OnBlackheath public meeting – the Revolt: read-out

It has to be said that when at the start of the week, we Radicals glanced through the diary at up-coming events, a public meeting on Thursday at the Conservatiore to discuss ‘issues’ relating to the OnBlackheath festival was not really a contender for most lively evening.  But so it proved…

The chaps behind the festival, along with representatives from Lewisham Council were there and began with thanking people for attending (it looked like there were around 75 people there), briefly talking to some of the frequently asked questions (on parking, road closures, etc.) before opening it up to the floor.  

Heidi Alexander MP was there to provide a (neutral) facilitator for the questions and, from where we sat anyway, did a very good job in difficult circumstances.  In particular the: acoustics in the room were not great (the most frequent cry from the meeting was the plea to ‘Speak up please!’); a couple of people at the front of the room thought it was private meeting between them and the panel and therefore dispensed with the basic etiquette normally associated with such gatherings (like raising ones hand to ask a question); and a number of the panel spoke alternately very quickly/softly.  

So, here’s our summary of some of the points raised at the meeting.  This blog’s view of the festival is well known (we think it’s a great thing for the village and can’t wait to attend) but notwithstanding this, some of the points made were in all fairness quite reasonable.  For example, there’s no doubt something to the many points made about how well the impact of the event has been communicated to residents.  That being said, the bulk of the comments and questions were, as expected, pretty moany, with some verging on the hysterical.  

In roughly chronological order here is our run-down:

• OnBlackheath’s Tom began by summarising some of the things they’d done and organisations they’d worked with in the run up to the event – including the very popular Beach at the Conservatoire, which had attracted an impressive 10,000 visitors and which would, intriguingly, be turned into a grotto in due course.  They also mentioned that they’d worked with the Trussell Trust and local brewers Meantime.
 
• There will be a shuttle bus service on the Thursday, Friday and Monday to help out on the route of the 380 bus.  
 
• Several questions about road closures and parking.  OB said they had applied to Lewisham Council for the suspension of some parking zones and that they were willing to seek suspension for further areas.  
 
• Legitimate questions were raised about how to access the Abridged Event Management Plan, which includes more detail on these matters.  OB promised it would be available on their website (www.OnBlackheath.com).  
 
• For those with outstanding queries, the organisers undertook to respond directly via email.  Heidi also offered to be copied in to such exchanges if that would help to expedite matters.
 
• At this point there was a somewhat frenetic contribution bemoaning the ‘ethics’ of the festival as well as invoking a class-based critique that the event was for the middle classes and not residents.  OB confirmed that the bulk of tickets had been sold to SE-postcodes and, from a quick glance round the room, there was little doubt about its predominant social-economic make-up.
 
• Interestingly, when asked, OB reported that just under 15,000 tickets had been sold for the Saturday and around 10,000 for the Sunday.  Which is relevant to a stream of points about the traffic/people management impact of the event relative to the impact annual fireworks display. Frankly, it’s simply ludicrous to complain that this festival, with less than 1/3 of the 80,000 who attend the fireworks display, and all of whose attendees have tickets, will be as busy/disruptive.
 
• Then back to the surreal and a fervent call from a chap representing a small group of volunteers who had over the past few years took it upon themselves to look after the pond at the Hare and Billet for some ‘reward’ for their efforts.  We got a sense of the good work they did (and it certainly came as a surprise to us that the excellent pond was in fact maintained in this way and not by the council) before our riparian philanthropists had to leave to attend to “some business”.  We say, give them the money – they deserve it!
 
• The money in question is a £15,000 pot from OB for improvements on the Heath.  The next meeting of the Blackheath Joint Working Party will discuss how it might be used.  
 
• Questions about noise (lack of it from the panel and too much of it (in all likelihood….) at the event).  Oh dear.  
 
• OB confirmed there would he be a manned telephone number throughout the event if residents had any concerns, including about the noise.
 
• Lewisham Council said that as a condition of approval there would be a post-event public meeting.  The timing was uncertain though mention was made of February and, rightly, the call from the floor was for it to happen before that.  A representative from the Blackheath Society said they would be gathering views on the event via an online survey running from the Sunday of the event and that this would be fed in to the event evaluation.  We look forward both to the survey and to the meeting; if it’s as lively as this one it’ll definitely be one for the diary!

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Local Offers for Local People

Do you, like we Radicals, try to support local business in Blackheath and grab your coffee in Montpelliers rather than Costa, shoes from Pares, or visit a local restaurant rather than a chain? As part of the effort to support local business ‘We Are Blackheath’ has negotiated a great range of offers to use in the village between 13 and 30 September. ‘We Are Blackheath’ was set up by local PR guru Andrea Britton with the express aim of supporting local business and events.

Playing the Blackheath tune

Playing the Blackheath tune

Offers cover restaurants (including Chapters, Locale, Zero Degrees); money off courses and events at the Conservatoire (that’s Sydney on the left!), Blackheath Halls, and Blackheath Cooks; discounts on hairdressers; free cupcakes (Montpelliers) and croissants (Boulangerie Jade); discounts at shops; and much more.  The website also has a great selection of photos taken by Warren King and Simon Siggs (a few reproduced in this post) that show the people behind local businesses. And now there is the ‘offers’ page.

Bloomin’ marvellous

The Revolt was surprised at the breadth and quality of offers available and learnt a few things about local businesses too – Blackheath Cooks cookery school was unknown to us, as was Blackheath Sweet Bakes. So check it out and take advantage, whether it is a discount at your usual haunts or using the offers as an incentive to try somewhere new.

