Greenwich Park: YouTube If You Want To

October 6, 2009 by  

The debate over Greenwich Park being used as an Olympic venue continues to rumble on and the respective corners have taken to Youtube to get their message across.

First up is a new film (in two parts) from NOGOE, directed by Edward Hoffman and narrated by Sophie Aldred - born in Greenwich and an erstwhile assistant to Sylvester McCoy's Dr Who.

And to get the opposite side of the story, here's a video from the London 2012 team which features LOCOG Equestrian Manager, Tim Hadaway.

Local Libraries Open To All Through Universal Membership

October 5, 2009 by  

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Greenwich libraries are now able to loan books, DVDs and CDs to members of any library after a change to membership rules.

A new universal membership initiative from the Society of Chief Librarians means that members of any public library will be able to borrow from any of the 4,000 participating libraries.

Councillor John Fahy, Greenwich Cabinet member for Culture and Olympics, said, “This is great news and another step in the right direction towards making libraries more accessible than ever before. I hope everyone intends to take advantage of such a great opportunity, I certainly intend to.”

Although books can now be borrowed from any library, they do still need to be returned to the library from which they were loaned.

What’s On This Week: 5th October – 11th October 2009

October 4, 2009 by  

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Welcome to October. The nights are drawing in, there's a definite chill in the air and Sainsbury's is already selling Homer Simpson advent calendars.  So this week I'm on a mission to beat the autumnal blues and as exercise is a particularly good way to do that, I'm focusing on some of Greenwich's most active activities to cheer us all up.

If, like me, you find the prospect of the treadmill thoroughly unappealing, you might like to try out the new belly dancing classes on Friday nights at Greenwich West Community Arts Centre. The classes cater for all levels so it's a welcoming environment for complete beginners, with a guaranteed lack of intimidating six-packs.  From belly dancing to belly laughing (an equally valid form of exercise), impressionist Alistair McGowan is performing at Blackheath Halls this Saturday.

Mental Health charity Time to Change's ‘Get Moving' campaign comes to the Heritage Centre on Saturday afternoon, giving participants the opportunity to try new, alternative exercises to help perk us all up a bit.  The activities are divided into 4 different zones: Dance, Chill Out, Active and Games, so there should be something for everyone.

October is also Black History month and as such the council are running a series of exercise classes inspired by Greenwich's multicultural society. The Arches, Waterfront and Eltham leisure centres are all taking part and classes include Street Dance, Latino & Salsa Aerobics and RnB Dance.  Also part of Black History month is the Literary Nightclub at Greenwich Heritage Centre on Saturday evening, featuring music and poetry from the South Bank Centre's artist in residence, Lemn Sissay.

Finally, it's Bike Week in the Royal Parks and Greenwich Park are celebrating on Tuesday evening.  You and your bike can pop along and get health checked by Dr Bike, to ensure your bike is in top shape to keep you going (and keep you fit and happy) through the winter months.

Greenwich Park: Warm Words v Cold Print

October 1, 2009 by  

THE NEW Yorker magazine once ran a competition asking readers to suggest the smallest thing anyone could possibly imagine. Entries included Pol Pot's sense of compassion, Richard Nixon's moral compass, Ronald Reagan's record of academic achievement - but if that contest was run again today, we would, thanks to Locog, have something smaller than any of those.

You see, in its latest plans for Greenwich Park, London 2012 has just announced what legacy the park will gain from hosting the Olympic equestrian events. It's there in their latest "venue update" (page 3, if you're interested, and you have access to a powerful enough microscope.)

"We are working with the Royal Parks and local societies," they say, "to see what long-term improvements we can leave in the Park, including" (here it comes) "a possible new feature in the children's playground."

Ten months of partial closures, one month of complete closure, great disruption, the risk of permanent damage to a World Heritage landscape... and Greenwich Park gets in return a "new feature in the children's playground," sorry, a "possible" new feature in the children's playground.

