Archive for April, 2010

Last Call for Comments on Market Appeal

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Folks, the number of ‘final deadlines’ for comments about Greenwich Hospital Trust’s appeal against the UNANIMOUS decision by Greenwich councillors of ALL parties to reject their proposals to develop the covered market seem to be as confused as the process that you’re supposed to follow to have your say. Below is the The Phantom’s Easy Guide to having your say. If you get bored with my preamble, cut to the bit in red below.

I read only last week that the deadline was 22nd April, but I’m reliably informed the deadline has NOT passed. Instead, if you haven’t commented yet then there is still a teeny tiny amount of time to do so.

Certainly, if you’re one of the people who agree with me that this is a disgraceful presumption on the part of Greenwich Hospital, to assume that absolutely everyone on the council is wrong, don’t rely on our local MP to represent you.

Nick Raynsford thinks it’s a great idea – in fact it was him who apparently told GH to appeal – against a council led BY HIS OWN PARTY. Of course he would love to see more giant developments going up – his links with the building industry are far stronger than any impulse to actually represent his own constituents – or, indeed, his own party.

No – if you object, you need to say so – you’ll get no joy from Nick. Actually, I guess, if you don’t object, have your say so too – I’m sure GH will appreciate your support.

A few notes on what the Planning Inspectors are looking for. They have to consider objections on points of law. Inappropriate massing, traffic implications and other hotel capacity in the area will all rack up and they WILL take into account the fact that absolutely everyone on the council unanimously rejected the plans. Purely aesthetc ‘quality’ issues, are more difficult to argue, as it’s subjective.

However this IS a World Heritage Site, and I personally think that they would be irresponsible to Britain’s reputation as a tourist destination to create something so wholly inappropriate to a place people flock to from all over the world to see for its history – and, of course, at the same time, spend cash.

A requirement both of National Planning, under PPG 15, and the Borough SPD – Supplementary Planning Document, is that the development MUST ‘preserve or enhance” the conservation area, and protect the setting of the Listed Buildings (which is all of the Joseph Kay, stucco-fronted buildings. A hotel that dwarfs its historic neighbours hardly does that.

The Durnford Street buildings may not be listed, but they ARE part of the conservation area. I can’t see how demolishing them to build a trash compacter will enhance the listed buildings’ setting. And what the hell point is there in getting rid of real cobbles if they’re only going to replace them with fake cobbles – though of course GH refer to as ‘granite sets’? None of this was mentioned in the Hospital’s ‘consultation.’

I’m the first to agree that the 1950s inner buildings and the roof are pretty hideous, but this isn’t the development the market needs. A simple glass roof (without those hideous pillars that close the place rather than open it up,) and discreet replacements for the 1950s monstrosities would be just fine. Greed has ensured that the proposed Hotel Building will tower over the adjacent Joseph Kay buildings, and dominate them from key viewpoints on a World Heritage Site, and with so many businesses reliant on tourists coming to Greenwich, it is our duty to ensure that they still have a reason to visit.

And it CAN be done – you only have to look at the fantastic development at the Old Brewery (by the Greenwich Foundation who sometimes accidentally get confused with Greenwich Hospital Trust, poor things) to see that history and contemporary styling can work.

So – how to object (or support if you happen to think it’s a great idea…)

This is the link to the case. You have until the 4th May to submit comments. Click the very bottom button, which will take you to the planning portal. From there it’s pretty easy to fill in the form, and just put a couple of paragraphs of what you think of the project – you don’t have to send a letter or supporting dcuments if you don’t want to. It can be as long or as short as you like.

If you’re still after ideas, Paul has sent me a list of his “Eight Ridiculous Claims” which you might enjoy:

1 “The scheme enhances the character and appearance of the conservation area. Elements such as the adjacent storage yards adjacent to Durnford Street are of poor quality. Their appearance clearly detracts from the area.” (2.7)

(A major plank of their appeal is that, by knocking down the stables and banana warehouse, they will improve Durnford Street. You have to give them points for sheer cheek!)

