£400k for street improvements across Greenwich borough this year

DSCF0033 There’s some very welcome news out that Greenwich council has allocated £400k to be spent improving the public realm (pavements etc) across the borough. Details can be found by clicking here and looking at section 5.

This is a part of the Highways Improvement & Local Labour (HILL) project. It begun last year, and offers apprentices from GLaaB work experience, with 100 roads targeted for improvements. Last year mainly focused on new tarmac, but promisingly this year offers wider scope and better streets.

The scheme will see: “A total of 39 road resurfacing schemes, 11 footway schemes and five street lighting schemes are proposed. Additionally, a further 27 Streets will have street furniture rationalised (de cluttered) and painted.”

One of those mentioned is the utterly rubbish area around the Blackwall approach/Woolwich Road flyover. The photo at the top of this post shows one approach. It’s a miserable place, not only below the flyover, but on all approaches. Local group EGRA recently compiled a report on the very poor state of East Greenwich for pedestrians, and seeing this is very welcome. woolwich road flyover public realm The area heading to the Peninsula has very poor, dated street design, as does the other side outside East Greenwich library. Some removal of the excessive amounts of ugly and dangerous guardrail would open up the area and be safer for cyclists. Remaining stretches can be painted, or see better quality replacement (the stretches at Eltham are to go spare due to its street improvement scheme) with better lighting installed.

£400k isn’t a great deal of money, but it’s enough to create real, immediate improvements. After all, many of these improvements are relatively simple, and can be made cheaply and quickly. Removing street clutter and excess guardrails, and a lick of paint on what’s left, is a low cost endeavour that will bring numerous benefits. Below is a cut and paste of other streets included: streets for de-cluttering DSCF0034Well done to the council for this. I’ve criticised them often, along with the Highways Department, for the poor state of so much public realm and streets across the borough. It dissuades walking and cycling, erodes civic pride and encourages behaviour such as fly-tipping. Ugly streets are not places businesses often thrive, or areas people want to visit or spend time. For so long the neglect of streets and public spaces seemed to be disregarded as a concern, and a lack of appreciation was evident of the myriad of negative effects.

I see welcome signs of change recently. Not enough yet, as it’s still not mentioned anywhere near enough in council documents, committees and meetings. Other councils in London often have better public realm prominently listed in the functions of various committees, of Councillors roles, in Section 106 or Community Infrastructure Levy plans, funding applications to various bodies like the GLA’s LIP funds, and quite a bit more. Greenwich council isn’t there yet, as better, more attractive and user-friendly public space is often noticeable by its absence, but signs of improvement are appearing. Now keep it up!

Posted in Abbey Wood, Charlton, Dartford, Eltham, Greenwich, Plumstead, Thamesmead, Woolwich | Leave a comment

A few more observations on Southeastern 2016 changes

A few more things stuck out when looking at train changes planned for next August after yesterday’s post. As noted in the comments, between 5-7 pm there’s a planned reduction in trains from Cannon Street to Greenwich of 13 to 10. Two of the 13 services that currently run fast from London Bridge only stop at Greenwich and not Deptford, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park. This means Greenwich loses three trains in the evening peak from 5-7pm, but Deptford, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park lose only one. As the 10 trains planned to run after August 2016 stop at Woolwich Dockyard, this prevents longer trains running.

In the morning from 7-9 am, Greenwich station currently has 11 slow and 3 fast trains to Cannon Street. Under these plans it would have 9 slow services and no fast trains.

Charlton and areas to the east don’t do so badly. They lose Cannon Street trains but gain more Charing Cross services. There’s also more late trains which is to be welcomed.

