Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

Flatpacks and Fisticuffs

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

If you don’t know where this is, it’s probably not a surprise. It’s possibly the most secret ‘eco park’ Greenwich has. I wrote about it back in 2007 when it was still relatively young; it’s filled out a little now, but not for much longer if Bad People have their way.

When I heard Sainsburys were moving, I was fed up on a personal level – where I currently walk to the supermarket in future it’s a bus, a drive or a long walk with heavy shopping.

It annoyed me that they were definitely not going to let the space out to a food retailer – for obvious reasons, of course, but still very irritating. Selfishly, I wanted a retailer there that I’d actually use on a regular basis.

Of course I’m able-bodied and can easily shift my sorry carcass over to the new place if I have to (though actually it will probably prove to be a boost for all the smaller places, as frankly I’ll be going there in future, which I guess I should have done anyway. Sainsburys are showing me no loyalty, so I’ll take my own elsewhere) but for anyone with mobility issues, it’s going to be a (literal) pain.

But I’d made my peace with that. I’ll just go to the smaller places. It’s not the end of the world. And if Sainsburys are refusing to have a food retailer there, I do accept that someone else will fill the gap.

But IKEA? The place that creates traffic chaos wherever it is even when it’s out of town? When we already have a flyover/roundabout so congested it creates angry people on a daily basis and sprouts ghost bikes like flowers? It’s already not safe. It’s already a nightmare to go round. I’ve had an accident there myself – not life-threatening but definitely car-threatening.

I guess I should say I don’t have anything intrinsically bad to say about IKEA over any other multinational blandity. I don’t shop there myself but then I don’t shop at a lot of sheds. But they are infamous for their queues and to site a store within yards of a traffic blackspot (the Blackwall Tunnel takes centre stage in pretty much every traffic report on every radio station every day…) is just asking for trouble.

Their argument to a council which is either gullible beyond measure, greedy beyond measure or corrupt beyond measure is the most disingenuous you can imagine. People will, apparently, take public transport to the superstore, then pay to have it all delivered to them.

Yeah, right. So someone with a car is going to say one Saturday morning: ‘You know what? I think I’ll take three buses to IKEA today, pick out a flat pack wardrobe I could get in the back of the Maestro I’m leaving behind, pay thirty five quid to have it delivered in two weeks’s time, enjoy a slap up meatball feast then take three buses home again.”

And yet outgoing Council Leader Chris Roberts and his cohorts thought that was a viable argument. They have approved a scheme to put a major traffic hazard next to a major traffic blackspot.

It’s nuts. The amount of car-parking available, even when they’ve bulldozed the Micro Eco Park above (which IKEA apparently say is ‘regrettable’ – big bloomin’ deal), is tiny. The lorries delivering to the shop alone will clog up the roads and if you get angry people on that roundabout now imagine the fisticuffs every week once IKEA arrive.

Of course they’ll argue it’s nothing to do with them. All their customers came by bike.

You may disagree with me, think it’s a great idea and that flattening the park is just a sign of Progress.

But if you don’t there’s a group starting up saying No to IKEA with petitions and an event on 26th April in the Eco Park behind Sainsburys. There’s an open letter I was sent in PDF form but I’m useless at hosting PDFs so it’s probably best just to go to their Facebook page. Boris still has to ratify Greenwich Council’s decision – so there’s a slim (very slim, frankly given his track record…) chance that if there’s enough local opposition, it will get refused yet.

Greenwich Theatre at Risk

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Folks – it’s been a few days – sorry – ridiculous amounts on the Phantom plate just now. But I think it’s about time we started chewing on a few rumours that have been circulating and while I’m not panicking just yet, the ball should at least get rolling in our minds.

I’ve been hearing rumours at Phantom towers – slips and drips of information that I think you should know and we should discuss. This is going to be long post – sorry – but it all needs to come out and I won’t be able to rest until I’ve shared my fears.