2 “The scheme is not visible from viewpoints outside the area.” (2.9)

( There are no drawings supplied to prove this, but Elevation C clearly shows the scheme is visible from the immediate area, and will be visible from many buildings around the market, as well as the park.)

3 “The scheme will not be detrimental to the setting of the adjacent Grade II listed buildings.” (2.10)
(see above)

4 “The council has not taken into account the economic benefit of the new hotel in enlivening the area as a visitor destination, this protecting a number of buildings around the conservation area in the long term.”(2.14)

(Will the loss of informal, quirky stalls and the introduction of shops that can afford higher rents really benefit the area, if we lose the distinctive, informal feel of the market?)

5 “Unattractive outbuildings [ie the Durnford Street buildings] create a wholly unattractive entrance to the market and do not contribute positively to the Conservation Area. (2.31)
6 “The removal of the [Durnford Street] buildings… and new market roof all enhance the character of the conservation area.” (2.33)

(This is an assertion which even the Appellants don’t believe – otherwise they would have mentioned the demolition of the buildings in their display. Remember they are being replaced by a trash compactor!)

7 “The existing market roof is locally listed [but]… is not of particular importance being late Victorian/early Edwardian in date. The current covering comprises corrugated plastic… which does not contribute to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.” (2.36)

(Would a thin plastic roof really be better than a glass structure, which the Appellants have allowed to fall into disrepair?)

8 “The net increase in traffic… is insignificant and would not adversely impact traffic flow.” (2.53)

(No extra traffic from a 105 room hotel? Remember the main entrance and exit would be on College Approach, which is always busy.)

I leave it with you, guys. Yours to object, support or ignore, but you only have until 4th May to have your say.

Dedicating a Memorial Bench in Greenwich

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Sofia has a sad question for a Monday morning:

“My question for you is about memorial benches in the park. My baby daughter died just over a year ago aged 1 and a half after 3 months in hospital and I spent almost every day of her healthy life in the park with her. I would really like to dedicate a bench to her, and have a small plaque on it with her name.

Do you have any idea how I would arrange this? I thought I should ask you first as we all know how unhelpful Greenwich Council would be…. “

The Phantom replies:

Firstly, I’m really sorry about your loss – to lose a child must be a terrible thing and I can totally understand why you’d like to honour her like this.

I wish I could say this was the first time I’ve been asked this question, but sadly, I have been asked before at least once, and was also once contacted by an Australian couple whose daughter Lauren rests in England, and who has just such a bench dedicated to her – I went to find it just after the snow last year and found it was one of the most popular in the park…

Sadly there are no pictures to see just now (though I am assured by the Phantom Webmaster they’re all safe and sound), but the story’s here.

Sadly I can’t remember what I called the post about dedicating benches, thus I can’t find it. I must start calling posts things I can actually find on the new site.

The bad news is that it’s not going to be easy, though in this particular case, it’s nothing to do with Greenwich Council, as Greenwich Park is operated by Royal Parks.

Here’s a PDF that addresses the situation, but it doesn’t mention Greenwich. All the parks seem to be ‘full’ of benches now – indeed, I found this answer from someone else asking the same question about Hyde Park:

“At the moment, no. The number of benches we have is decided by weighing up the need to provide seating without unduly affecting the look and feel of the Park open spaces. In general, this means that new benches are introduced only when an existing bench needs replacing. But there are other ways that you can leave a lasting tribute in memory of a loved one, including sponsoring a new tree or through our adoption scheme.”

My suggestion would be to contact Greenwich park directly, though – they might know if a bench is coming up for replacement, or have a waiting list. Here are the details:

Greenwich Park Office,
Blackheath Gate,
Charlton Way,
Greenwich, London. SE10 8QY
T. +44 (0)20 8858 2608
F. +44 (0)20 8293 3782

Their suggested alternative is a tree – though from though from this in the Phantom Archive, it’s not as easy as you might think and you can’t put a plaque on it.