Though there are some longer gaps at stations to the east. Plumstead will see a 16 minute gap in the morning peak – from 07:49 to 08:05. This is despite a train running between those services which calls at Abbey Wood and Woolwich Arsenal yet skips Plumstead, despite stopping at every following stop including Woolwich Dockyard. Looking at the draft timetable it seems possible for it to make a stop and not lose time, as six minutes is allocated from Abbey Wood to Woolwich Arsenal with no Plumstead stop, which is the time given when trains do stop:

Plumstead gap

Plumstead station is seeing steady passenger growth, and should have 1.5m users this year. A 16 minute gap at the busiest time of the day is far from ideal. The same happens again with a 15 minute gap from 08:22 to 08:37. Again, another train runs between calling at every stop after Abbey Wood except Plumstead. It only takes one cancellation and Plumstead has a 25 minute morning peak gap. Notice also the gap at Deptford from 08:30 to 08:46. I used to board trains at Deptford at that time – the train would often be packed. New developments like the Deptford Project, directly beside the station, open the end of 2015.

Ultimately though, despite the odd looking gaps above, the work being done at London Bridge causing many reductions in capacity and frequency, is essential. Southeastern are getting a lot of flak about it, when they can do very little. The main issue is the lack of carriages to extend enough trains to compensate for frequency reductions, and Southeastern have no say over that. The number of trains operated by any franchise is decided by the Department of Transport and the government at Westminster. Southeastern is just a handy fall guy.

You can email TimetableManagement@southeasternrailway.co.uk to let them know your comments by Friday 26th June 2015.

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Southeastern’s draft 2016 timetable released

From August 2016 until January 2018 no Cannon Street trains will stop at London Bridge. Trains for Charing Cross, which currently sail through as platforms 4-6 are closed, will once again be able to stop as platforms 1-3 are instead closed and demolished.

Details on how Southeastern propose to run services with such large changes can be seen here. The Greenwich line will see reductions in services at Westcombe Park, Maze Hill, Greenwich and Deptford as some peak trains are diverted from Charlton towards Lewisham. This also mean some trains on other lines, such as via Bexleyheath and Sidcup, will be unable to stop at Lewisham as capacity is reduced. The diversion of trains on the Woolwich line to Lewisham allows passengers to access London Bridge:

“An approximate 20 minute interval in the high peak on the North Kent Line to and from Charing Cross calling at London Bridge and Waterloo East, giving a service from Slade Green and all stations to Charlton (except Woolwich Dockyard) to Charing Cross via Lewisham and London Bridge)”

The lack of a stop at Woolwich Dockyard suggests that these will be 12-car trains, and given just three an hour in the peaks will be stopping at London Bridge, then that length will be needed.

Crossrail

The timetable covers the period from August 2016 to January 2018, but states that more trains will head to Abbey Wood from Kent and the Medway Towns to connect with the new Crossrail station, at the expense of the Sidcup line. As this timetable is due to end before Crossrail services begin, this alteration is likely to be establishing long term changes we will see from the end of 2018, as more demand is expected from Kent commuters changing to Crossrail at Abbey Wood.

Many working at Canary Wharf will change trains, but I think the numbers of people changing who work in the City may not be as high as some expect. Abbey Wood to Cannon Street could be possible in 25 minutes after 2018 with Southeastern, on a fast train, as congestion is reduced on London Bridge approaches due to its expensive rebuild. It’s 27 minutes now. Abbey Wood to Liverpool Street on Crossrail will be 18 minutes. Will many people coming from Kent on a Southeastern train, happy in a seat, want to change given quick cross-platform changes at Abbey Wood have been removed? This necessitates crossing over footbridges onto another train, with less seats, and waiting for it to leave. The 5-10 minute quicker journey to the City could be lost by that change, as is the chance of a seat.

Of course many will change, but I’m not sure it will be a mass exodus leaving Southeastern metro trains empty to pick up people further along the line, including all those moving into new developments, meaning pressure on capacity and rolling stock will continue.

