Changing view from Greenwich Park

The changing view from Greenwich Park looking towards the Isle of Dogs is well noted as new towers continue to spring up around Canary Wharf. But wandering through the park the other day, I noticed that the view looking towards the Dome has also substantially altered. I took a photo and by luck found one in my archives which roughly corresponded to it so have been able to create this animated GIF which illustrates some of the changes to that part of Greenwich over the past eight years. [Read more…]

Why I cannot support the Mayor of London’s Silvertown Tunnel proposals

I have never met a constituent who did not agree that the two sides of the Thames east of Tower Bridge should be better connected. The issue is how we achieve that cross river connectivity in a way that contributes to a sustainable local transport system that delivers benefits for local residents in terms of improved air quality, inward investment and expanded opportunities.

In the wake of Transport for London’s (TfL) October-December 2014 consultation, I took the view that the case for a new road tunnel under the Thames linking Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown had not been made convincingly. I hoped at the time that TfL would listen carefully to the concerns that had been raised and respond positively to the range of suggestions that were put forward by the council and others to improve the scheme. [Read more…]

The Greenwich Peninsula: what a difference a decade makes

On Tuesday, after months of negotiations, the Council’s Planning Board will determine whether or not to approve Knight Dragon’s revisions to the 2004 Greenwich Peninsula masterplan. The proposals are wide-ranging but the core issues at stake are an increase in the total number of permitted “units” across the site from 10,010 to 15,720 (a 57 per cent increase) and a corresponding drop in the overall proportion of affordable homes from 38 per cent to 25 per cent (22.7 in this application to be added to those already in the pipeline).

When set against the principles underpinning the original Peninsula vision and the collective expectations of the community, Knight Dragon’s offer falls disappointingly short – a view I expressed candidly to their representatives when they presented their final proposals to me last week.

That is not to say that the proposals do not contain much that is to be commended. The plans for a new transport hub (and cycle superhub) at North Greenwich, new and enhanced open spaces, better community facilities, a riverside running track and improvements to the Thames footpath and cyclepath will improve the quality of life for those living in the area. [Read more…]

If we’re to have an IKEA in Greenwich let’s make sure it’s the right one

Few local issues have been as controversial as IKEA’s plans for a new Greenwich store on the Bugsby’s Way site currently occupied by Sainsbury’s “eco-friendly” low energy supermarket and the former Comet building. I recall vividly the large number of local residents that took the time last year to attend the meeting of the Council’s Planning Board at which IKEA’s outline planning application was considered. They did so not only to express their sorrow at the loss of Sainsbury’s Stirling-prize nominated landmark store (sadly hamstrung by a highly restrictive covenant) but also to raise concerns about what a new IKEA store on the site would mean for an already congested local road network and the noxious air pollution that is its corollary. [Read more…]

Peninsula vision

Enveloped on three sides by the lower Thames, the Greenwich Peninsula is probably most familiar to Londoners as the home of the O2 arena. Many will be unaware that the 190-acres of land that surrounds the world’s busiest music venue is also the site of one of the capital’s largest regeneration schemes with up to 10,010 new homes and 325,000 square metres of commercial floorspace earmarked for construction over a 25-year period. [Read more…]

Gasholder Trumps

Last week I went to a conference on gasholders.  I have been researching gas industry history for many, many years and we have a large and important (and probably doomed) holder just down the road. I used to sit at Council meetings with a little paper model of a gas holder on my desk – the only person who noticed it was Chris Roberts (and he laughed, he did, honestly).

The conference was organised by the Institution of Gas Engineers — and the industry is one that doesn’t really recognise people who don’t work for it (never has) but they did allow specialist historians like me to go. But they did get us all to stand up at the start so we could be identified as the aliens among them.

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Planning in Greenwich: “What about democracy?”

Politics is about choices. At its most basic, it is the process of debating alternative courses of action and deciding which to follow. Do you raise taxes or lower them? Go to war or not? Grant the planning application, or refuse it? The issues can be profound or mundane, but from observing local and national politics, it is the last example that I find perhaps most illuminating.

Planning policy has a reputation for being rather dry, even dull – but it is in fact politics at its most fundamental. Passions run very high indeed. Think of the recent local controversies over plans for IKEA on Greenwich peninsula, the proposed demolition of the Woolwich Grand, the Lovell’s Wharf development… the list goes on.

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