Are Greenwich & Bexley Councils Taking Maximum Advantage of Crossrail?
Work on Crossrail continues apace between Abbey Wood and Plumstead. New track is down and trains will be using it from tomorrow (Monday 16th June). The not particularly exciting pic above shows the track heading to central London from Abbey Wood. Trains will veer left onto new track that has been laid over the past few weeks. The link to the old track is already cut, as can be seen by zooming into the pic. Sadly the quality isn’t too good as it was taken on a not very good phone.
I’ve recently found a report which casts a poor light on Greenwich and Bexley Councils ability to take maximum advantage of Crossrail and may be letting opportunities go to waste. A recent Future of London Report on how communities and towns can take advantage of the benefits has some worrying comments. They are concerned with how both councils have failed to draw up a master plan for cohesive planning.
The report states –
“A Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Supplementary Planning
Document was produced jointly by Greenwich and Bexley
councils and adopted in 2009…However, no detailed masterplan has
come forward for the area, despite acknowledgement in
the SPD that a “comprehensive masterplanning exercise” is
required to avoid “piecemeal development”
“The area has significant scope
for further development, including the intensification of
existing land (highlighted in the Thamesmead and Abbey
Wood SPD); going forward though, there is a genuine need
for closer partnership working between public and private
sectors and the development of a more defined spatial
vision for the area to allow Abbey Wood to maximise its
Greenwich recently produced master plans for Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich and Eltham but not Abbey Wood despite the huge forthcoming changes. The new leader of Greenwich Council is Denise Hyland, who represents Abbey Wood (though lives in Eltham). Will she do more to promote a clear plan for future growth and improvements for the area? Considering she has presided over continued decline of the area in the past hopes shouldn’t be set too high. The report continues –
“There are a number of hurdles
in delivering regeneration and development around
Abbey Wood station…Good work on strategic planning guidance risks
being lost if masterplans are not created to carry
their principles forward”.
The report recognised good work from both councils working together to achieve a good quality station design after poor early proposals, but that subsequent progress has been lacking –
“Despite good cross-borough work on station design
and the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Supplementary
Planning Document, progress has stalled in creating a
masterplan for Abbey Wood between RB Greenwich and
LB Bexley. Opportunity stemming from the new station
should not be lost, so potential levers to encourage its
delivery should be considered by all stakeholders involved.”
A master plan for the area will set out a clear framework for developers offering guidance in what can be built. It would also allow local people and business a say in future development. It is not a panacea to all problems, and we have seen Greenwich Council allow developers to ignore the carefully crafted (and expensive to formulate) master plan in North Greenwich. However they do offer an important role and a lack of movement on this is bizarre. Development plans are already happening in the form of the Sainsbury’s supermarket, hotel and housing by the station given permission last year. In addition Peabody Homes have taken over Gallions Housing Association and have plans for a £200 million mass redevelopment and the creation of a ‘Garden City’ within walking distance of the station. There are quite a few more sites developers will be looking to buy and build on in coming years.
Both councils have long neglected Abbey Wood. They seem to ignore the continuing decline. Public areas are in a very sorry state all over the town. With Greenwich Council in charge of almost all of the town the blame must overwhelmingly lie with them. Greenwich have been claiming since the late ’90s (long before it was confirmed) that Crossrail will bring improvements to streets and public spaces as though that was a fix-all solution. Though public realm work around the station will happen in 2018, this will be after 20 years of decline and promises, and will only cover a fraction of Abbey Wood. No plans for other improvements are apparent. There are no mentions of future funding bids to TfL for major town improvement works.
There was also no mention of Abbey Wood at all in Greenwich Labour’s manifesto for the recent local election, nor from ruling Tories in Bexley.
Crossrail’s chief exec Terry Morgan has also expressed surprise that Bexley Council had not pushed more heavily for Crossrail extensions into their borough, as almost every other London borough had done when their was a chance of greater transport infrastructure. The long term plan is to extend through Bexley to terminate at Gravesend. This would give Bexley stations at Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green.
In other Crossrail news there is an exhibition showing plans for public realm improvements at various stations. The Crossrail Places and Spaces exhibition is at RIBA from 16 June and at the Building Centre from 21 July. The Woolwich render appears to show the removal of the tall brick wall surrounding the Arsenal development.
UPDATE: The Bexley is Bonkers site has many photos (much better quality than mine above) of Crossrail work taken both yesterday and today (Monday 16th June). See here