Capacity

The capacity squeeze on Southeastern metro routes will continue to become more pronounced in the year or two before Crossrail opens. A great deal of new housing developments will open from 2016-2018 along the various metro lines, as well as many along DLR routes on the Lewisham and Woolwich branches, which offer alternative options to central London. The period from 2017 until Crossrail’s opening in 2018 is when pressure becomes most acute, with many homes becoming occupied at sites such as Royal Arsenal, months and years before the new line opens. Many developments are being built with Crossrail capacity firmly at the fore, yet complete a year before it commences.

With no additional trains coming to the Southeastern metro area (almost alone in London), that particular period before Crossrail commences will be the hardest yet to provide sufficient capacity.

Comments on the intial draft timetable should be sent to TimetableManagement@southeasternrailway.co.uk by Friday 26th June 2015.

Posted in Transport | 3 Comments

More homes to be demolished at Thamesmead?

Last week I wrote about plans to construct 870 homes by Plumstead station. Over at Thamesmead, Peabody Homes also plan to build 450 homes at ‘Southmere Village’, aka the area known as Tavy Bridge and immortalised in A Clockwork Orange and Misfits. The plans see an increase from 300 homes under Gallions’ previous ideas, which I wrote about back in 2012.

It’s disappointing to see completion pushed back yet again to 2019/20. Gallions Housing Association originally planned to complete around 2015/16. Peabody Homes took over and begun demolition of the site in 2013, but halted 18 months ago, leaving some areas still standing. Since then completion dates have gone backwards. It’s good to see alterations are being made as Peabody have a far better record than Gallions, but the glacial pace in a severe housing shortage is frustrating.

Thamesmead peabody

The 450 homes to be built covers the area labelled number 1 on the map above. To the south of this site Peabody are now consulting on demolition of a further 150 homes at Corralline and Evenlode House, including the Barge Pole pub.

thamesmead demo area

thamesmead newI really do hope that some of the original, early stages of housing in Thamesmead is retained. This area has the most complex and interesting designs, before they were simplified to save on costs in the following stages of construction. It’s not hard to envisage how great they would look if cleaned and refurbished to look as they did new, when the concrete was as bright white as stone, and the windows had sleek wooden frames. The buildings are extremely well known; they are Thamesmead for many. Refurbished buildings here could be as popular as other 1960s and ’70s buildings now en-vogue. That may seem fanciful, but condemned buildings of the era have successfully been rejuvenated.

The 1960s Brunswick centre has been revamped and is now extremely successful. We can’t throw away important heritage and momentous design as its been allowed to decline through neglect, and eradicate the best examples in a radical, groundbreaking estate. One major issue is the ‘dead’ ground floor frontages where garages stand, which was necessary due to by-laws as the site sat on a flood plain. Would it be possible to use ground floor garages as retail to alleviate what is one of their biggest problems, or convert all to habitable rooms with street level access?

A ‘boulevard’?

I’ve wrote enough about Harrow Manorway, the road which runs through the forthcoming Sainsbury’s, Cross Quarter, and parts of Thamesmead up for demolition. Peabody and Greenwich Council have mentioned plans for a ‘boulevard’ along here. If that means a wide street with dedicated bus lanes, segregated cycle lanes, shops and high density housing then I’m all for it, away from retained, select areas of 1960s housing of course.

Another area listed for more housing is the Moorings estate in north Thamesmead. I’ve wrote about how this would be an ideal site for a London Overground station on an extension under the river from Barking Riverside. There’s huge housing development opportunity there. There’s much under-utilised land on a large site surrounding the estate, with a crappy shopping parade that makes little use of the canal running through.

An LO station near here with new shops and housing to help fund it?

An LO station near here with new shops, commercial space and housing to help fund an extension?

Any housing around here isn’t imminent according to Peabody’s plans and they seem happy with buses for transport for the area. Having buses alone has held back Thamesmead for decades. It will never suffice. Plans for 2000 homes at Tripcock Point in north Thamesmead are highlighted but there’s an acknowledgement this cannot proceed with insufficient transport.

DLR or London Overground?

