Blackheath/Lewisham rail signalling upgrade causes service disruption

Regular commuters will have noticed the new signaling box on the London bound platform at Blackheath. Signalling work in the area of Blackheath/Lewisham has been going on for a  while and will continue for some time, causing frequent temporary disruption to services.

Updating of signalling and control is underway out of Charing Cross and Cannon Street, through London Bridge and on down various lines.

It is complete as far as Maze Hill, New Cross/New Cross Gate, Denmark Hill, Crofton Park and Beckenham but still ongoing through St John’s to Lewisham and down the Hayes line. It involves transferring all signal control from London Bridge to Three Bridges (down near Gatwick). Inevitably, it will continue to cause short-term unreliability and disruption to services.

Andrew Jones, Rail Minister stated ‘ More than £130 million of upgrade work will take place between now and Easter 2020. This Easter, £55 million will be invested in the Lewisham, Woolwich and Charlton area. In Easter 2020, £81 million will be invested in the Hither Green area. All of that will upgrade the signalling to provide a more robust service.’             

GLA instructs Lewisham to reject planning permission for Meyer Homes’ Tesco Car Park Development

Back in May 2017, Meyer Homes proposed building three blocks comprising 367 homes (including a 34 storey tower) on the former Tesco car park next to Lewisham station. This was rejected in April 2018 but a slightly revised scheme was narrowly approved by Lewisham’s new Strategic Planning Committee in December 2018. However, in an unexpected twist,  the Greater London Authority (GLA) has now used its statutory powers to instruct Lewisham to reject the scheme they have approved on the grounds of insufficient affordable housing and inadequate viability review mechanisms. This is despite Meyer offering to increase the amount of affordable housing from 20% (73 units) to 25% (88 units) if the scheme was approved by 31 March. After that date, the scheme’s cost would rise because of a large increase in the rate of GLA CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy), making the extra affordable units unviable.

This GLA decision is something that Meyer Homes can appeal against, as is Lewisham’s rejection of its original scheme, so it’s not over yet. The Blackheath Society has continually objected to this development on a number of grounds, including insufficient affordable housing. It is encouraged by this decision by the GLA to take a tougher line on developers who propose schemes with low levels of affordable housing – the target is 50% - but without robust viability justification. It also hopes that it will encourage Lewisham to think carefully about the likely adverse impact on affordable housing and scheme viability of significantly raising its rate of local CIL, as it has proposed.

Tesco car park site decision

Lewisham Council narrowly approved plans for the town centre Tesco Car Park site next to the station and DLR line, including a 34 storey tower, at a meeting just before Christmas. We were unhappy at the minimal notice given for this important meeting at such a busy time of year.

The Society, alongside local residents and several local councillors, objected strongly to the plans, believing that the tower is too high, that there is inadequate benefit to local residents (including a very low 20% affordable housing element) and the plans fail to address issues about station capacity and access.

There was also an online petition, primarily against the excessive height of the main tower and its proximity to low-rise traditional homes very close by.

Despite this, the Committee approved the scheme, largely identical to the one rejected last April, by 4 votes to 3.


Tesco car park site objection

In April Lewisham Council rejected the application for a development including a 34 storey tower on the site of the Tesco car park on Conington Road in Lewisham. The developers have appealed against that decision and there is due to be a public inquiry to decide the issue in May next year.

Meanwhile, the developers have come back with a new slightly amended application, which includes more detail of a top floor “Skyline Lounge”. They are hoping to get this application accepted before April, when a proposed increase in the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) will increase their costs.

The Society has objected to this new application- we believe it does not do nearly enough to benefit residents of Lewisham and offset the shortcomings earlier highlighted - excessive height, inadequate affordable housing, and not doing enough about basic infrastructure, especially transport links.


The Blackheath Society prepares a Blackheath Ward character study

This document was prepared by Blackheath Society committee member Nick Patton in response to Lewisham Council’s 2018 Characterisation Study, being developed as an input to Lewisham’s next Local Plan. It is produced by The Blackheath Society in relation to the LBL Blackheath Ward (which abuts the RBG Greenwich West, Blackheath & Westcombe and Middle Park & Sutcliffe Wards). These wards all include areas close to Blackheath, say within a mile of Blackheath Station, that the Society seeks to protect, conserve and enhance.

You can download a copy of the document here  and also associated images here and here 




New Southeastern train timetable from May 2018

Thameslink services return to London Bridge from 20 May 2018, including a new half hourly service on the Greenwich line from Rainham to Luton which will enable through journeys from stations on that line to Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St Pancras International. Blackheath and Lewisham passengers will be able to change at London Bridge to access the restored Thameslink services.

Blackheath services have also been revised, most changes are minor, with the basic off-peak service of 4 trains per hour to Charing Cross, 2 to Cannon Street and 2 to Victoria maintained. However, the times and intervals have changed – for example, the Charing Cross off peak is currently at 15, 22, 45 and 52 minutes past the hour and will be slightly improved to 11, 21, 41 and 51 minutes past the hour – reducing the 23 minute gap to 20 minutes.

In the morning peak there are two extra Charing Cross trains between 07:30 and 08:30, but one less between 06:00 and 06:30 and two less between 08:30 and 09:30. There are also minor timing changes to the evening peak service.

