Back at home in not-so-sunny south east London after an incredible week away, more on which will follow when I’ve gone through the enormous bundle of photos. From the vibrant optimism of the US east coast…
(Thamesmead #15 ~1979 by Mak’m, on Flickr – see here for more of his incredible photos of Woolwich and Thamesmead in the 1970s and 1980s)
…I was having a sift through the BBC News website on Monday evening, trying to catch up with what I’d missed while I was away, when I came across this piece of video – Friday’s BBC London News reporting on redevelopment plans for Thamesmead.
Yup, it’s another crack at – frankly, making shit shine. A gleaming new town planned in the 1960s, and botched in the 70s, 80s and afterwards. Now £138 million is to go into 200 new homes to build “strong and sustainable communities”, although there wasn’t much more detail than that in the skimpy report.
But a little line in the report quite neatly summed up why Thamesmead remains in a mess.
“…there’s high hopes for Thamesmead. In 2018, Crossrail arrives at the local train station, and with it, the promise of further investment.”
There is no rail station in Thamesmead. Assuming it gets funding, Crossrail is going to end at Abbey Wood station. Which is in Abbey Wood. Not Thamesmead. Apart from the concrete estates just north of Abbey Wood station, you need to take a bus from there to get to most parts of Thamesmead. The place is as out on a limb as it was when it was Plumstead Marshes. If you have no car in Thamesmead, you don’t have much of a life.
Unfortunately, the main plan to remedy that was the Thames Gateway Bridge, axed by Boris Johnson last week to “shock” from Greenwich Council (what did they expect?). But while the bridge would have undoubtedly added to traffic congestion, it would have at least linked north and south of the Thames with a souped-up bus scheme, called Greenwich Waterfront Transit south of the river.
This scheme survived Boris’s cutbacks, along with its northern sister, but only as a bus running from North Greenwich to Abbey Wood through Charlton, Woolwich and Thamesmead. Nice, but all it’ll do is just increase dependence on already overcrowded and badly-designed North Greenwich Tube/bus station. And plans for a second phase, to Greenwich itself, have been shelved – which makes riverside developments like Lovells Wharf even less sustainable. (Even worse for Greenwich itself, talk of the Silvertown Link – a bridge next to the Millennium Dome and right in my front yard – has resurfaced.)
To add to Thamesmead’s travel woes, the Docklands Light Railway extension to Dagenham has also been canned – one local council wanted this extended further to Thamesmead. Which bunch of crazy left-wing radicals wanted this? Um, true blue Tory Bexley council, that’s who. They also had quite a neat idea about extending the Waterfront Transit to Dartford, where it’d link to a similar service to Bluewater. That’s not going to happen at all now.
So, poor old Thamesmead suffers again. Local news reporters may swallow lines about vague improvements here and there, but nobody wants to stand up for real, radical improvements to the place. That’s because none of them have to live there, I suppose.