Any DLR extension to Thamesmead of the Beckton branch would connect Thamesmead with little over the the Thames until Canning Town, which is quite a stretch along the line. Yet a London Overground extenstion would link quickly to other London Overground lines at Barking, two tube lines and fast trains to east London and Essex. Far, far better connectivity and options would open up for many that the DLR doesn’t provide. The DLR is hardly great for getting to central London either – it would take 40 minutes to Bank. Not much better than heading to Abbey Wood and taking the train. In addition, the DLR is reaching its capacity and mass housing is planned over the river.

A London Overground shuttle from Abbey Wood to Barking could provide high frequencies and capacity. Four trains an hour is unlikely to suffice, so perhaps a shuttle across the Thames would provide justification for the expense and much more capacity. When looking at Thamesmead’s current isolation there’s already a good case for it. Add in 14k more homes at Thamesmead alone (let alone thousands more at Abbey Wood, Plumstead, Belvedere and Erith) and the case looks stronger.

Crossrail alone does not offer great links to much of east / north east London or Essex. It still means travelling far into London then out again. Then we get back to the age old point – Abbey Wood Crossrail station is just not very close to much of Thamesmead, which is cut off by the Southern Outfall sewer and a dual carriageway. Painting a pedestrian bridge will never tempt that many to walk or cycle.

Consultation events on what’s planned can be seen below:

Thamesmead consultation

Further masterplans are due in coming months which I will be keeping an eye out for. Much to be welcomed in initial plans then, but some disappointments such as the long time span and delays with new housing. A lack of ambition for transport is another. I’d like to see more vocal lobbying from Peabody Homes as well as Greenwich and Bexley councils on that. Still, early days and much more information and changes to occur in coming months.

Posted in Abbey Wood, Thamesmead, Transport | Leave a comment

Abbey Wood station demolition next weekend

Abbey Wood station demolition

It’s currently not much more than a shell with the rest due to come down, beginning next weekend. The line will be closed all next weekend, and the weekend after.

Abbey Wood station demolition timescale

To be honest once the wrecking ball gets going it looks as though it will be down in an hour. The area where the walkways were located is completely cleared.

Abbey Wood station site

It was built in 1987, lasted almost 30 years, and will be replaced by this:

Includes retail unit and lifts

Includes retail unit and lifts

Other work has progressed well around Plumstead, as can be seen here on the Bexley is Bonkers blog.

Last week Canary Wharf’s Crossrail station opened, or at least the shopping, cinema and garden roof parts did. Well mostly, as the cinema opens on 15th May. By 2018 this will be 11 minutes from Abbey Wood station. Bring it on.

Posted in Abbey Wood, Transport | 2 Comments

Peabody’s plans for 3000 new homes (870 in Plumstead) – details & consultation

Peabody Homes released further details a couple of weeks ago on plans for 3000 new homes, though I havn’t covered it yet – so better late than never eh? The plans are for large-scale house building in Thamesmead, Abbey Wood and Plumstead, and comes after two housing zones were announced for the area back in February. Bexley Council’s bid was for 1300 new homes, initially, at South Thamesmead and Abbey Wood. Peabody have already raised £200m for that redevelopment before the latest announcement of further funds. Greenwich’s bid is for 1512 new homes (again, initially) at Abbey Wood, Thamesmead and Plumstead. The eventual total could be 14000 across the two boroughs. Plumstead Peabody One of the new announcements centred on just where new housing in Plumstead would be located – it’s a total of 870 homes by 2024. Here’s what Peabody state:

“Plumstead plus Broadwater Dock: 350 new homes plus shops, workspaces and community facilities by 2020; and a further 520 homes and new park by 2024. We will work with Greenwich to improve the public realm around Plumstead Station.”

