FromTheMurkyDepths

Housing and Development in London

Charlton, Greenwich, Transport

Huge 1600+ place school at Greenwich Peninsula approved despite transport issues

St Mary Magdalene school

Greenwich council have approved plans for a large school on the Greenwich Peninsula at the junction of John Harrison and Millenium Way. The forthcoming St Mary Magdalene school will accommodate 1,646 pupils and approximately 200 staff with a 26 place nursery, a 420 place primary school, a 900 place secondary school and a 300 place 6th Form.

They’ll be only 14 car parking spaces. Normally this would be welcomed but at the Peninsula transport planning and provision can be sorely lacking. Unless large changes occur it will mean many staff and pupils travelling on buses which are often already beyond capacity, dropped off in cars congesting local roads, or walking from buses or trains at Maze Hill and Westcombe Park along unsafe paths with that lack suitable crossings. Some will come via tube but it’s likely most pupils will reside in Greenwich borough.

I wrote about the pedestrian experience and road network across the area. It’s dire with outdated design. There’s often no pedestrian crossing at junctions where roads converge, as seen below. The school site will be on the right:

This post will come across a bit groundhog day but it really does bear repeating once again. Developments across the area continue to proliferate and street design is far from keeping up. Accidents continue to happen, sadly including two fatalities in the past two weeks.

Poor street design will dissuade many from walking. This adds to pressures on local transport and harms businesses in east Greenwich as newcomers on the Peninsula are put off visiting despite being a short distance away as the crow flies. Those that do walk face a multitude of poor design completely unsuitable for this changing area.

It’s not only school children at the new school who will be contending with the issues of anti-pedestrian design. Turn around 180 degrees from the view above and we can see the large number of new flats being built by Knight Dragon.

knight dragon roundabout

People moving there who wish to head to Greenwich town centre for a drink or shop will be passing through the spot shown above. Or maybe they’ll take their money elsewhere to another town outside the borough given how off-putting it is. I don’t think the o2’s plastic bars will keep many happy for long.

On the subject of who manages what road, here’s a crap map, but from what I’ve read and been told this shows how management is divided. Red is TfL. Green is RBG. If wrong please let me know. The vast majority it appears are managed by Greenwich council.

peninsula road management

The Parkside roads with the Busway are a mess of a layout and confusing. But aside from that and the Blackwall itself, most appear not to be TfL’s responsibility.

Greenwich council have an email address for suggestions on new or altered crossings, which are pretty badly needed at numerous places across the Peninsula. You can contact them here: traffic_management@royalgreenwich.gov.uk 

They also have a web page here with information on crossings. Much of the Peninsula now meets the criteria. The page states:

“Pedestrian crossings are used in locations where pedestrians frequently need to cross the road.

This includes major road junctions, near shopping areas and outside schools.

If there is a busy road near you that has no crossing, you can make a request for one to be built.”

Dual carriageways and roundabouts

Giant roundabouts and roads meeting them are a particularly big problem. This includes the junction of Peartree Way and Bugsbys Way, as well as John Harrison Way, Blackwall Lane, Bugsby’s Way and Millenium Way.

Those heading south from new housing developments will reach junctions where crossings are either non-existent or require large detours. Placing pedestrians a very poor second in hierarchy of priority has two impacts – vulnerable users like the elderly or disabled have longer to walk than necessary. Clearly that isn’t fair. While those who are able bodied will just walk the quickest way, which often puts them in a more dangerous spot as they have to walk along the kerb.

Many people will always do that because it’s human nature to walk the shortest and quickest route. It’s why so many pedestrian schemes failed post-war. People aren’t robots and do not walk far further than necessary just because a Highways engineer thought they should and believed cars need primacy.

Yes, working will need to be done with TfL on some elements, but how is that much different to any other area of solely managed RBG roads? There’s many major streets all across London that are managed by councils alone and improvements are continually made.

Greenwich Millenium Village

As I’ve said a few times the potential for conflict is continually growing. GMV stage 3 is moving ever south to the roundabout where Bugsby’s Way meets Peartree Way. The latest housing block is now up to about floor 4-5, and is part of the section coloured orange below. Those in blue are just about complete now for imminent occupation. The roundabout with a non-existent crossing is just visible on the left:

GMV site plan

It’s only a 15 minute walk from these new blocks to places like the Greenwich centre with its swimming pool, gym, library and nearby shops and restaurants. Yet those that do that walk will have to contend with a dangerous road layout. It’s the same story when heading to the nearest railway station at Westcombe Park, which is closer than the tube station.

GMV to stations

GMV

Below is that very poor spot – where Bugsby’s Way meets the roundabout. This area is an accident waiting to happen. No crossing is provided, and the road dips below the railway line. This obscures pedestrians crossing from seeing approaching traffic, and likewise prevents vehicles seeing people. Have a scroll around that entire roundabout. Awful design.

The image is from the latest google maps image from November 2015. The concrete frame of GMV housing blocks can just about be seen on the left heading closer to this roundabout. The dip in the road is on the right.

Hotel, retails parks etc

There’s many more developments that will increase pedestrian numbers and the likelihood of accidents. The new ibis hotel on Blackwall Lane opens imminently – located five minutes away from the new school site. It’ll be occupied by at least 100 tourists a night with many heading to and from the tube and o2.

There’s also all the retails sheds such as Ikea and those coming at Brocklebank Retail Park, which is located on Bugsby’s Way. Greenwich council have backed themselves into a corner by continually supporting large retail park expansion in the vicinity which are almost completely designed for cars. Everyone knows it – no one is fooled by nonsense about an extra bus stop or two.