Before I even get started on Greenwich Council’s rather strange new policies re. the arts I want to take you back – as I have done several times on this blog, to the late 1960s early 1970s when Greenwich was in turmoil. There was serious risk of a massive ring-road type motorway-thing being driven through the town centre as part of ‘modernisation’ plans, which would have seen off pretty much all of our historic town. However little we have left now, believe me there would have been less had the good burghers of Greenwich not fought tooth and claw against wholesale destruction.

At the same time other doughty Greenwichians (many of whom I am sure were the same guys we need to thank for saving the town centre…) were busy saving Greenwich Theatre. They held old time music halls, raffles, fund-raisers, dances – whatever – and didn’t just save the theatre they rebuilt it, then turned it into a performance space that attracted not just heavy-hitter actor and producers, but massive hitters.

We have the cuts of the 80s to thank for the loss of a West End class theatre in Greenwich, but despite a hiatus a few years ago when the place was temporarily closed, it has, so far managed to survive. The panto, as everyone who reads this blog will know, is a superb, but superb night out and the rest of the year there is a programme which while not always to my personal taste (though I do go, of course) continues to keep the theatre alive.

The Council are currently bigging-up as a good thing their plans to turn the beautiful Borough Hall (we’ll get onto that one in a minute) into a new-fangled ‘arts hub’. For this read ‘All Things to All Men and Nothing to Anyone.’ They’re planning to dump all their cash into one building and make all the arts groups work out of that. Believe me no one benefits from a multi-purpose space – it’s fit for no one.

My immediate thought on this was – what happens to the theatre? The one that the people of Greenwich built, not the council?

Currently we don’t know, but that’s where the rumours have been trickling my way, from various sources, none of them certain, but all of them worrying.

Apparently there’s been a consultation going on. I didn’t know about this, maybe it’s common knowledge, I’ve certainly been busy recently and things have been slipping by. Let’s assume I’ve been asleep.

The consultation has been thinking about what to do with Greenwich Theatre and a few possiblities have emerged.

OPTION ONE: To invest in both Borough Hall and Greenwich Theatre, work on the fabric of the building, improve front of house and generally make it all better. Of course this would be fantastic, but, call me a cynical Phantom but I’m not definitely counting on this one happening…

OPTION TWO: To sell both the Borough Hall and Greenwich Theatre on the open market and build a new-multi-purpose arts centre.

I will fight this tooth and boot. Both these assets belong to the people of Greenwich and it is not for an individual council to make a decision over a long-term asset. The Theatre, especially, would not exist but for the people of Greenwich. It is not theirs to sell.

I went to a class at GDA the other day and it was a pleasure – a superb floor, unencumbered by dents, nicks or spills because it is a dedicated dance space. Once a space starts to have to be ‘multipurpose’ it starts being not good for anything.

OPTION THREE: Sell Borough Hall and move GDA into a new dance space on the roof of Greenwich Theatre. The words ‘quart’ and ‘pint pot’ spring to mind. A ridiculous idea. The loss of such an asset is extremely short-termist.

OPTION FOUR: Sell Greenwich Theatre and move everything into Borough Hall. This seems to be what they’re planning to do – and trying, through Greenwich Time etc. to make it look like a good thing.

I repeat – if not actually, morally Greenwich Theatre is not the council’s to sell. It belongs to the people who saved it. We must not lose this facility.

I walked past the ‘Heart of East Greenwich’ the other day with a friend who was asking what would happen to the swimming pool at the Arches – I told her that we would be swapping two specialist swimming pools for one general pool with two shallow ends and no diving. We are actually going backwards with our sports facilities. We cannot allow this to happen with our arts too.

But the rumours continue – and not just rumours either. How about this planning application the council is applying to itself for? To add a Barratt-Homes-style extra storey on the top of Borough Hall? No drawings available (oddly… I’m sure they’d have asked anyone else applying for planning permission for a few elevations…) – but this is a beautiful late-art-deco building, balanced and fine. What the hell are they planning to do?

Worry, good citizens of Greenwich. Worry.

IKEA Consultation Reminder

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Quick reminder that IKEA are holding a consultation about its proposals to open a branch where the Sainsburys is on the peninsula.