It sounds an awfully complicated way to procure a couple of swings. I've just moved to a better-paying job, I've got a bit of cash to spare, so let me put this counter-proposition to Locog. If we want to help the local kids, couldn't we just cut out the Olympics and have a whip-round?

The playground pledge (I particularly liked that bit about it having been achieved with the help of the local societies - let no-one say that the Greenwich Society does nothing for Greenwich!) comes as part of a Locog consultation blitz ahead of its likely planning application in December.

The first act was last week's joint meeting of the four societies - the Greenwich Society, the Blackheath Society, the Friends of Greenwich Park and the Westcombe Society - at which various offers described as "key concessions" were made.

The first not-very-key concession was to reduce the total closure of the park from the figure Locog first thought of (6-8 weeks) to their new figure of 4 weeks. That first figure, of course, was entirely notional. Could the cynic in me be allowed to suggest that it was deliberately put about in order to be able to offer this "concession" when things got sticky?

The important period here is not just the two to four weeks allegedly lopped off the closure time; not just the full month the entire park will still be closed; but the fact that very large parts of it will be closed for most of a year. You won't find mention of that in Locog's press release about the meeting last week - but it is admitted in the venue update document.

On page 5, this document states: "Work is likely to begin on the installation of a temporary arena in the north of the Park in March/April 2012. From this date onwards some parts of the park will be cordoned off." At least a quarter of the park, in fact; and the vast majority of the lower park. The use of the words "cordoned off" implies little bits of tape - but this is a construction site. The cordons will be great big fences.

On page 7, it says that the "structures in the park" - that is, the arena and stabling - will be removed between September and October 2012. That is a closure of a very substantial area for up to seven months in 2012 alone. There will also be a test event in summer 2011.

What else? The Locog press release says that "no trees will have to be cut down," but the venue update is much more interestingly worded. It says that "we will not be removing any trees from the Park (my italics.)" What I think this might mean is that, although the chainsaw will not be taken to any tree, some of those which stand in the way of the cross-country course could be uprooted and shifted to different parts of the Park. That would, of course, change the appearance of the Park - and quite possibly kill some of the trees that are moved. There are more ways of destroying a tree than cutting it down.

The venue update also says that "arboricultural experts have worked with us to ensure a [cross-country] course has been identified that will not adversely affect any trees." But the map contained in the same document specifically says that the cross-country course shown has not yet been finalised and is only "indicative."

They've been working on this course for three years now - Sue Benson, the course designer, was appointed in October 2006. If they still haven't come up with a final design after all that time, and only two months before they're supposed to be applying for planning permission, what does that tell us? It tells me that they are having great difficulty coming up with a course that fits and won't do any damage.

Let's examine another of the "key concessions" supposedly made last week. Clive Corlett, of the Friends of Greenwich Park, is quoted in one of the local papers as saying that "there are to be no road closures." That is not, however, what the press release says. It says that "there are no planned residential road closures."

Note the use of the present tense. All that statement means is that there are no closures planned at the moment - which, with three years to go, is only what you'd expect. It does not mean that plans for road closures will not be made in the future. The Olympic Delivery Authority is certainly being given the power to close those roads; it would not have been given that power if there were no intention of using it.

The important qualifier "residential roads" is also made - which suggests to me that they do, in fact, already have plans for the closure of some roads deemed "non-residential." Finally, the sweeping powers being given the ODA allow them to do many things other than simply close a road. They will also, for instance, be allowed to ban parking, waiting, stopping. No assurances appear to have been given on this.

I said the fact that no cross-country course has yet been announced might mean that they can't come up with a course. It might mean something else - that they do have a final course, and a detailed plan, but are hoping to delay publishing it as late as possible to minimise our opportunity to scrutinise those all-important written words.

Never forget that warm words, of the type spoken at meetings like last week's, do not count. In dealing with bureaucracies like Locog and the ODA, the only words that matter are those which are written down. The planning application is where all those written-down words will be.

Until we see that actual planning application, any consultations Locog may undertake have very little meaning.

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