FromTheMurkyDepths

Housing and Development in London

Charlton, Greenwich

Greenwich Peninsula: Linking the old with the new

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Thousands of new residents are set to move into the many new developments across the south of the Greenwich Peninsula. Most of these new builds are now almost complete with occupation beginning within months.

My last post covered the many new developments at the southern edge of the Peninsula, and whilst there I also looked at the links between the new developments and the older, more established parts of town. I walked between the new developments at Greenwich Millenium Village to Southeastern’s Westcombe Park railway station – which is seeing high increases in passenger numbers, averaging about 6% per annum. Aside from developments now completing at GMV, additional blocks are due to start construction soon just to the south, which will be located closer to shops, stations and bus routes. Over the road from GMV, a 2000 capacity school is planned with minimal car parking and a planned catchment area stretching to Woolwich and Thamesmead.

The image below shows some detail of GMV – the sections in blue are almost complete. Sections in orange are now being sold and construction should begin imminently. The areas on the left are to the south with the Thames shown on the right:

GMV site plan

Many more homes to come

For new residents, better links south will be important. Many will hopefully head south to reach the many shops, restaurants and pubs in East Greenwich and give them greater custom. There’s also the new leisure centre and library nearby which is due to open very shortly at ‘Greenwich Square’. And then there’s the station of course to the south. It’s closer to the new flats than North Greenwich tube, so a walk to the station will be a likely route for a sizable number of people. Below is an aerial map showing how much closer the train station is.

New flats closer to Southeastern stations

New flats are located close to Southeastern station

Many expect the vast majority of newcomers to use the tube. That may be the case initially, but in time I’m not so sure. If residents work in the City then the train is quicker, with Cannon Street about 15 minutes away from Westcombe Park station. Frequencies are good too with a train every 10 minutes at most times, and it’s cheaper. But getting to the station and the facilities in East Greenwich is far from a pleasant walk. It starts well. Paths and dedicated cycle lanes directly beside the new developments are very good. These date from the original network installed for the millenium celebrations.

The first problems occur at the roundabout where Bugsby’s Way meets Peartree Way. The roundabout is huge. Greenwich Council have then lined some approaches with loads of bloody guardrails. This forces a pretty long detour for pedestrians, as they are blocked from directly crossing over, as seen below. The guardrails are, as usual in Greenwich borough, cheap and ugly, and damage is seen at various points.

Very poor for pedestrians

Very poor for pedestrians

Heading south and the junction by Sainsbury’s presents yet more guard railing forcing pedestrians on a detour if they want to cross. Cars rule here.

The other side of this street sees a similar situation with pedestrians forced 10 metres away from the roadside into a detour, as the area beside the road where pavement would be expected is instead given over to greenery.

Pedestrians are an afterthought, forced to-and-fro from the adjacent road by guardrails, raised planters and landscaping designed to push them away. And the constant back and forth makes working out the route ahead difficult. Legibility is no consideration.

If you didn’t know better it looks as though you’re reaching a dead end (see below pic). Approaching here you would have no idea if you can continue walking.

So people look to cross. But this means going towards the busier Sainsbury’s car park entrance roads rather than sleepy Horn Lane. Residents will eventually work it out if they’re not completely put off walking this way, but irregular visitors may wonder where to go. Legible it ain’t.

Pavement seems to end. Can I continue? Yes, but I'm forced the long way round.

Pavement seems to end. Does it continue ahead? Yes, but you have to walk to the end to find out

Just past this area, where pedestrians are forced away from a direct route south, from the road we can see below that the path could have continued straight on instead of being grassed over.

Greenwich paving 2

Millions have gone to Greenwich council from nearby developments. None has improved this walk. Directly by this spot an Ikea is to be built, along with more developments. Will any of that improve the experience of pedestrians as developers give money to Greenwich Council? Why not pave this stretch of greenery to make the walk quicker and easier?

The other side of the patch of grass above is where pedestrians are forced away from the road:

Why spend a couple of grand ordering and installing thse railings? Anyone?

Why spend a couple of grand ordering and installing these railings?