I have been spending a fair amount of time on the Greenwich Council website this morning and generally googling trying to find out how to dedicate benches in one of Greenwich Council’s own parks – of course they don’t have any direct links or useful advice, though I did find a price – a thousand pounds – for a bench, though they don’t say where. I suspect it’s in a crematorium, which isn’t the same thing at all.

I think your only hope is to call the dreaded ‘contact centre’ directly (instead of the old system where you used to get through to the correct department, they now have a ‘one-stop-shop’ which means you never get anyone who knows what’s going on.)

The number’s 020 8854 8888. I wish you luck.

Has anyone here ever successfully dedicated a bench to someone round here? How did it work? Would you recommend it to Sofia?

Testing, testing…

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Sorry about the hiatus, folks, and sorry, too, that several features aren’t working just now, especially the categories and the photos. I’m not even certain this post is going to go live, so this is a test.

Hopefully it will be sorted out in a few days time, when we’ve found somewhere new to park the Phantom caravan and worked out how to drag all the goods and chattels with us…

No Comment(s)

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Hi folks,

Phantom Webmaster here, posting on behalf of the Phantom.

Blogger’s system, in its infinite wisdom, appears to have managed to lose the plot as far as comments on existing posts go. _We_ still have an archive of them all, and their system may restore them… whether it manages to do that in the next few days is anyone’s guess, however. Your patience is appreciated.

There are a few other technical shenanigans going on behind the scenes, so as the Phantom mentioned the other day, expect possible weirdness for the next few days. Normal service will be resumed as soon as we figure out what normal is as soon as possible…

Pizza Classico

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I’ve been in two minds about talking about this place. Not because it’s in Old Kent Road and it’s therefore not really Greenwich – I’m happy enough at other times to talk about things I like that don’t really count – but because not everyone can get it.

Let’s start with the problem – piss-poor pizzas in Greenwich. It comes to something when you have dozens of fast food joints and the best of a very bad bunch is Dominoes. They are all much the same quality, whichever nasty joint you choose – muffy, flabby bases with grizzled toppings just about clinging on for dear life. Ghastly ‘sauces’ given away as extras don’t make up for decent flavour in the first place.

If just one proper, wood-fired place started up in Greenwich, doing crispy, thin-crust pizzas with flavoursome toppings, they’d clean up, but they all seem to be happy with just being the same as each other.

I was recommended Pizza Classico by someone on here (I can’t remember who, but thank you) and then some friends of mine had a pizza delivered that they raved about. They live in Westcombe Park and had to plead over the phone to get a delivery to SE3, which isn’t in Pizza Classico’s catchment area, but, since it was a Monday, the guys there took pity on them. The delivery took a little time, and when it arrived, it needed popping in the oven to crisp up a bit, but the resulting flavour and the thinness of the crust made it all worthwhile.

My friends were so impressed with the pizzas that they invited me round for second helpings a couple of Saturdays ago. We met in the beer garden at the Brewery, and decided to call up and order before heading home as it does take time. But this time, Pizza Classico were having none of that SE3 business. I sat listening to the pathetic pleas of a desperate man as he tried to persuade them that Westcombe Park is actually closer to Old Kent Road than some of SE10, which is in the catchment area (you can even order online if you’re in real Greenwich…) but no deal. We ended up getting a very-serviceable-indeed curry from Mehak – which, let’s face it, is never a bad choice.

Since it was no good to them, my pals gave me the Pizza Classico flyer and a couple of days later I gingerly tried the online ordering system, fully expecting to be rejected – after all, Old Kent Road IS a long way for a pizza to come.

But come it did. I’d taken the precaution of heating up the oven, just to crisp it up from the journey (it wouldn’t matter how long you put most of the local pizzas in the oven; they’d always be floppy and soggy) and I can’t say it arrived in super-quick time.

The flavour IS worth waiting for. If you’re a little wary of spiciness, give anything that’s labelled ‘hot’ a wide berth – they really mean it, but generally, the toppings are interesting, fresh and very,very tasty.

