats beyond previous plans. It’s no surprise given the location and HUB’s previous type of development. They are now looking at three blocks, one a 20 storey tower, and containing 250-300 flats.

Stage 1 – Southmere Village

Peabody plans aerial 2

Indicative render from 2015 consultation

Detailed plans for stage 1 should be submitted in coming months, and if approved work on site would commence in early 2017 with first occupations in early 2018. 562 homes are planned here.

rebuild early plans

In the meantime, a new road crossing is to be built on Yarnton Way. A footbridge was recently demolished which made crossing the road a bit tricky. The southern path is being widened, which is badly needed, as can be seen below:

crossing yarnton

corraline walk thamesmead pavement

Very narrow paths. Massive roundabout seen behind

So then, assuming these plans run to schedule, there could be around1000 homes built in the vicinity of Abbey Wood station before Crossrail opens. Some have predicted Crossrail will be full on day one. I’m not sure about that, and there’s scope to extend trains on it, but it does show how planning for infrastructure improvements needs to continually move forward.

Paris is leading the way, with four lines coming in the next 15 years. Don’t bank on the UK being so pro-active. Crossrail and Thameslink are opening decades after originally planned due to constant government wavering, which is exacerbating issues now at London Bridge, and even the short Bakerloo line extension (originally planned in the 1930s) is due to take 15 years to build.

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Southeastern to get more trains – maybe, possibly, could be…

 

southeastern-train

After recent issues with Southeastern more than a few MPs and local politicians have had a say on Southeastern and the rail service. Conservative MP for Old Bexley & Sidcup James Brokenshire has revealed details of a response from the DfT to questions regarding extra trains to help with crowding. There’s some warm words but much is non-committal:

“We received a detailed report from Southeastern in June [2015] regarding late 2016 and early 2018 capacity relief options and we continue to develop these options in collaboration.

We are planning to take a phased approach to the investment decisions, splitting the project into capacity relief from late 2016 and capacity relief from early 2018.  This approach should allow us to make an investment decision on the 2016 capacity relief in the spring.  For the 2018 capacity relief, we expect to make an investment decision in the summer.  Both separate investments will be subject to establishing a viable business case and gaining the necessary approvals.

It is too early to say which services are intended to be strengthened, but the earlier capacity intervention will likely target the Metro services.”

This does again highlight that the ball is 100% in the DfT’s court on this. The Government makes the decision. Southeastern sent their report six months ago requesting more stock. The DfT have yet to confirm. Pressure needs to remain on them until the spring at least.

But if anyone in SE London can influence the Department for Transport and its ministers, then James Brokenshire is likely to be near the top, being a minister himself. It’s also welcome to see him stating that the DfT need to take action. Other MPs have also been clear on the need for pressure on the DfT. Some other politicians have simply blamed Southeastern alone. That’ll never change anything.

Where extra trains will go

If more trains are approved, those arriving in late 2016 would go onto the line from Victoria to Orpington, freeing up many other carriages to lengthen services from Cannon Street and Charing Cross to Hayes, Dartford, Medway etc. And the Victoria to Orpington line does need it. It’s seeing high growth but often only has 6 carriage trains in the rush hour, and 4 is not uncommon. Looking at station usage figures recently released and the need is clear with strong growth on the Orpington line last year, though of course some stations have more than one route serving them:

vic orpington line

The increase at Brixton is no surprise. It’s something of an undiscovered gem, with services taking only 7 minutes to Victoria. Though looks like a fair few are finding out about it. Last week the Victoria line was suspended and Southeastern were tweeting about congestion at their station.

Getting back to the need for pressure on the Department for Transport, and its been sadly common for some politicians to not question them, revealing a lack of understanding about how the modern system works, with fragmented ownership and various elements coming under varied control. Many were happy to criticise Southeastern but didn’t acknowledge that all they pretty much do is what the Department for Transport tell them. As I’ve often said, they could be booted out tomorrow, but if the next operator were to follow weak DfT instructions, whereby there was no specification for more stock or minimum staffing levels, to name but two, then little would change.

It’s the DfT who will decide whether TfL should take over suburban routes in 2018 under the London Overground banner. Given the improvements TfL have specified for operators under lines they now control, in contrast to the DfT, that must be the hope for the region.

Since taking over lines in East London last summer they have placed orders for new trains, more staff have been hired and stations improved. Of course, improvements are slow and its not a miracle cure. They still have 30+ year old trains, but do have a solid plan that’s worked elsewhere that should come good in 5-10 years. A lot more than can be said for Southeastern metro right now.

 

 

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