This is all very welcome news. The site is located very close to Plumstead station but currently used for industrial units, a bus garage and a drive-through Mcdonalds. I recently wrote about how the bus garage and industrial units could be re-located slightly east onto unused land nearby. Public realm improvements around the station are badly needed – it’s a pretty grim place to be. I just hope this isn’t a case of waiting nine years for something to happen when small interim measures can be taken now which would be easy and cheap to implement. We don’t need another case like the Abbey Wood station area – years of neglect as investment was supposed to be imminent, then when announced it mostly avoided the shopping area beside the station. Any opportunity for quick, cheap and easy improvements (of which there are many in Plumstead) should be taken.

The shaded area also covers Broadwater Green just to the north of the one-way system, and Broadwater Dock beside the Thames. The information from Peabody states that housing will be in the area closer to the station and Broadwater Dock will see a new park. Given this is prime riverside land I would also expect some housing there. A smaller development is planned at ‘The Reach’ which is close to Tesco express and the Princess Alice pub in Thamesmead.

Road network changes

With so much housebuilding the one-way system will hopefully be on its way out. This would be far from an easy job, as parts are elevated, but it nonetheless acts as a huge barrier. With alterations, high density housing could stretch on the north side of Plumstead Road from Plumstead station all the way to Woolwich Crossrail station. It would become a much more attractive and lively major route, the kind of which I wrote about last week and seen so commonly on the continent.

High density housing and retail along this road in future?

High density housing and retail along this road in future?

As shown above, the road is more than wide enough to accommodate high density housing. The area to the left is industrial units, and space exists slightly further east for relocation in an area unsuitable for housing. It’s not a stretch to see this street re-imagined with cycle lanes, wide paving, shops and housing lining the road. Thousands of new homes could be built along here, and all within 10 minutes walk to Woolwich Crossrail and Plumstead Southeastern stations with lines to various areas of London and Kent. Altering this road along with the one-way system would greatly aid connectivity. High housing density, similar to the new block in the foreground of the image below of Bermondsey, offer a good idea of the scale of housing that would work well here: Bermondsey tall flatsConsultation has just commenced regarding the whole scheme. Very disappointingly, all the specified consultation events on publicity flyers occur in Thamesmead alone, despite the massive impact on Abbey Wood and Plumstead. There’s a vague mention of community forums below but no further detail seen anywhere that I can make out with consultation already in full swing. As some questions in the consultation ask whether people would like investment in one town or another, this is deeply unfair.

Unfortunately it follows a common recent pattern – much focus and money for Thamesmead and little for Abbey Wood and Plumstead. The £6m for public realm improvements at Abbey Wood seem designed for those arriving from foot or bus from Thamesmead. Thamesmead consultation However you can respond online here or email Thamesmead.regen@peabody.org.uk

Even the contact email address calls it ‘Thamesmead Regen’ when 900 homes are in Plumstead, and effects on Abbey Wood will be huge. It’s not good enough, and leads me to feel that some in charge don’t seem to understand there are three distinct towns, with different characters and needs. The confusion and fragmented political control and strategy for Thamesmead and neighbouring areas goes back many years. Don’t repeat the same mistakes for the various areas by lumping them all together. The area by Plumstead station is vastly different to 1990s Barratt boxes in north Thamesmead, and a good few miles away.

A follow-up post will look at plans in Thamesmead. There’s many homes planned there, but transport is key to unlocking them and finally making Thamesmead the place envisaged 40 years ago. But then again, with the Conservatives plans to extend ‘Right to Buy’ to Housing Associations, could this put the block on all these plans for improvements as Housing Associations are forced to sell homes cheaply, with finances greatly hampered as they can no longer borrow easily or cheaply to fund programs? Not only would it costs taxpayers billions more as housing benefit is paid to ever more private landlords (you can bet many sold HA homes will be buy-to-let in no time, like much council housing now is) but also badly affect long term planning.

