A renewed push to sell-off a small sliver of park on Greenwich Peninsula has been dumped after more than 100 residents expressed opposition to the plans, the council has announced.
Greenwich Council released a short statement on Monday afternoon revealing they had back-flipped on attempts to sell the Rose Garden, a small park area on Blackwall Lane.
The Greenwich Greens and Conservative parties, as well as multiple Labour members, were among those who had condemned the council’s proposal. Greenwich and Woolwich MP Matthew Pennycook also wrote that he objected “in the strongest terms” to the sale.
In their short statement released on Monday afternoon, the authority said it would abandon plans to sell-off the land, revealing that it had been sized up for a potential affordable housing project.
"In response to the consultation the council received over 100 representations from residents opposing the disposal of the land,” the authority said.
“The decision to not proceed with this disposal comes at a time when the council is experiencing significant housing pressure, and the council will be continuing to explore what other opportunities there are in the borough to address the housing needs of its residents.”
The Greenwich Tories had planned to move a motion at Wednesday’s full meeting of council demanding “a full explanation” into why the authority was attempting to sell the land.
Mr Pennycook, the shadow minister for climate change who had previously called on the council to ditch the proposal, tweeted it was “the right decision”.
Labour Councillor for Peninsula ward, Chris Lloyd, had steadfastly opposed the move and even printed off more than 60 resident objections to submit to the council.
Following the decision, he tweeted that he was “delighted” at the news.
“I am so grateful to all the local residents and groups that have supported this cause,” he said.
Plans to host ‘London’s biggest’ Euro 2020 fanzone in the borough of Greenwich are set to be decided on Wednesday.
Councillors will consider whether to approve the Gr eater London’s Authority’s application, which would see 25.8 hectares of Greenwich Park transformed into a “football festival” during the 2020 European Football Championship.
It’s one of a number of fan zones proposed by the authority across the city, as London ramps up preparations for the quadrennial tournament.
Greenwich’s planning committee is required to sign off on the proposal for it to proceed.
According to a planning statement submitted on behalf of the GLA, the Greenwich Park Fan Zone will provide “a family focused” venue with huge broadcast screens, entertainment and food.
The zone could host up to 12 match days across the month-long event, which is set to run from June to July.
The application lodged would see a range of work undertaken to make the park football festival friendly; including the erection of a main stage, food and beverage vans, cabins and temporary barriers and security fencing.
The application will be decided at Greenwich’s 12 February planning committee meeting.
Consultation has started on plans which could see more than 15,000 new homes and 8,000 businesses built across two south-east London boroughs in the coming decades.
Public comments are wanted on the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Area of Opportunity, with the feedback to help shape future developments in the area.
The comments will form part of a long-term planning and framework document, which will potentially be adopted by summer 2020.
Stretching across the London Boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley, the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood area is one of the largest of the 38 sites identified as being suitable for large scale development in the Mayor’s 2015 London Plan.
The Mayor of London, in partnership with Transport for London (TfL), Royal Borough of Greenwich and London Borough of Bexley are working together to produce the plan.
Draft proposals state the area could potentially deliver 15,500 new and affordable homes and 8,000 jobs – while ensuring the area “remains a mixed and inclusive place” – by 2041.
Seven areas compete to be named London Borough of Culture
Seven London boroughs are to present their bids to be named London Borough of Culture, City Hall have revealed.
Croydon, Greenwich, Hounslow, Lewisham, Haringey, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Sutton are competing to take on the role in 2021 and 2023.
The two winning boroughs will each be awarded £1.35m to deliver a programme events during the year which "places culture at the heart of their communities" and celebrates "the unique character of local people and place".
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the scheme had been created "to give Londoners a chance to create and enjoy world-class culture on their doorstep".
Waltham Forest was the first winner, being named the London Borough of Culture for 2019, while Brent will take over the mantle next year.
Opponents of the Silvertown Tunnel have slammed the decision to proceed with the controversial project, which will see work on the cross-river development start next year.
Transport for London officially announced yesterday the award of the contract to Riverlinx Consortium to design, build, finance and maintain the £1bn tunnel connecting Royal Docks and Greenwich.
However, the signing of the contract, just a month after a plea from Greenwich council to London Mayor Sadiq Khan for the project to be stalled, was met with criticism by various opponents of the long-running saga.
“In his letter to us last week the Mayor said ‘I am committed to reducing car dominance, improving air quality and addressing climate change’,” said Victoria Rance on behalf of the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition, following the announcement.