It’s at the Forum tomorrow, Sat 9th November 2013

12.00pm- 7.00pm

If you’re thinking of going, here are some thoughts I (and others) had about it when I first heard of the project.

Dear Me…

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Here’s an interesting one.

It’s the Council applying to itself for planning permission for a bunch of teeny-tiny houses in the ex-railway space behind the Royal Hill Lovelies (Drings, Cheesboard, Creaky Shed etc.) This is not being widely publicised – Diana who told me about this can see the site from her window and wasn’t given any notice.

For years, the site’s been used as a car park for the police station. but the council have booted out the police out the fuzzies and have applied (to themselves) for permission to build 2×4-bed semi detached, 1×3 bed house, 1×1-bed flat and ‘associated car and cycle parking’.

The fear is that they will grant the permission to themselves, then sell it on to someone else who will re-apply, possibly with some kind of ‘minor alterations’ such as we had with Lovells Wharf.

If my link above doesn’t open, the application number is 13/2723/F.

Of course a vailuable parcel of land like that isn’t going to lie fallow for long, but the sheer number of pixie-sized houses seems a bit worrying. I guess a continuation of the Prior Street allotments is out of the question, houses are almost certainly what will go up – but they should at least be discussed openly.

Diana tells me speed is important- the consultation period is, as ever, short.

Here We Go Again…

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Something to remember about commercial developers/ big chains. THEY NEVER GIVE UP. They get their planning permission refused, they ignore it. They’ll get ordered to take down the offending article, they’ll try again. And again. And again.

So here we are, congratulating ourselves on victory over stopping the shocking Lovell’s Wharf contravention of rules, trying to almost double the capacity of planning permission under the guise of minor alteration and, while our backs are turned, an old sore futher into town begins to fester again.

Thank goodness Malcolm is more eagle-eyed than me. I actively looked at Greenwich Time’s applications this week and missed this – at the bottom of P23 (it only has 24 pages…)

Yet again, Frankie and Bennys are trying to plaster their ghastly illuminated signs (and non-illuminated) all over their hideous restaurant building, turning the classic Greenwich waterfront into the Blackpool illuminations.

These guys never stop. They figure that we will run out of heart to object before they run out of cash to keep reapplying.

IKEA on the Peninsula?

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

So this kicked off yesterday – the proposal by IKEA to move to the site Sainsburys is vacating /Comet has already vacated on the Peninsula. And it brings on much to think about.

To be honest I am really going to miss the fact that I can walk to Sainsburys at the moment. I understand commercially why Sainsburys are adamant that they’re not going to let a food retailer into their old spot, but it’s definitely less convenient for a very small bunch of people into which I fall, so hey, I’m not wild about it. At least their removal to Charlton will mean that I visit the indie shops more than I confess I do at the moment. I don’t want a twenty minute trudge each way just to get a few groceries and a Phantom cannot live by meatballs and strange Nordic preserves alone.

I’m not a huge fan of IKEA furniture – I’d always rather go down the secondhand route and get something that doesn’t look exactly the same as everyone else’s – but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a couple of Billys knocking around Phantom Towers.

But in classic NIMBY mode, do I really want one that close to me? I very very rarely visit IKEA – am trying without luck to remember last time I did. I’d rather have local shops that I might use more than once in a blue moon than the local roads clogged by people coming to a notorious traffic blackspot, but I realise that I’m just one Phantom and many people do like to go there.

And that could be an issue. The roads leading up to the Blackwall tunnel are already scarily busy and often jammed, especially around the flyover/roundabout. The idea of Saturday/Sunday traffic being even more full of angry people who have come for a nice day out at IKEA (I have only seen more ding-dongs in the local ASDA – how can so many angry people be in one place?) really worries me.

I’m not totally against one gigantic retailer taking the spot over any other one. It’s a commercial retail park, there will be commercial retailers in it. But I will be going to the open day hour and a half on Saturday the 9th November between 10 and 11.30am at the Forum and I will be asking the following questions. I would like you to ask some of your own.

