For no real reason, council propaganda weekly Greenwich Time has run a double-page spread lauding the redevelopment of the Greenwich Peninsula. Well, other than that the sole reason the paper, funded from the council tax, exists is to present the leadership of Greenwich Council in the best possible light – especially with an election coming up next May.
In which case, GT referring to “luxury apratments” isn’t amusing whatsoever, oh no. The cock-up was corrected in the paper’s online edition, and you can see the double-page spread as a PDF here.
The weak peg was ground being broken on the hotel being built by AEG, the O2’s owners. Last week’s Greenwich Time splashed with with photographs of council leader Chris Roberts and MP Nick Raynsford in hard hats celebrating work getting under way. Roberts and Raynsford have their differences, but they’re always happy to pose for the council’s propaganda rag in hard hats.
Unsurprisingly, the “Olympic legacy” is a bare-faced lie – a hotel formed part of AEG’s successful bid to purchase the Millennium Dome in the early 2000s. Indeed, here’s a BBC News Online story from April 2003 about Greenwich studying the proposals, along with a House of Commons report on the issue from June 2005. Unfortunately, one of London’s most enduring Olympic legacies has been an outbreak of selective amnesia among both Conservative and Labour politicians – and Roberts has been one of the most forgetful.
The 23-storey tower which dominates the view houses the “luxury apratments” – serviced apartments for people to stay in, not live in. It’s a much watered-down scheme from the original proposals to provide a “signature building” for the peninsula. It was was nodded through in 2010, the council’s supposedly politically-neutral planning board split on party lines, with five Labour councillors (including Roberts) backing it, and the two Tories against.
The the bottom three paragraphs above could have been written at any time in the past five years, give or take the odd figure. 853 readers will know all about the new development adjacent to the hotel development, where Greenwich Council has bent its own rules to allow the developer to provide no social or affordable housing whatsoever, providing instead a private school and “high-end residential” buildings. Instead, the council has allowed the developer to concentrate social housing further down the peninsula, including the student halls which are now under construction.
Of course, you won’t find anything about this pre-emptive form of social cleansing in Greenwich Time.
Nor will you read about how the proportion of social housing was cut by Greenwich Council.
Then again, you won’t have found much about it in the area’s commercial newspapers either – but that’s no excuse for the council to fill the gap with weekly propaganda. (Strangely, though, this stuff’s all fine with the National Union of Journalists, which has decided to defend council-run newspapers. After more than a decade, I’m taking my union subscriptions elsewhere.)
Laws are now passing through Parliament to ban the likes of Greenwich Time. It’s a terrible shame for other councils who publish less frequent, less overtly-biased publications, but Greenwich is screwing it up for the rest of them. In the meantime, get set for more of this rubbish between now and next May’s council election.