“This decision manifestly goes against all these commitments. He makes much of these priorities but the only infrastructure legacy he is leaving for his four year term as Mayor is an outdated climate-wrecking toxic tunnel which locks the United Kingdom’s capital city into high carbon emissions for decades.”
Ms Rance added the the consideration of other options to aid travel and traffic was “inadequate and outdated".
Stuart Harvey, director of Major Projects at Transport for London, said the tunnel would provide important new routes across the Thames for east London.
“Following detailed discussions, we have now completed the contract for the Riverlinx Consortium to design, build, finance and maintain the Silvertown Tunnel,” he said.
"Once open in 2025, the tunnel will provide new cross-river bus routes in east London and during its construction we will work tirelessly to ensure that any disruption to local residents or businesses is kept to an absolute minimum.”
The future of a heavily in-demand food bank remains unclear despite Greenwich Council easing back from deadline to move facilities by December.
The charity, based at a distribution centre in Eltham, has handed out more than 7,000 food packages to desperate residents in the last year.
However, the centre – set up with rooms stocked with long-life food and other goods organised by dedicated volunteers – faces closure as the council looks to build new homes.
The charity was initially served a “notice to quit” by December, having turned down one offer form the council to move to a premises understood to be in Thamesmead.
Uprooting workers and the focal point of the charity would have resulted in losing volunteers and cast uncertainty on the future of the service.
A move as far as Thamesmead would seriously challenge the charity as many volunteers are based in the west of the borough.
A spokesman for the council has now confirmed the charity will be able to stay until the new year.
Councillor Matt Hartley, Leader of Greenwich Conservatives, said: “The council needs to do all it can to help the food bank find an alternative site – and hold off until this is sorted. I would also hope the council will support them in the logistics of the move, which are considerable.”
Residents back campaign to save threatened kids' charity
In under seven days, nearly 2,500 people have signed a petition calling for the centre to be saved.
One of the latest signatures is former director of the National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries, Glenys Carter MBE.
She wrote: “It is a superb example of a valued community resource that should be maintained and strengthened.
“We are all aware of the financial pressures experienced by local councils; in all decisions, exceptions can be made and I would sincerely ask the council to reconsider its decision to force the closure of this first class resource.”
Hundreds of new homes on scrub land to be signed off
One household has been waiting for a home in Greenwich for 47 years, it can be revealed.
It comes as an investigation by the Local Democracy Service found that more than 2,000 people have been on the council’s waiting list for a decade or more.
Figures revealed through a Freedom of Information act request show that 60% of the register – 7,275 households – have been on there for three years or more.
In a borough where there are 19,000 families waiting for a home, 18% of them have been on the list for a decade or more, whilst 20% have been on there for at least five years.
The council runs a choice-based lettings system, meaning applicants bid and decide what property is suitable for them.
Asked for the longest period somebody has been on the waiting list, the council admitted: “Currently the longest registered application has been registered for 47 years 4 months.”
Figures revealed to the Local Democracy Service show the average wait for a two bed home in the borough verges into just over two and a half years.
Homeless families waited an average of 976 days for a two bed home last year, a big improvement on the wait faced in 2017/18 of 2,285 days, but still up on 2016/17’s figure of 695.
Currently, homeless households face a four and a half year wait if they are looking for a four-bed home.
Housing has been prioritised by the council since last year’s local election, with the authority preparing to embark on the biggest house building scheme “in a generation”.
The council is spending nearly £2m more on homelessness than it was in 2015 and has borrowed millions to start building 750 new builds.
Responding to the figures, cabinet member for housing, Chris Kirby, said: “There are more people looking for council and housing association homes in Royal Greenwich than there are properties available, and as a result the Council has to allocate homes to people who are most in need.
“When a person is placed on the housing list in Royal Greenwich, based on our allocation policy they will be put into one of four bands – A, B1, B2 and C.
“The majority of housing applicants sit within band C with no priority, so this will naturally lead to a longer waiting time for most people on the list.
“The particular applicant who has been waiting for 47 years, is in band C and was made an offer in 2012, which they refused.”
Councillors have performed a u-turn on plans to scrap a scheme giving vulnerable residents cash in emergencies.
Greenwich Council’s cabinet decided last night to reinstate the emergency support scheme, with it originally set to be written out of this year’s budget as the cash-strapped council works to balance its books.
The decision to remove the scheme had disappointed councillors, with the council leader telling a cabinet meeting last week that “nobody gets into politics to take money away” from Greenwich’s poorest residents.