  • Is the site actually big enough for an IKEA – and if not do they intend to make it two or even three storeys high? At the moment it’s low-rise – especially the Sainsburys, which did its best to be as unobtrusive as possible. I’d like to avoid a retail Manhattan if at all possible.
  • Is the car park big enough? It’s already a pig to get in and out of.
  • Can the roads around it, especially the roundabout under the flyover, cope? I have a horrid feeling not.
  • I assume the tellytubby Sainsburys will go. I seem to remember it only got planning permission because it was all eco (could be wrong there). Is there any sign at all that the IKEA store will be a) reusing materials they harvest from demolition and b) making any attempt to be eco themselves?
  • What will happen to the baby eco park at the back of Sainsburys? If you’re not sure what it is see here . I would like to see this little haven for wildlife, which was created as a Section 106, preserved.


But much to discuss here. What are your thoughts?

Why It’s Worth Making a Fuss

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

I am delighted to announce the happy outcome of a public outcry backed up by a bunch of councillors sticking their necks out, which for me is the reason why “we were angry but had no choice” is not an acceptable outcome of a planning meeting.

Remember the ghastly illuminated signs that Frankie and Bennys put up on their eaterie on the pier without permission, adding insult to injury on the horrid buildings that mar the classic Canaletto view? Much hoo-ha was made about it by The Greenwich Society and individuals (I like to think Phantophiles did our bit here too…) and the council planning department said ‘no’ to the grudging retrospective planning application, even though it was based on aesthetic grounds rather than the more easily-fought health & safety chestnut.

F&Bs ignored the ruling, then appealed but the Greenwich councillors, to their credit, held out.

F&Bs appealed again, this time to the Planning Inspectorate who, to be honest, don’t have a great track record in standing up for Greenwich’s interests.

But I am delighted to announce that they HAVE decided that “the signage is excessive and goes beyond what I consider to be reasonably needed to attract and direct people to the premises” and “detracts from the visual amenity of the area and in fact cause harm to the character and appearance of the Greenwich Park CA, the setting of the listed buildings and cause substantial harm to the Maritime Greenwich WHS.

On Tuesday the appeal was dismissed.

This, for me, brings up echoes of the issue we were discussing just a few days ago, where Beds & Bars didn’t bother to get planning permission to turn Greenwich Playhouse into Greenwich Flophouse (whilst wailing to the rooftops that they absolutely weren’t going to do that – how could we possibly think such evil of them?), cashing in on the Olympic bonanza then retrospectively applying for planning permission.

In the comments several councillors expressed their anger at Bed & Bars, but gave planning permission because they claimed they didn’t have any choice – it would only be appealed and turned over and cost the council money.

As Paul noted: “If you have “no choice” in these matters, there really isn’t any point in having a planning board, is there?”

But hey – today, let us celebrate small success. We can’t do anything about the dreary pier building or the so-so eateries inside it – but thanks to a lot of shouting and Greenwich councillors who had the guts to say ‘no’ – we at least don’t need to look at neon signs plonked in front of the Old Royal Naval College and Canaletto’s easel.

Unless, of course, F&Bs just ignore the ruling as per last time…

The British Maple

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Lovely, isn’t it. Shame it isn’t an oak.

Reading between the lines, it seems to me that the crime this beautiful Copper Maple tree that shades the garden at The British Oak has committed is that it isn’t – well, a British Oak. The landlord has applied for permission to fell it, claiming that “The foliage canopy covers the whole seating area of the garden allowing no light into it”. 

Thing is, judging from this photo, taken at 3.00pm last Monday afternoon, that just patently isn’t true. The seating area is clearly in plain sun. His other claim is that the tree attracts pigeons and squirrels, which upset the customers.

NEWSFLASH: Phantom Towers has a surfeit of pigeons and squirrels too, which is quite incredible, since I am not aware of a Copper Maple anywhere nearby.

Peter tells me that far from being ‘upset’, the customers he sees seem to enjoy the wildlife – and even feed them, which probably has rather more of an alluring effect than a tree.