454 car parking spaces

454 car parking spaces

And yet look across London – over in Southwark they’re moving away from retail park domination at Old Kent Road. It’s hard to think of other parts of London around zones 2/3 that would welcome such things with open arms. Stratford went the way of Westfield not giant PC Worlds with masses of tarmac on single level car parks.

Lewisham council fought for years against Bell Green, and that only eventually went through after a decade long battle as plans were originally applied in the early ’90s when thinking was much different. Sainsburys at Charlton applied in 2010s! Same with Brocklebank.

Some of those at Greenwich council sometimes seem keen to deflect an awful lot onto TfL. We know TfL’s design and planning has its own issues but they don’t manage many of these problematic and dangerous streets. They didn’t approve retail parks at various locations bringing additional traffic nor enact a deeply flawed masterplan in recent years.

The council doesn’t seem to know on one hand what the otheris doing. Strategic planning is weak. Having a large expanse of land on the Peninsula becoming a bustling urban environment of schools, housing, leisure and smaller commercial sites placed cheek by jowl with dated ’80s ideas for retail parks and mass roads inevitably brings conflict. But still, much can be done. In the near term more crossings are a must. I have a feeling they will stick up more obstacles for pedestrians instead. It penalises many pedestrians and others just ignore. It won’t work.

Longer term planning on comprehensive redesigns are also needed. Lose the giant roundabouts and roads more suited to rural environments. This is far from cheap or easy. Fortunately huge amounts of development brings with it much cash from developers to do just that. The council havn’t used much in the past 10 years to improve what is there. What about the next 5-10 years?

I’ll end with a spot which shows how our European neighbours do these things much better so much of the time. To no ones surprise, it’s Barcelona in this instance. Yeah, sure, this may seem a bit fanciful. But the basic concept and ideas could easily apply. There’s no major roundabout at this junction; just a road with one bus lane and one car lane in each direction plus segregated cycle lanes. Add in logical positioning of pedestrian crossings:

What else makes it work? There’s much greenery here with the high density buildings set back from the road, which offers wide paving areas plus seating space for the commercial premises at street level. Street furniture is logically laid out and good quality. It all adds up to a space that is great for users.

Major roads don’t have to mean anti-pedestrian spaces or be spots people don’t want to stop for a coffee or beer. It’s timeless design which is common all over the world. Greenwich Peninsula is changing fast. This could be the model enacted.

Here’s the email again to request more crossings: traffic_management@royalgreenwich.gov.uk 

4 Comments

  1. You may well be wrong in your map of who controls the road., I am far from sure what the ownership is now – it may have changed – but GLA owned and managed most of the roads except for Bugsby’s Way and the bit of Tunnel Avenue north of the Mway. There was also some sort of transport forum which worked with – initially – the New Millennium Experience Co. and then with the GLA. It consisted of ‘transport officers’ from all the developers and TfL staff. I think Council officers would have attended those meetings – but I don’t know what their status was there and, again, I don’t know if this body still exists . New Millennium clearly wanted, built and paid for a network to get people in and out of the Dome quickly and I suspect that is still a priority for AEG. I understand much of this has been discussed recently by residents at Knight Dragon’s Peninsula Forum and has been raised with TfL officers there.
    Two other things – throughout the area you need to look at the role of the Planning Inspectorate, and, also note that whatever is done on roads (except for the smallest side road), regardless of who owns them, that TfL mainly provide the cash, and clearly only fund measures they approve of.

    Also – see the letter which Matt Pennycook is circulating today from the Deputy Mayor in charge of transport.

    PS – Millennium Way is in a bit of state, isn’t it?? Like riding on a switchback. Built on a marsh and of course it will sink

    PPS I have tried very hard here to stick to facts as far as I remember them, and my memory is increasingly elderly! I have tried to keep away from the opinions, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have them.

  2. Deborah

    Slightly off topic, here (sorry). As local authorities are no longer allowed to create new schools and with the increasing number of free schools and academies, there are more and more faith schools – a worrying trend which will seemingly exacerbate division.

  3. Shivanee

    There is the rather pertinent issue of the gasholder and the blast zone that the council has to deal. The HSE actually gives approval or not and in the council’s own papers, it has suggested it has sufficient safety grounds to refuse permission or at least enact a clause which meant kids can’t congregate outside in playgrounds un/supervised (!).

    For all of the council’s puff, I don’t think the Magdalene will actually happen. RBG couldn’t get a new school on the Peninsula under years of a Labour government, so why would they now under a Tory Government which prefers free schools and academies? With an established Academy chain already successfully bid to open a ‘Digital Peninsula’ school. Also, why would any developer build a S106 school to service a completely different community in a different part of the borough (the demand for a Christian school is not local)? Ie. Shouldn’t Berkley be building St. Mary Magdalene as part of it’s Arsenal S106?

    Of course dumping 1650 kids on a single site (who and where does that?) tells you everything you need to know about the Council and Church’s motivations and how their interest in the Peninsula is shaped. Shame public safety doesn’t figure in their plans.

  4. GavinM

    I often wonder too about the business operations which sit right behind the new apartments. Will that business remain as it emits and incredibly foul smell and alot of dust on a daily basis. I am amazed that anyone would want to live there, nevermind putting a school there.

    Or is those business and others behind the new Brocklebank shopping complex being moved on?

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