Posted in Abbey Wood, Transport, Woolwich | 1 Comment

Sainsbury’s expansion in SE London

Whoever decides on new store openings for Sainsbury’s may well have recently moved to south east London given just how many are opening up shortly. There’s shops planned for Abbey Wood, Charlton, Woolwich and Lewisham. Firstly, we have the large superstore at Abbey Wood, as part of Cross Quarter. I’ve had emails in the past inquiring whether I had any information on how to apply for jobs. It looks like Sainsbury’s have now started advertising both for both here and their large Charlton store (more on that in a bit). Click here and search for either town to see the jobs available.

sainsbury's abbey wood 2

sainsburys abbey woodPhotos courtesy of Brian Barnett. 

Both Abbey Wood and Charlton superstores are due to open by the end of July. At Abbey Wood gold, perforated metal cladding featuring images of trees have been applied, referencing the woods up the road. I’m not entirely sure about it in pics and will have to see in person. Car parking is below the shop. Temporary traffic lights have led to long queues. A permanent crossing will appear when work is finished. Add in thousands of new homes planned to be built around here, plus shoppers arriving by car, and it could become very busy requiring work in future. The road is the main route from Thamesmead to Abbey Wood station.

The controversial block of flats can be seen behind in the top photo, but unfortunately there is no housing above the store. This will be seen as a big mistake pretty soon, being two minutes from the Crossrail station. Paving outside looks pretty narrow and I see no sign of the segregated cycle shown in renders when in planning. I hope post-approval alterations didn’t removed it, and given the green light by the planning department.

Charlton’s branch is also a superstore but has huge car parking beside the shop instead of below. I’ve wrote about what a huge waste of land this is, located just five minutes walk from Charlton station, and should have included a residential element. Greenwich council’s masterplan for the area predated the store by a couple of years and specified retail only. The additional traffic is sure to place more strain on the road network, with many other retail barns also opening soon nearby.

Charlton Sainsbury's superstore with M&S beside

Charlton Sainsbury’s superstore with M&S beside

DSCF0029The cladding here is timbre rather than metal paneling and looks better to my eye. Unfortunately once again, there appears to be no separate cycle lane outside. A painted strip is it.

London must do much better than this, with major developments that have very long road frontages adopting lanes outside where at all possible. With such a huge site footprint this should be easily attainable, and on-foot entrances designed in such a way to avoid conflict. At it’s western end, the store meets two Victorian hold-outs quite incongruously.

woolwich sainsburysOther stores opening in future are at Woolwich and Lewisham. The shop at Woolwich will be below a recently completed block of flats on the Arsenal site, beside the Crossrail station and facing Plumstead Road.

Given the large population and housing increases in Woolwich it’s quite possible they retain the existing store and both will co-exist. This whole stretch lacks a cycle lane forcing cyclists to dice with cars and buses pulling into and out of stops.

DSCF9841

No cycle lane again despite more than enough space

The Lewisham branch will be at Barratts’ ‘Renaissance’ development on Loampit Vale. The store will be located below the many new flats built here. Again, the added population should allow existing stores to continue trading alongside. Whilst I’m glad to see supermarkets opening in high density housing developments, as opposed to sprawling out-of-town sites incongruously placed near inner London such as Charlton, the lack of cycle lanes pop up again at this development, despite ample space on wide pavements to provide them. A stubborn refusal to build segregated lanes across London (with limited high profile schemes often the only exception) will prevent many giving cycling a go and instead onto overcrowded trains. Uncomfortable they may be, but not as dangerous and off-putting as many roads in London.

Opposite Sainsbury’s a new Asda will also be opening on the ground floor of ‘Thurston Central’ – a 406 flat development now almost complete externally. This was originally penned in as a B&Q but falling sales have led to store cut-backs. The same thing has also afflicted many supermarket groups, at least for larger stores, but the two large stores at Abbey Wood and Charlton seem to have scrapped through just before the change in policy.

 

Posted in Abbey Wood, Charlton, Lewisham, Transport, Woolwich | 4 Comments