Cynical Consultations?

MOPAC  Draft Police and Crime Plan Front Cover
MOPAC Draft Police and Crime Plan Front Cover

Scene at King William Court, University of Greenwich:

Question: Why are you reducing the size of the Safer Neighbourhood Teams?

Answer: We’re increasing the number of police in the Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

Later ….

Question: The Safer Neighbourhood Teams work really well, why are you reducing their size?

Answer: We’re increasing the number of police in the Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

Later still ….

Question: I’m against the reduction in the number of officers in the  Safer Neighbourhood Teams, why are you doing it?

Answer: We’re increasing the number of police in the Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

I felt a strange mixture of confusion and deja-vu  by the end of the Mayors Office on Policing And Crime (MOPAC) consultation event at the end of January. We had been told that each Safer Neighbourhood Team would be reduced in size from two police officers and three police community support officers (PCSOs) to one police officer and one PCSO. We had also been told that the number of officers allocated to SNTs in Greenwich would be increased by 88 (and that we should be grateful for that). Why the difference? No-one was saying, even after a direct question about how SNT resourcing works. It was quite easy for the panel to avoid questions because the chair had cunningly combined questions into groups of three before they were answered, so some questions just weren’t addressed. We did find out that the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime had to attend a large number of consultation events (poor chap), but not what was so interesting on his mobile phone. We’re also going to have sheriffs apparently.  Hopefully the Sheriff of Shooters Hill won’t meet Robyn Hood in Oxleas Woods.

I think what was being proposed was that each individual SNT would have fewer officers assigned permanently to it, but there would be a larger pool of officers who would be temporarily assigned to individual SNTs on an as needed basis. It would have been nice to learn how this would work in practice, but the consultation event was kept strictly to one hour, which wasn’t really enough to cover all the issues raised by the new Police and Crime Plan 2013-2017, which also proposes the closure of Woolwich and Greenwich police stations.

The Consultation on the Police and Crime Plan 2013-2017 finishes tomorrow, 6th March 2013, so there’s not much time to register our views. There’s an on-line form for comments.

A consultation has also started on the Draft Fifth London Safety Plan (LSP5) which, amongst other things, proposes the closure of 12 fire stations including Woolwich. Again there is an online survey to give our views, and we have until the 28 May 2013 to do so.

Entertainment at the start of the Save Lewisham A&E March
Entertainment at the start of the Save Lewisham A&E March

The MOPAC consultation event made me wonder whether it was worth responding – will it make any difference if everyone says they don’t want police stations to close, or will they just go and do it anyway? There is a recent precedent with the consultation about the South London Healthcare NHS Trust and the proposal by the Trust Special Administrator to close  Accident and Emergency at Lewisham Hospital. Despite the majority of respondents saying they were against the proposal, and despite 25000 people marching through Lewisham to object, and despite nearly 35000 people signing a petition against the proposal,  the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt,  decided to do it anyway.

The Transport for London consultation about the Thames river crossings and the possible closure of the Woolwich Free Ferry seemed to be better than others inasmuch as their reports on previous public feedback suggested that some notice was being taken of our input. But now we hear that Greenwich Council is trying to get the power to build a bridge at Gallions Reach whatever we say and whatever TfL decide!

What a lot of consultations!  And it can be quite hard work to respond to them: the TSA draft document about South London Healthcare  was some 373 pages of largely impenetrable management gobbledegook; not an easy read. Is it worth the effort when it seems that politicians treat the result so cynically? Yes, I think it is as it is one of the few ways possible to make our views known. But politicians shouldn’t complain about public disengagement with the political process, such as low turn out at elections, when they themselves fail to engage with the public when they get the opportunity.

One last consultation to mention, as it will shape future planning decisions in Greenwich.  As the council’s e-mail about it said:

Royal Greenwich is preparing a new planning policy document called the Core Strategy with Development Management Policies.  This document will replace the existing planning policies for the Borough (the Unitary Development Plan) and will be used by the Council to help shape development up to 2028.

I found the Unitary Development Plan very useful as a means of making reasoned objections to proposed property developments –  it lays down the policies that the planners use to decide what can be built where – so it’s important that its replacement is suitable for the same role. As the Planning Consultation Portal says:

When it is adopted, the Core Strategy with Development Management Policies will become the key strategic planning document for Royal Greenwich. It will be used to help shape development and determine all planning applications.

Key features of the proposed strategy are explained in the latest draft document. They include:a significant number of new homes by 2028 the creation of two new mixed use urban quarters at Charlton Riverside and Greenwich Peninsula West. Strategic and development management policies will be used to guide development applications in the borough. These cover a range of topics such as open spaces, infrastructure and environment and climate change.

Following previous public consultations on the Draft Core Strategy with Development Management Policies we are due to begin our 12 week consultation period on the Proposed Submission Version on the 19th February 2013.

