Report of First Meeting, 30/10/01
After a brief introduction by the Chair, Sir Bob Scott, who had been asked by the Government to set up this Forum as an adjunct to the business-oriented Greenwich Peninsula Partnership, there were a series of presentations by the three main stakeholders in the future of the Peninsula. He hoped that Lord Falconer would be able to come along to the Forum at some stage in the future once the winning bidder for the Dome was known.
Greenwich Council view:
Cllr. Chris Roberts, the Council Leader, made a particularly strong plea for ‘jobs for the boys’ in the specific context of suitable work for the currently disaffected youth who would never ever consider working somewhere like Canary Wharf. These are the ‘apprentices’ of yesteryear who achieve little by way of formal academic qualifications in school. It was suggested that certain ‘new media’ jobs might be appropriate if openings were created for this type of youngster, or if less formal training opportunities were to become available before leaving school. Cllr. Roberts also ruminated on the fact that Canary Wharf had managed to bring wealth to the Isle of Dogs, yet was located within Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived areas of the country. He pledged to ensure that this would not be allowed to happen to the Peninsula, and that by contrast it should become an exemplar of how the rich should support the less well off. This was a clear reference to the success Greenwich Council have had imposing Section 106 agreements on many developers in recent years.
Ralph Luck spoke both for English Partnerships, the Dome land owners, and the Government. He stated that the Dome was now virtually empty and that for someone with a long-term involvement in the Project it had been very sad to see through the decommissioning process. However there was now a plan in place to use the Dome in the short term for one-off events, and a Planning proposal would be coming before the Council to allow the Ministry of Sound to put on a ‘rave’ event for 40,000 on New Year’s Eve 2001/2002. As to the long-term future, unlike the situation during the previous competition and bidding process for the Dome, this time there would be no media circus and semi-public debate on the various proposals that were before the Government. A number of proposals were currently on the table, but he couldn’t give even the Forum any details of the bidders. An announcement would be made at the end of December or beginning of January on the ‘winner’.
Sam Richards for TfL stated that the main success of what had occurred to date was the establishment of a superb facility in the transport interchange at North Greenwich Station. There were recognised shortcomings in relation to the services handled by the interchange, but it was currently operating way below capacity, and the future was bright. Additional bus services were planned, particularly from the south of the Borough, and there was the possibility of the Waterfront Transit system being built through to Thamesmead and possibly beyond. It was very much hoped that this would be a tram rather than a guided bus. Cllr. Roberts had earlier indicated that the desired route of the Transit was almost 100% secure, so there should be little delay in going ahead if the Mayor approves this particular scheme. The main problem is that the proposal is just one of three possible routes to be funded, so it is not certain that it will be built. The Mayor is believed to favour it in the context of the East London Gateway and the gradual move of ‘London’ to the east. More concerning to all concerned was the performance of the Jubilee Line tube and the fact that far more passengers were arriving at Canary Wharf from the west as opposed to the east, where it had been planned the majority would originate. The line was therefore already running to capacity on its western section, and with further massive building at Canary Wharf, and the possibility of similar style office development at North Greenwich there were grounds for looking to increase capacity. To this end the Mayor was strongly supporting an extension of the Cross-Rail initiative to feed Canary Wharf. Late News: Only the next day there was an Evening Standard report that the Cross Rail consultants, Halcrow, had apparently rejected the possibility of such a ‘diversion’ as it would almost double the cost of the Project.
Mr. Richards also referred to the proposed additional river crossing. The three ideas on the table are for a Third Blackwall Crossing, either in the form of a tunnel or a high level bridge, a DLR tunnel at Woolwich, or a ‘multi-mode’ crossing at Gallions Reach, Thamesmead. This would comprise a local road crossing (i.e. not linking through to the A2 as originally envisaged) and a rail crossing. He added that the prospect of a bridge at Blackwall was now considered highly unlikely.
Open Forum Q & A
Associated Peninsula developments:
There were a number of questions regarding how much adjacent land would be up for grabs in any development of the Dome. There is currently no constant here, since the winning bid has not been announced, and all have different associated developments. Nick Shattock speaking on behalf of Quintain Estates, who already own the 14 acres of river-front immediately to the west of Peninsula, indicated that all their land was potentially open to development. Cllr. Roberts emphasised that the Dome should certainly not be seen on its own and that large-scale developments in the area would be encouraged, although there would be resistance to any proposals for a Canary Wharf look-alike, or any notion of the area being used as high-density Canary Wharf dormitory accommodation for use only during the week. A vibrant, 18-hour, economy was desirable, and a wide variety of occupancy was an absolute requirement.
Late News: It was recently noted that one of the announced bidding consortia, Meridian Delta Ltd. comprising Grosvenor Properties, owned by the Duke of Westminster, Stanhope plc (Broadgate), Lend Lease Corporation (who built Bluewater) and Quintain recently had two members pull out, leaving Quintain and Lend Lease on their own.
Sam Richards was asked whether consideration had been given to the effect that any approach road to either a new tunnel or bridge would have on proposed developments and to the divisive effect, this time in a N/S context as opposed to the E/W problem created by the current A102(M), this would have for the Peninsula.
The Greenwich Association for the Disabled (GAD) representative spoke on behalf of the Head of the new Millennium School to voice continued dissatisfaction with TfL’s response to a requirement for additional bus services to serve the school. Others voiced support and asked whether issues such as this might be something that could addressed immediately, especially following earlier comments on the fact that the Forum had nothing concrete to discuss/deal with at this time pending any concrete issues to debate or react to regarding future proposals for the Dome. TfL repeated that a number of options for improved services both from the west and south were currently under discussion.
The GAD rep also referred to major problems with low floor buses. Some 50% of buses were now of the ‘low floor’ variety, and this was due to increase to around 85% in the near future. There were, however, still issues regarding driver training since either buses were not being pulled in close enough to the kerb, or the drivers simply did not know how to operate them. On other occasions the lowering mechanisms don’t work. A recent incident had even resulted in a chair-bound passenger being effectively stuck on a bus by a defective step, demanding to be let off, and subsequently being tipped out of his chair on to the pavement by the driver!
No formal mention was made of schools, either in the context of overall secondary provision, or in relation to the possible move of the existing John Roan Lower and Senior Schools to the GDH site.
In summary, this first meeting held great promise of a real involvement for the various interested parties in what the future of the Dome and the Peninsula as a whole has to offer the local community. Only time will tell whether any of the desires that will be expressed are noted and acted upon.
Last updated, November 12th, 2001
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