However, a last-minute change due to the council getting more cash in from business rates will see funds pumped into supporting the service.
From an extra £2m, leader Dan Thorpe and co decided last night to put £750,000 into the scheme, and £1.25m towards overspent budgets.
Community support awards are usually the provision of basic household items, new white goods, beds/bedding and furniture, rent deposits, and rent in advance.
According to council documents: “Payments have increased each month during Q3, with £13,500 paid out in December on emergency support grants alone. These are to some of the most vulnerable people in our borough.”
Speaking on Twitter, Mr Thorpe said: “After nine years of sustained and constant Tory austerity, we’re at the bone. £1,400 per household less than in 2010. We’ve used the one-off resources to save this scheme for another year and will do all we can to keep it going.”
The council’s budget will be approved at a meeting tonight which is expected to tell officers to find £2m in backroom cuts.
Mr Thorpe said it had been "the most challenging set of finances that I can ever remember."
Chief vows 'biggest house building programme for a generation'
Greenwich Council is set to borrow £142m to build hundreds of council homes in a bid to ease the housing crisis.
The cash will be on top of the £32m already being handed out by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and money already earmarked for housing – bringing the council’s kitty for new builds up to £240m.
There are 984 homeless households in temporary accommodation in Greenwich, the highest number for 10 years.
Council leader Dan Thorpe said last night: “We’ve responded to the lifting of the housing revenue cap and plan to borrow over £140 million to deliver the social housing our communities so desperately need.
"I’m determined to deliver the biggest council house building programme across Greenwich for a generation. Over £200 million of resources will be needed but we are taking the steps we need to deliver.”
The council has plans for nearly 770 new council homes, all starting to be built by 2022.
According to new council documents, five sites have been earmarked for the first round of building.
Well Hall Road, The Under Wood, Simba House in Artillery Place, Southsprings and Sam Manners House have all been touted for new council homes.
Greenwich Council upset neighbours last year when it first decided to close the sheltered housing unit at Sam Manners House.
Residents in Tuskar Street said they were not consulted on the council’s proposals to decommission Sam Manners House in place of council homes.
There are currently 17,000 people waiting for a home in the borough and council officers say Sam Manners House is becoming harder to let and would be too costly to adapt.
Councillors will sign off on the new funding at a cabinet meeting on 20 February.
Politicians to scrutinise £1.3m spend on council magazine
Greenwich Council has been told to rethink plans to spend £1.3m on keeping its town hall magazine running for another four years.
Bosses at the council approved new printing and distributing contracts for the Greenwich Info earlier this month.
The fortnightly publication is delivered to the majority of households in the borough, but new contracts totalling £1.3m to keep it running were ‘called-in’ by the opposition.
Call-ins are rare town hall moves that have decisions brought back for further scrutiny.
Matt Hartley, the leader of Greenwich Conservatives, said Greenwich Info was an outdated way of getting in touch with residents – and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“It’s just dull”, Cllr Hartley said at a special scrutiny meeting last night. “The main reason for this call in is that far from being an effective means of communication, it is as dull as dishwater.
“This is a waste of resources, it will have an adverse impact on media outlets and it is ineffective and inefficient at communicating the right information to the right people.”
The Tory leader said claims the authority was offsetting its spending with advertising cash were debatable as council departments were placing ads – meaning it was moving taxpayers’ money “from one pot to another” and calling it revenue.
Council boss Katrina Stuart defended claims the magazine competed for advertising with local papers such as News Shopper or Greenwich Mercury, saying the Info attracted different markets.
She said: “The need to communicate with residents has never been stronger.
“We can print it so long as it is not considered a newspaper – by necessity it has to be very dry as it is purely factual information that can be published.
“There is no other paper that is widely available. It is important there is borough wide access to jobs and housing and statutory notices.”
However, the panel agreed there may be a more cost effective method to target residents who want the Info – admitting that they themselves had not been getting a copy.
More babies in Greenwich being taken into care
Local Democracy Reporting Service
Almost 60 babies have been taken into care through court orders in Greenwich in the past decade.
A freedom of information request has revealed that, since 2008, 59 babies have been subject to a section 31 care proceeding within a week of their birth.
A S31 is a court order allowing children to be taken from their parents and placed into the care of the local authority – Greenwich Council.
Responsibility is split between the council and the baby’s family.
Orders such as these are only made if a court is satisfied the baby could come into harm or potential harm if the child remained solely with its parents.
In the last year there has been an increase in the number of these orders being carried out, with 10 in total made in 2017/18, the highest annual number in the past decade.