Other side of diversion. More pointless guard rail

Other side of diversion which forces pedestrians away from direct route. More pointless guard rail

After this little detour is the Blackwall approach flyover. One of the grimmest spots in south east London. It seems to perennially be on the list for imminent improvements and then put back. The most recent I heard was 2017 when a cycle highway is due to arrive. Here it is in all it’s glory:

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Pedestrians are forced on more detours here which hampered progress. TfL may be in charge of this section of road below the flyover, but if that’s the case then Greenwich council may still be to blame for this mess. TfL have removed much guardrailing on their road network and encourage its removal in street management guidance to councils. It is often only retained if the local authority insists. Its retention here could be due to this. Compare this to Bow flyover. Though TfL’s work has caused numerous problems for cyclists there, the general appearance and pedestrian experience is far better. No guardrails, decent paving and a bit of greenery has been introduced.

bow flyover 2

Over in Greenwich and this off-putting path below is on one side of the roundabout. Again clutter obscures the path ahead. This is not enticing or inviting. Open up the space, make it legible and clear what lies ahead. Signage should also be much better.

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The annoying thing about this whole walk (which is only about 10 minutes) is that it’s a very direct route made unnecessarily difficult and obstructive on foot and I wouldn’t like to try it on a bike. Yet despite this grim walk and the constant diversions, with pedestrians seen as an inconvenient problem, it’s still quicker than heading to north Greenwich station.

I’m not saying most newcomers will use the train or head to east Greenwich’s shops at first. They’ll probably know all about the tube and go to eat elsewhere. But they will begin to hear about local good little independent places to eat nearby, want to visit the leisure centre and use the rail service, amongst other things.

Currently the walk is made as unpleasant as possible so some won’t bother, or they’ll possibly get in a car. And that’s a big failure of street design – if many newcomers don’t feel the walk is pleasant or safe they won’t frequent local businesses. With a modest sum of cash and ditching dated Highway’s thinking of cajoling pedestrians inconveniently on twisting routes, Greenwich council could improve this substantially.

This is just one of the two routes to East Greenwich from the Peninsula away from the riverside path. The other is via Blackwall Lane, which is barely any better and another area where roads dominate and pedestrians are forced all over the place by unfriendly measures:

Come on now. Really?

Even the grass needs guardrail here for some reason

A new Ibis hotel has just begun construction nearby and visitors will almost certainly be walking under the Blackwall approach, and they’ll be far from alone in doing so, particularly as developments like Enderby Wharf finishes. It’s a real shame to see so many large developments nearing completion across a wide area and knowing millions have flowed in from Section 106 payments that should have funded improvements, and yet seeing nothing done.

I’ve started a flickr account related to the blog. There’s so many design flaws and aesthetic horrors I’d like to include but I just can’t cover all of them in a post. Similarly, there’s too many shots of new developments to include in most posts so I thought it would be useful to put them on Flickr so a wider range can be seen.

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4 Comments

  1. Without a lot of detail – everyone seems to agree that the roundabout and the area needs a redesign but fragmentation of ownership and TfL’s priorities seem to make it difficult. It is also frequently not easy for residents to engage with TfL. I was always told – by people outside of the various authorities – that the addition of Peartree Way onto the roundabout in the late 1990s has caused many of the current problems.
    When I was first involved around 2003?? 2004?? – and my memory is a bit hazy on some of it – TfL had designated a circuitous pedestrian route which ran through the centre of the roundabout and erected barriers to stop people doing anything different. People who wanted to get to Sainsburys were climbing over the barriers on the northern slips – lifting over parcels and babies. One particular resident (nameless of course) was coming out with bolt cutters in the early hours. I had the impression then that it was always TfL who replaced the barriers he had cut down – but I may be wrong. TfL’s concern, I was told, was to stop vehicles coming off the motorway on one slip and returning to it on the another – and that the whole barrier system had been set up to prevent this. The ones around the centre were to protect workers who might have to work in the central island. I was told that only after a lot of pressure did TfL agreed to put in the pedestrian crossing now in place across the northern slips to allow pedestrian access to Sainsburys.
    I am only going on about all this because I think it illustrates some of the problems with the roundabout and the area around it – and the different priorities of the various authorities involved – not to mention those of residents. As a small codicil, some years later, thieves climbed over the central barriers and pulled newly laid cable out of the ground.

  2. The bit above is of course about the Woolwich Road roundabout – and you will be relieved to know I am not going to add in a lot about the rest of the route and the big Bugsbys/Millennium Way roundabout (although I could). There is however another lot of complicated ownership and responsibility issues around the whole area you have been walking.

    • You should – in many ways that’s the more intriguing bit. Installed around the same time as Peninsula roads so late 90s? If so its odd how they got so much right by GMV but so wrong just south, despite knowing housing would extend that way.

  3. James B

    The roundabout and flyover completely blight the area. Maybe both should just be demolished!

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