The landlord intends to replace it with a ‘suitable specimen’ but, um, hang on, wouldn’t a sapling eventually have the same shady, pigeony, squirrel-magnet effect as a mature tree? And if he’s hoping to replace it with a British Oak sapling, he’s in trouble – they don’t exist (and the Oak varieties that do exist get BIIIIIIG).

It’s true that maintenance can be pricey – and the pruning that’s been done in the past has been of the somewhat crude variety, which makes it worse in the long run, but this is an important tree in a lovely garden that would be the poorer without it.

Indeed, Peter reckons it’s “one of the most significant trees in The Rectory Field Conservation area and has been loved by generations of users of the British Oak and is fully deserving of a Tree Preservation Order to protect it until a more sympathetic custodian takes over the Pub. This tree requires careful and responsible husbandry when it will continue to bring pleasure and be a valuable environmental asset. For many its loss would be a local tragedy.”

If you agree (or even if you don’t) by all means comment here, but though I will be delighted to know someone reads the blog I can’t guarantee that those comments will actually get to the person who can make a difference.

The email I gave out for Debi Rogers, the Tree Officer, is bouncing back, so my best suggestion for being able to comment is to go to the link at the top of the post and make a public comment there. The reference is 13/1006/TC British Oak, 109 Old Dover Road, SE38SU - and you don’t have long – you need to do it by Tuesday 21st. May 2013.

You could also write to her at:
Planning Department
5th Floor, Woolwich Centre
35 Wellington Street
SE18 6HQ

Everywhere I look we are losing our mature trees – mainly in streets and new developments, to be replaced by pathetic, weedy excuses for trees because they’re less bother. I still mourn the loss of the fabulous limes at what we must now call Greenwich Square. Greenwich – and the entire country is the poorer without them, and I believe that we have got to the stage where each individual needs to be fought for.

Planning #2

Friday, December 7th, 2012

I hand you over to Bob for some quite disturbing news on Lovells Wharf:

The developers of the site called Greenwich Wharves are proposing some substantial changes to
the development:

  • increasing the total square metres from 94,825 by 12,695 sq.m – anincrease of 30%
  •  increase the number of new homes from 667 to 911 – about 37% increase
  • change in the height of the buildings up to 13 storeys on the riverfront
  • reduction in the commercial and office accommodation – no details provided about what or how much is reduced

The commercial and office accommodation were an important factor in the consented plans. Before consent there had been an outrageous original proposal for very tall buildings. The developers now appear to be trying to claw back what they were originally refused.

There are consultation meetings on Tuesday 11th December from 5pm to 9pm, and on Wednesday 12th December from 2pm to 9pm, at Rothbury Hall on Azof Street. Locals have had brochures posted through their doors, but I don’t know how widely they’ve been distributed within the rest of Greenwich.

The changes that have been outlined increase the living density by 30% with concomitant increases in the height of the buildings, but reduce the infrastructure that was in the current proposal. They seem to be trying to stack as many people on top of each other as they can, without providing even the infrastructure that was supposed to support a smaller population.

The brochure gives no reasons at all for the proposed changes. One is therefore left to speculate that they are going to try and squeeze as much money out of the development as they can, while cynically avoiding their responsibilities to provide services and a quality environment.

This change therefore provides no benefits whatsoever to people who live here at the moment. If they stopped building today, it would be no loss to locals (apart from the small stretch of riverside that is still closed). Nothing in this proposed change gives us any reason to support it, and plenty of reasons to oppose it. So I hope people will go to the meetings and
make their feelings known to the developers and to the council who will be considering this application.

Actually, I have had a communication from what I believe to be the developers, London and Regional Properties, who now call Lovells ‘Greenwich Wharf’ (totally annihilating any sense of history) confirming the dates of the consultation:

Stream Arts, Rothbury Hall, Mauritius Road London SE10
Tuesday 11 December 17.00 – 21.00
Wednesday 12 December 14.00 – 21.00

Planning #1

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Consultation is open on that most depressing of things, the change of use from a good old fashioned pub to a two bed flat If the link for the planning application to turn the Morden Arms from public to private use doesn’t open, you can just go to Greenwich Council’s planning page and put ‘Morden Arms’ into the search.