I’ll be honest. If a proper pizza delivery place opened around here, I wouldn’t be ordering from Pizza Classico (of course they’re welcome to open a sister business round here whenever they like as far as I’m concerned.) Food from there does need a spot of tlc when it arrives. But until a comparable pizza joint does open round here, as long as you live in SE10 or have a mate in Greenwich who can take pity on you, Pizza Classico will fill the hungry gap.

I ordered via Just Eat which was perfectly serviceable.

Any Debate Screenings?

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Emily asks:

“Do you happen to know of any pubs in our ‘hood are screening the party leaders’ debate tomorrow, seeing as it’s on Sky so we can’t watch it and heap abuse on our own television?”

The Phantom replies:

Well, I think it’s on Sky News, which I can get even though I don’t have Sky – I believe it’s part of the freeview thing, but yes, take your point, not everyone has that.

Hmm. No – I don’t know of anywhere specific – but someone here might.

Grim News For the Heart of East Greenwich

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

I know several of you have been busily emailing all sorts of people who should know about such things, asking what the hell is going on with the amazing new development we’re supposed to be getting where the old Greenwich District Hospital used to be, and where the only things flourishing there these days are weeds and regular changes of billboard telling us that yet another government quango’s taken over the sorry mess.

I’m pretty sure that not one of you have enjoyed the decency of a reply.

Well, Jemma has sent me a couple of links that may go part way to explaining why everything’s gone deathly quiet there.

Firstly, a couple of weeks ago, Property News announced that the Homes and Communities Agency is scrapping the capital’s public-private partnership aiming to build new housing in the key worker and affordable sector. Major changes in contracts with sundry developers is pretty much across the board, but First Base, who was promising such marvels for East Greenwich, is having its contract terminated entirely. Apparently First Base are said to be “very disappointed” – though of course they won’t be out of pocket as the HCA has underwritten the developers’ pre-development costs. Great. So it’s just us getting zero out of that particular fiasco.

It’s interesting to note that there’s a comment below the feature that seems quietly pleased as it points out that the ‘affordable’ housing market’s rotten anyway.

The second feature, in Regeneration and Renewal is subscriber-protected and I can’t reproduce in full what it says. If you’re really interested, you could take advantage of the free 30-day trial (I mean – when else are you likely to want to use it – and who knows – you might actually love it and end up a loyal reader…) but what it says in a nutshell is that the site, along with six others across London, will be ‘re-tendered,’ thanks to ”market conditions,” giving “selected developers fast-track access to housing-led public development projects” (whatever that means.)

I don’t know if this is a sensible decision or not for the long-term – it’s possible that re-tendering is the best idea given what’s going on, but for anyone who was hoping to see a) regeneration in East Greenwich b) a new swimming pool c) a new library, d) new affordable homes, get whistling now.

I think what annoys me most is that NO ONE has kept any of us in the loop about this. Jemma found this by accident, and kindly sent it to me. It’s clear the council – and the government – had no intentions of telling anyone.

One good thing. If you go past there at the moment someone (I’m assuming guerrilla gardeners, huzzah!) has tilled the soil in the giant tubs just outside, where the trees are, and is now planting it up with what looks like cuttings from their garden. At least someone gives a damn…

Walking Home

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
Crane Street – pretty by day – okay by night?
Aine asks:

“I’m moving to East Greenwich soon (Pelton Road) and was wondering if it’s safe for a girl to walk or cycle on her own back from working in East London? Are the foot tunnel and Crane Street ok at night/commuter hours?”

The Phantom replies:

Well, nowhere’s totally safe – but I’d say that, during ‘commuter hours,’ especially, there’s really no issue at all with either the foot tunnel or Crane Street. Until recently there were lift attendants in the foot tunnel (when the lift was actually working.) There won’t be any once it’s been ‘upgraded’ though they promise Fort Knox-level CCTV. I guess the question will be if anyone’s actually watching it late at night. But during ‘commuter hours’ the tunnel’s very busy – your worst threat will be naughty non-dismounting cyclists whizzing past you.