The off peak return “clock face” service from Charing Cross to Blackheath is maintained. Currently services leave at 09, 26, 39 and 56 minutes past the hour – and this is amended to 12, 24, 42 and 52 minutes past the hour – a very small deterioration as the maximum gap now increases to 18 minutes as opposed to 17 minutes.

Saturday services are based on the weekday off-peak timetable of 8 trains per hour. On Sundays, Blackheath will be served by half hourly Victoria trains and Charing Cross trains as at present. There are likely to be changes to this service pattern on many weekends though as engineering works will still affect weekend services, so as always, please check the weekend services before travelling.

Further details are available on the Southeastern trains website

The Society would be interested to hear from members on their experiences with the new timetable when it is introduced.

20 May 2018 to 8 December 2018

Summary of Blackheath train services TO London : Monday to Friday


Charing Cross (calling at Lewisham, London Bridge and Waterloo East)

05:46, 05:52, 06:15, 06:22, 06:40, 06:46

07:04, 07:08, 07:27, 07:36, 07:47, 07:55*, 07:58, 08:07, 08:15*, 08:18, 08:27, 08:47, 08:52

(* = the 07:55 and 08:15 not calling at Lewisham)

09:11, 09:22, 09:41, 09:51 then at 11, 21, 41 and 51 each hour

Cannon Street (calling at Lewisham, St Johns (some), New Cross and London Bridge)

05:59, 06:29, 06:55, 07:19, 07:31, 07:51, 08:11, 08:32, 09:00, 09:38 then at 08 and 38.

Victoria (via Denmark Hill)

06:06, 06:32, 07:11, 07:42, 08:02, 08:23, 08:42, 09:03 then at 28 and 58.

Summary of Blackheath train services FROM London : Monday to Friday

Charing Cross (calling at Waterloo East, London Bridge and Lewisham)

05:26, 05:42, 05:54, 06:12, 06:25, 06:41, 06:56, 07:12, 07:25, 07:39, 07:56

and then at 12, 24, 42, 54 until 15:54, then 16:12, 16:24, 16:53

17:06, 17:13, 17:32*, 17:34, 17:36, 17:49*, 17:51, 17:55, 18:11, 18:17, 18:38, 18:43, 18:56, then at 12, 24, 42 and 54 until 00:12, then 00:26 (last train – except Thu and Fri when there is also a 00:42)

(*= not calling at Lewisham)

Cannon Street (calling at London Bridge, New Cross, St Johns (some) and Lewisham)

07:22, 08:00, 08:19, 09:17, 09:47 then at 17 and 47 until 15:47, 16:15, 16:45, 17:03, 17:27, 17:47, 18:09, 18:33, 18:53, 19:16, 19:47, 20:17 and 20:47 (last train)

Victoria (via Denmark Hill)

06:15, 06:42, 07:08, 08:06, 08:38 then at 06 and 36 until 16:36, 17:06, 17:34, 17:55, 18:21, 18:42 then 06 and 36 to 00:06 (last train)

Please check train times before travelling especially at weekends.


Strategic Planning Committee rejects Tesco Conington Road application

tesco conington.jpg

Following deferral of a decision on this application back in December, the Strategic Planning Committee unanimously rejected a scheme to build 345 homes on the former car park of Tesco next to the DLR line in Lewisham, including a 34-storey tower. Despite addition of a public viewing platform open at least 10 days a year, the applicant, Meyer Homes, failed to convince the Committee that the public benefit of the development justified the height – well above the current ‘datum line’ for the town centre - and the impact of the proposed tower on the local skyline and at ground level. Doubts were expressed about the adequacy of proposed access to and management of the viewing platform and its limited facilities. Concerns were also expressed about the type and quantity of affordable homes (20%), the plans for naturalisation of the river at an unspecified and uncertain future date, and the adequacy of access from the development site to the already overcrowded station and to bus services. As the applicant had failed to address adequately the concerns raised in December, the Committee felt it had no option but to reject the whole scheme.

This sequence of events echoes what happened to Gateway Phase 2 first time round: it was deferred then rejected last year, leading to a new and better application that was finally approved in February this year. No doubt we will see Meyer Homes return with amended plans which will doubtless get approved eventually, but hopefully they will be more sensitive to local needs and concerns.

Objectors (including again the Blackheath Society) and councillors are to be congratulated on a thorough debate of all the relevant issues and for rejecting a scheme that was not in the best interests of Lewisham and its residents. The Society is in favour of development of this underutilised site for mixed residential purpose, but it is good to see that concerns about the local skyline and about overcrowding and poor access at Lewisham station, a major and growing transport hub, are being taken seriously, along with the need to provide more affordable homes for Lewisham residents.

Lewisham Gateway Update

The Gateway scheme was passed unanimously by Councillors in a 3 hour meeting on Tuesday night. Councillors were convinced by the improvements offered by developers, after an earlier scheme had been rejected, and their much improved presentation .

 The Society voiced its continuing concerns: on the scale of the scheme, the lack of certainty on infrastructure and particularly the lack of diversity in the mix of uses offered, we believe overly focussed on residential use.

But we can at least be satisfied that the scheme has improved significantly over the last 18 months, with the inclusion of affordable housing , some reduction in height, improvement in the quality of the public realm, and a contribution towards transport infrastructure improvement. And the development of the centre of Lewisham can proceed.