I went along to the Thamesmead Community Voice meeting last night, at The Link. The last time I went to a meeting there the Thamesmead Residents Group were protesting and filled the hall to the point where people were standing. Last night’s meeting was not nearly so well attended, with the seating being perhaps just over a third full. Although it was nominally chaired by Theresa Pearce, our local MP, it was actually Alex Forrester, a community liaison man from Trust Thamesmead who led the proceedings for the most part – and did a good job of it.
The turnout included people from the Tavy Bridge residents group and quite a few kids who were at The Link. It was interesting from my seat near some of the speakers to hear murmurs as things got set up – the men around me were talking about transport links, parking restrictions, and their slides and the kids at the back were laughing about something involving Flappy Bird.
Alex ran through a few of the things that have happened in the area since the last of these meetings (which I wasn’t able to attend). These include The People’s Millions, the celebration around turning on the Thamesmead Christmas lights, the New Year, New You self improvement pledge scheme and the Now’s the Time scheme encouraging sports.
Theresa spoke briefly about the show of support for the People’s Millions and how it will transform the Tump nature reserve and then we moved onto a presentation from the Crossrail people, followed by somebody representing the local bus service. These are apparently suggestions raised by the group at the last meeting.
The overview was good, but not much I didn’t know in terms of the Crossrail development. A lot of the images of the proposed station were displayed and the big surprise was that Harrow Manor Way will be single lane traffic after the building. We should have the new station by 2017 and Crossrail will start to serve it at the end of 2018. The interim could be a bit painful with the old (current) station being replaced with a temporary structure in the car park.
When the station re-opens there will be better provision for cyclists with better access and new cycle racks. It is hoped that Bexley council will secure funding and be part of the “Mini Holland” project to improve cycle routes across the borough. There will be a brighter frontage to the station with an open space around the new development of a hotel and a Sainsbury. Sadly, despite an expected increase in traffic, the car parking provision will be marginally smaller than it used to be – the car parks under the flyover will reopen as will the old station carpark (presumably once they remove the temporary station), with a slightly reduced capacity. At Plumstead there will be a new depot where trains can be cleaned, refurbished and so on and this was touted as a venture bringing jobs to the area.
There isn’t a whole lot of information about how bus services will better serve the station in future and some of the northern Thamesmead residents were concerned that they would be cut off from the easy access to the city by needing to take a couple of buses. Similarly, they want to be served by a night bus. The latter, is in talks, apparently. If you want it, talk to your MP. There was a very interesting conversation surrounding the proposals of TFL to do away with cash fares. What, somebody asked, is a potential passenger supposed to do if they have no money on their Oyster card and no access to anywhere to charge it since such places are few and far between in Thamesmead. Clive Evernet spoke for the Bexley and Greenwich buses and he assured us that we can legally travel on a bus without payment if we get a document to travel paper from the driver and settle the amount later. Most of those listening were astounded to hear of this document’s existence and meanwhile a man in the audience revealed that as a bus driver he was aware of them and was told not to issue them!
Simon Whalley from the Build the Bridge campaign tried to garner support for getting a bridge installed in the Thamesmead region in order to grow business. He wants it to be part of the mayor’s plans for London that go out 50 years, with the hope that it will be in the short term. The residents were less enthusiastic, concerned that the area can’t cope with the extra traffic, and one man practically jeered him off stage, saying that he had moved his business into the area based on the promise of a bridge some ten years ago. He’d seen plans and models displayed in Morrisons, areas put aside for the development, and it all came to nothings. Simon seemed to be of the opinion that it would happen sooner or later, it had to, and he hoped it would be soon and was working to encourage support. London’s population is already the same as that of 24 other UK cities combined and is set to keep increasing and encroaching eastwards. Given that permission has been granted for yet another bridge around the Southbank area of the Thames it does seem that priorities are a bit weird on the subject of bridges. I’m not sure how the area could cope with much more traffic, though, the concerns do seem very valid.
Murray Smith, of the oddly named Untitled Project talked about spending money that is available to improve the links between Crossness and Lesnes Abbey. He was largely met by derision as people complained about the state of the lake and wondered how he thought his marvellous proposals of better walkways and more diverse plantlife than large expanses of grass would be maintained in future. “Don’t you realise we used to have all this? We had it and it got wrecked, why is this time going to be any better? Are you going to put up service charges to pay for it all once it’s done?” It got a little uncomfortable – we were promised that a baseline of the project is that the work done must be maintainable without extra service charges applied to the Gallions residents – but it’s hard to win people over who are annoyed about what we don’t have and unwilling to engage in improving it because their cynicism is so high. At one point somebody was sounding very irrate about not knowing what was going on in the area and badmouthed some of the publications he receives but not all the time. “Half of them end up in the bin instead of delivered like they’re supposed to be. I don’t read them anyway, they’re written by some bloke working here and living somewhere else.” An equally irate lady pointed out that if he did bother to read it he’d be aware that residents are on the editorial committee and they’re looking for further volunteers. It is hard to know what can be said so someone claiming they never hear about stuff, but admitting that they don’t read what information is delivered, especially when they feel let down and disenfranchised.
This was largely the sum of the meeting. Another will be held soon – probably not in May since Theresa Pearce feels it would be difficult during local elections. It was well handled and a good chance to find things out, but how much it can placate an upset population, especially when of the thousands on the estate only a few hundred take the steps to engage and be a part of it, remains to be seen.
I wonder if Peabody know what they’ve taken on in taking over Gallions.