Crossrail work closed the line at Abbey Wood again this past weekend. The Bexley is Bonkers blog has been doing a great job of documenting and photographing the ongoing changes. The temporary station has been open a couple of weeks. The lifts seem almost permanently broken. It looks as though this past weekend is one where things have not entirely gone to plan. The walkways and steps beside the station are due for imminent demolition and Crossrail originally had this past weekend slated for substantial work.

Demolition plans
Demolition plans

It appears this did not happen, as no breaking or demolition of walkways looked to have happened by yesterday, so more closures may need to be squeezed in. There are already a couple over the next month – Sunday 7th December and another full weekend on 20th and 21st December. The walkways (with green surfaces) to be removed are shown below

'70s pedestrian walkways
’70s pedestrian walkways

As for Abbey Wood itself, I’ve said it before but having been back a couple of times recently there’s an urgent need for town wide improvements. There is so much ugly, cheap street furniture. Much broken and way past life expiry. New stuff is the cheapest, ugliest crap they could dredge up that 99% of councils would turn down. Greenwich council couldn’t give less of a shit if they tried.

Sorting this out is not hard or expensive. Get a highways and parks department that’s competent and some local politicians that give a damn, and realise that the conditions people and community’s exist in is crucial to their well-being. Seriously Greenwich, I’ve been to a LOT of deprived and down at heel places across the country for work. Very few are as badly neglected.

Not unusual
Not unusual

This kind of crap is common all over Abbey Wood. The fence is broken, ugly and dangerous. Google street view shows the evidence of it like that for FIVE years, at least. In reality 10 to 20 years is more like it. The photos don’t really get across just how grotty everywhere is. Does no department ever inspect or audit places? Below is another fence nearby. What’s the point it? To keep cars off? If so then the gap and tyre tracks show that hasn’t worked for years. It’s quite hard to see but all of it is in a terrible state.

What purpose does fencing serve?
What purpose does fencing serve?

We’re not talking millions to replace it or remove. If removed it would open up the space. If worried about cars driving on the grass then fine them when they do, and put up bollards if absolutely necessary. Though knowing Greenwich they’d fetch some ugly concrete ones from a condemned estate to put up.

By the way, the three councillors responsible for the area are Greenwich council leader Denise Hyland – denise.hyland@royalgreenwich.gov.uk

Clive Mardner – clive.mardner@royalgreenwich.gov.uk

Steve Offord – steve.offord@royalgreenwich.gov.uk

Two out of three Abbey Wood councillors live in Eltham. Is that affecting things?

If you live locally might be worth letting them know. If the complaints I hear from people there are anything to go by there’s plenty that are not happy.

Planned Improvements

Some areas are in line for improvements but not areas like those above. The lucky 1% of Abbey Wood that will see change are in the immediate station vicinity, which are due to see some substantial sums spent before 2018. I’m not going to give both Greenwich & Bexley councils’ too much credit for that though – it’s Network Rail and TfL money that most Crossrail stations across London will be getting. Greenwich have done nothing exceptional on securing other funds to improve the wider area. And even the TfL and Crossrail money does not cover most of the shopping parade south of the station.

The plans for the north of the station should match with new public realm work at the Cross Quarter development, which is just behind the trees in the render below.

TfL funded work from 2016
TfL funded work from 2016
Cycle storage & market on paving?
Cycle storage & market on paving?

It looks quite an empty space. Lots of new paving and some seating is the extent of it. With a cycle lane from Cross Quarter entering this area (see below – taken facing other way from image above) then secure cycle storage could be positioned here. Another use would be a market covering the expanse of paving between the road and shops, running from Sainsbury’s and the new library to the station.

Cross Quarter segregated cycle lane
Cross Quarter segregated cycle lane

The buildings of Cross Quarter shown above are becoming more apparent on the skyline now as construction progresses –

Frame of Sainsbury's superstore
Frame of Sainsbury’s superstore
Rising quickly
Rising quickly

These photos are provided by Brian Barnett who has been documenting progress on twitter – see @cyclespeedwayBB. He also has a site with many photographs of Thamesmead well worth a look.

Missing Out

So why has so much of Abbey Wood seen no improvements, and doesn’t look likely to beyond a very small area? There are pots of cash from various organisations which have been available for many years that could provide wider Abbey Wood improvements, but they never have.

Things like TfL’s LIP funds given to every council each year, which allows applications for major schemes over £1 million in town centres. Neither borough has submitting one for Abbey Wood. That potential source has been open for over a decade. Spending under £1 million on a scheme (out of total budgets between £3-4 million a year to each council, which is separate from the major projects budget) could have been used, as councils have more flexibility there. Both councils have done nothing, yet as 90% is in Greenwich they must get more of the blame.

Then there’s payments from developers in the form of section 106 that have been coming into council coffers that many other councils use to improve public spaces. Plus Greenwich’s council’s substantial and quickly growing reserves could be utilised – now over £1 billion. In addition, sources of funding like the Mayor of London’s ‘Outer London Fund’ have been there for bidding. This gave £1.5m to Deptford for High Street work (which is a curious definition of outer London) after good work by Lewisham Council, who have also used LIP funds for Ladywell, amongst others.