We were an early supporter of Le Bouchon!

We were an early supporter of Le Bouchon!

A Bridge Too Far

You will have probably noticed the transformation work at London Bridge and been slightly envious of the snazzy new roof at the terminus part of the station whilst standing on a drab platform 4. There may have also been a hint of trepidation that at some point work would be done on the through platforms. Improvements at the station are necessary but this will cause significant disruption. This is all part of the government’s £6.5bn Thameslink programme to improve infrastructure in the capital.

The first phase will result in partial closures of the station between 23 & 31 August. There will be no Southern and First Capital Connect services from London Bridge during this period. including the Gatwick Express. This does not directly affect SouthEastern services running through Blackheath, Greenwich, Woolwich etc.

Improvements..?

Improvements..?

The main impacts for SouthEastern and our local services will be felt in 2015-18 as platforms 1-6 are redeveloped:

  • January 2015-August 2016 – SouthEastern services to Charing Cross will not stop at London Bridge. The Cannon St service will be the only one stopping at London Bridge. There will be no services to/from Greenwich to Charing Cross.
  • August 2016-Early 2018 – SouthEastern services to Cannon St will not stop at London Bridge. The Charing Cross service will be the only one stopping at London Bridge. There will be no services to/from Greenwich to Charing Cross.

We wait in eager anticipation of the SouthEastern timetable as the greatest concern is the potential reduced capacity to London Bridge. Logic would dictate that more services will be diverted to routes stopping at London Bridge at the expense of the non-stopping services. Measures SouthEastern reference include longer trains; extended opening hours for Cannon St station and tube; some services could be diverted to Blackfriars.

The Radicals don’t want to be negative NIMBY’s about this as much of our infrastructure problems stem from lack of investment and long-term planning. Increased capacity (we won’t say better service with SouthEastern…) will benefit the area but there will be disruption for three years. What will be important is to ensure that customers are not short-changed and that everything possible is done to minimise the disruption.

Full details: http://www.thameslinkprogramme.co.uk/disruptions/southeastern-advice/ and http://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/your-journey/timetables/januarytimetable/?station=BKH&submit3.x=8&submit3.y=5

Pint or two in a brewery

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So it was that last Saturday your Radicals headed to Woolwich to do one of the things we enjoy the most: drink beer. And what better place to drink beer than in a brewery? Okay, Copacabana beach maybe; the first day of an Ashes Test Match at Lord’s perhaps; O’Neill’s….

Hop Stuff Brewery is based at Royal Arsenal, Woolwich and was founded last year thanks to a crowd funding exercise. Though the setting is what you would expect from the outside for an urban business park, inside the brewery is a really cool mix of manufacturing complex and New York style loft apartment. And what a great idea to take advantage of the upstairs space to install a small bar, a couple of sofas, a table football, and to serve the beers that are brewed downstairs.

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Now we’ve had the pleasure of sampling Hop Stuff on a couple of occasions before (beer festival: one and two) and have always been impressed. So it was great to be able to see where the Stuff is made (geddit) and to talk to the guys behind the enterprise. We were also able to try the Arsenal Pale Ale (APA) which was really refreshing (ABV 3.8%) with a fruity aftertaste. A good summer session ale.

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For local beer fans it really is great to be able to drink at HSB . At the moment they’re open one Friday evening (18.00-10.30) and Saturday afternoon (11.00-15.00) each month, though we understand this may be extended. There was a reasonable crowd there when we popped down and apparently the Friday before was very well attended. No surprise really – be foolish to miss out on a pint up(stairs) in a brewery wouldn’t it?

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Crossing Point

Yes, the silly season is upon us but fear not, your intrepid Radicals are not going to start writing about the weather (warmer than Barbados, you say?) or the latest shenanigans of OneWestZoneLifeDirection.

Some of our readers will have received an email from TFL on consultations on a proposed new river crossing (tfl.gov.uk/new-river-crossings). This is in addition to the proposed Silvertown tunnel and there will be a separate consultation  on that project later in the year. This consultation is looking at options further to the east to help improve capacity and ease congestion.

proposed crossingsThe first is to upgrade the existing Woolwich ferry. At a cost of up to £200m this would replace the aging vessels currently in operation and include the infrastructure upgrades required to support a new service. Of note is that the current free service would be replaced with a fee service. It could be in place in the early 2020’s.

Second is for a new ferry service further east at Gallions Reach (Thamesmead to Beckton). This could be operational in a similar time to option 1 at a cost of up to £250m. To note it would replace the Woolwich ferry once completed.

Third up is a bridge at Gallions Reach that could be operational by 2025. Up front cost could be up to £600m but annual operating costs would be around £0.5m – significantly less than the £3.5m to operate the ferry services. The bridge would replace the existing Woolwich ferry.

The final option would be a bridge between Belvedere and Rainham.  Much further east than our area of interest but may benefit the local area less. This is the most expensive and least developed plan so it is likely to be beyond 2025 before completed and leaves a question mark over what to do with the Woolwich ferry.

We Radicals like the Woolwich ferry but it does seem a bit antiquated when an alternative option is a new bridge. It feels a bit short-termist to argue a bridge is too expensive when the operating costs of the ferry are high and Radical heads say a bridge is the most efficient option for traffic flows (bad weather will still cause a new ferry service to stop operating).

As usual, if you have a view and want a say head to the website.