I will be happier all-round once the hoardings around the Cutty Sark/new pier/tunnel works are gone and there are fewer places for generic bad people to hang around – but really, I think it’s never been safer round there – especially with the Brewery open and porters at the gates either end of the ORNC.

Crane Street is well-lit – and with its couple of pubs, there are usually people around – I don’t really see much (or indeed anything) in the way of trouble – you’d be worse off in the centre of town late on a Friday or Saturday night (I’ve never forgotten the woman who got hit by a bottle by a drunk who was actually aiming at his ‘mate’ ). People spill out onto the pavement around the Trafalgar Tavern of a sunny evening, and even in the winter there’s ‘stuff’ going on, with the university and sundry events.

Very late at night, you might choose to be more careful – as as one might anywhere late at night on one’s own. And of course in the depths of winter it gets a bit more lonely than in the summer when the evenings are light and there are plenty of people about.

I guess the bit just by the power station might be thought of as a potential hazard – but it’s not much – the Cutty Sark pub and the Thames path attract plenty of people.

IMHO there’s really no problem if you use a bit of common sense – but others here might have cautionary tales.


Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Here’s a poser, folks. When you get an email from anyone at Greenwich Council, it comes pre-loaded with the following disclaimer, no matter how inoffensive the content of the missive concerned:

This message is for the named person’s use only. It may contain confidential, proprietary or legally privileged information. No confidentiality or privilege is waived or lost by any mistransmission. If you receive this message in error, please immediately delete it and all copies of it from your system, destroy any hard copies of it and notify the sender. You must not, directly or indirectly, use, disclose, distribute, print, or copy any part of this message if you are not the intended recipient. Greenwich Council reserves the right to monitor all e-mail communications through its networks, in accordance with legislation.

Greenwich Council has scanned this e-mail for viruses but does not accept any responsibility once this e-mail has been transmitted. You should scan attachments (if any) for viruses.
Greenwich Council can be contacted by telephone on +44 (0) 20 8854 8888

Now, of course this isn’t just Greenwich Council. It’s increasingly tagged onto pretty much any form of electronic mail, mainly from companies who, if they had nothing to hide, might not consider it worth their while to do so.

So. My question is this. Since this message has been tacked onto the end of the email, and the agreement of the person to whom it is addressed to enter into such an arrangement has not been either sought or obtained, just how much clout does it have? After all, the terms of reading this email have not been agreed before the addressee has read them, so why should they take any notice of them? Why shouldn’t they just pass on the contents if they feel they are relevant?

I would be grateful for opinions – both professional and lay – on this increasingly invasive piece of legal add-on to the humble email format.

Under Construction

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

People who use Blogger may or may not be aware that the very, very few of us who use it via FTP rather than just as straight-ahead blog software are just about to get chucked off, as part of Blogger’s tidying-up programme. We have until the beginning of May to pack our cyber belongings into a red spotty handkerchief on a stick and head off into the sunset.

The Phantom Webmaster and I have been trying to work out a way we can shift everything – blog, archives, other pages and comments – somewhere new without losing too much stuff. It’s a huge job – there are currently over 1600 posts on the main page alone, and it will require much doffing of the tricorn, major sucking-up and Chinese restaurant meals for TPW in the months to come.

Over the next few days, we (actually I say ‘we’ in the sense that of ‘The Phantom Webmaster’) will be testing out pages and transfers. It’s entirely possible stuff will be going awry – and we’re not quite sure how awry that will be. It could be comments, posts, archives, or, if I’m really unlucky, the entire blog. Gulp.

TPW assures me it’s all backed up, but – well, I may have my Phantom knickers down for a few days. Expect site-weirdness.

BTW don’t panic if you’re with Blogger and you think you might get chucked out. If you publish via FTP you’ll know, and you will have been aware of the issue for a long time.