Over in Greenwich and little has been given to Abbey Wood for decades. I sometimes wonder whether many working in Greenwich Council even know they are responsible for 90% of Abbey Wood given the state of it, particularly the shopping areas, Abbey Wood estate and the bits near Plumstead. Why aren’t the councillors beating down the door of officers asking questions?

And even if the whole Village shopping parade is improved (which isn’t confirmed), what about places like Abbey Wood estate? If nothing is done then by 2018 people will pass the spruced up areas where Crossrail and TfL have spent money, before heading onto Felixstowe Road and the scruffy Greenwich council managed parts. It’ll be a stark contrast.

Some Greenwich councillors seem to think the works immediately around the station are a panacea to all problems. 100 metres of new paving will not improve the rest of a town miles wide with a population in the tens of thousands. Areas 30+ minutes walk away need much needed attention too.

The Highways Department need to conduct a complete audit of the entire public realm, remove ugly, broken, redundant signage, fencing etc and improve areas where it’s badly needed such as green areas, parks, paving, fencing (that is still needed), and implement a decent maintenance regime. This should really be custom across all the borough. Use the many sources of funding to do it. They still exist even with heavy funding cuts. Just 100k spent across Abbey Wood on removing or replacing street furniture, improving green spaces and playing areas would be a start.

Planned Improvements

As for the improvements that are happening, it is Bexley council taking the lead on the application to TfL, and the working assumption is that £4.5m will be needed.  This is to come from Crossrail’s budget of £27 million to spend on station sites and TfL’s budget of £30m for improvements just beyond. A Bexley document from February states:

“The Urban Integration Study estimated the total cost of the proposed
public realm works (both within and outside the LoD) to be £3.1
million. Further structural investigations of the flyover by LB Bexley
have identified other works that would need to be undertaken at the
same time, bringing the overall cost estimate to at least £4.0 million.
Further work needs to be done to refine these budget cost estimates,
but a ballpark figure of £4.5 million is being assumed at this stage.”

One piece of news recently released that should provide further improvements is a new cycle superhub at Abbey Wood station with better links from there to Thamesmead. As I mentioned above, there seems ample space for cycle storage just north of the station. The segregated lane already bring built outside Sainsbury’s will be a few hundred metres long.

Hopefully this funding will extend it the length of Harrow Manorway. Earlier plans for a quietway through the maze that is Tavy Bridge back streets looked convoluted, and will not get as many cycling as will a new direct, straight, segregated lane that is highly visible and with less busy road crossings. I wait with baited breath to see what plans are released. London’s track record on cycling plans isn’t great.

Elsewhere in Abbey Wood

In other news a new application for 18 homes within walking distance of the station will be decided shortly.

18 flats on former council building
18 flats on former council building

Behind this site is a large green which in true Greenwich style is surrounded by cheap 10 foot tall fending.

Greenwich council have also designated the area around the station as suitable for tall buildings, in planning guidance issued July 2014.

Tall building sites
Tall building sites

I can’t say I object too much as long as buildings are of suitable high quality design. There’s a large amount of space for new builds to either side but mainly to the north. I can easily see the parade of shops going too on Wilton Road, as much is two stories high. Some are even single level. They’d have a big fight on their hands too I imagine but now it’s in the Core Strategy developers have a solid foundation. I just hope any plans are good quality.

Peabody housing association have also reportedly purchased the Abbey Arms pub by the station. They are in charge of Thamesmead’s Tavy Bridge redevelopment which has stalled. If one was cynical, it could be seen that they are pushing building closer to 2018’s Crossrail opening for added £££ from housing sales, in place of much needed housing sooner?

Will Peabody put in an application for a tall building with replacement pub on the ground floor? The pub site has a sizable garden. Abbey Wood is not exactly flush with good pubs and it’s a prime site. Other sites I can see developed south of the station are the large BT phone exchange to the west.

South of the station
South of the station

Playing devil’s advocate I have circled some sites below developers will no doubt be eying up in coming years. This would be controversial but quite possible.

Feasible?
Feasible?

The site bottom left at the Post Office had a scheme refused last year. Bottom right has one in now after the developers knocked down local landmark the Harrow Inn pub. The developers have left it in a terrible state and one of the development partners appears to be in administration. I expect it to be sold on. To the top left I’ve included half of the VERY long gardens. Not being very serious here but if a developer offered owners sizable sums for half their gardens would they refuse? Or even buy all homes there outright plus Glover Close to the east, which is social housing I believe. You’d then have a very large plot.

North of the station areas I can see redevelopment likely to happen at the car park, petrol station, MOT garage & low rise buildings nearby, plus the industrial estate by Cross Quarter which is half empty and has a church illegally operating (which has ignored planning decisions and enforcement for years), Thislebrook camp, and further areas of Thamesmead.

North of station site
North of station site
Prime redevelopment sites?
Prime redevelopment sites?

Further north of the above image is a single-storey Lidl and car park, and another industrial estate. It wouldn’t surprise me if Lidl are drawing up plans for mixed use there, which is close to the suspended Peabody development which itself will house many people. Lots of potential development land and changes likely in coming years.

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