We have until 14th May 2013 to comment through the Planning Consultation Portal. You will need to register to be able to comment.

Woolwich Fire Station _ London's oldest operational fire station
Woolwich Fire Station – proposed for closure
The Blue Lamp at Woolwich Police Station
The Blue Lamp at Woolwich Police Station – also proposed for closure



House Stories

100 Eglinton Hill - Cheviot Lodge
100 Eglinton Hill – Cheviot Lodge

On my tour of the buildings of interest in Shooters Hill the group of houses at the top of Eglinton Hill proved to be of particular interest, not least because of the links they provided into aspects of local and national history. I had been walking around the area guided by a scrunched up photocopy of some pages from “Buildings of Local Architectural or Historic Importance” by Councillor N.R. Adams and Borough Planning Officer C.H.J. Pollard-Britten, found in Woolwich Library. (Incidentally I have since found an updated version  online on the Royal Borough of Greenwich web site). The document had this to say about number 100 Eglinton Hill, pictured above:

Eglinton Hill No. 100 ‘Cheviot Lodge’

2-storey mid-Victorian building in yellow stock brick with red dressings and stucco dressings. Slate roof with weather boards and decorative finials to gable ends in projecting eaves; attic dormers. Single storey extension to side and glazed extension to front, conservatory to flank facing Shrewsbury Lane. Seven steps up to front door in recessed porch supported on black columns with decorated capitals in the Gothic foliated style. Built by British Land Co. who set out most of Herbert Road area in 1868. Sold to Robert Brownlow Dale who owned Brownlow Dale Drapers 6 – 12 Hare Street, Woolwich and sold again in 1882 to Joseph Randall of builders Kirk and Randall who built Tilbury Docks, Greenock Barracks and many other government buildings. Randall added a billiard room and the Conservatory but building has remained little altered since then.

The British Land Company played a significant part in developing the Herbert Estate, as this part of Shooters Hill   between Plumstead Common Road and the Dover Road was known, and built many of the properties hereabouts. They were established in the mid nineteenth century  to extend the vote to more people by allowing them to own small plots of land – at that time only landowners were eligible to vote – though they later became a development company which still exists today.

Robert Brownlow Dale must have liked the area as he moved to Clavering Lodge in Wrottesley Road where he died in 1892. The Woolwich-based company Kirk and Randall were major builders in Victorian London. They are mentioned a number of times in English Heritage’s Woolwich Survey, their local buildings including the Tramshed and the Church of St Michael and All Angels down near Woolwich Dockyard. They built all across the city: as well as the government buildings mentioned, they were responsible for the  Comedy Theatre in Panton Street, Shops in Duke Street, the Greek cathedral of Aghia Sophia in Bayswater, the Wandsworth & Clapham Workhouse, Southwark’s St Saviour’s Union Infirmary …. and many more.

Detail of 145/147 Eglinton Hill
Detail of 145/147 Eglinton Hill
145/147 Eglinton Hill
145/147 Eglinton Hill














On the opposite side of the road there is a row of imposing houses, which Adams and  Pollard-Britten describe as follows:

No. 133

Large detached late Victorian villa with basement. Projecting bay windows to basement and ground floors. Front rendered. Hipped slate roof.

Nos. 135 and 137

Pair of 3-storey plus basement semi-detached late Victorian houses with centred front doors and projecting bays to basement, ground and first  floors. No. 135 in yellow/cream Gault brick; No. 137 has brickwork painted. Hipped slate roofs. Modern front doors and modern windows to No. 137.

No. 141 and 143

Pair of mid-Victorian 2-storey semi-detached houses with cornices and parapet roofs. Projecting bat windows. Walls rendered. Modern windows to No. 141.

Nos. 145 and 147.

Pair of substantial Edwardian houses with centred pediment containing two attic windows and centred terra-cotta medallion in circular red brick. Nos. 122 to 147 form a group.

There are photographs of these houses in the Shooters Hill Interesting Buildings Flickr set. I’m aiming to include photographs of all the buildings in the list.  Number 145 is now the home of the Shooters Hill Practice for Acupuncture and Complementary Medicine, and Lesley the Acupuncturist.

153 Eglinton Hill Front Elevation by G.J. Paszkowski
153 Eglinton Hill Front Elevation
153 Eglinton Hill
153 Eglinton Hill










I don’t know why 153/155 Eglinton Hill, directly opposite Cheviot Lodge,  isn’t one of the locally listed buildings: it looks just as important as its neighbours down the hill. It was certainly of interest to G.J. Paszkowski, a student at Thames Polytechnic School of Architecture and Landscape whose 1984 project report about number 153 Eglinton Hill is in the Greenwich Heritage Centre. The report gives the history of the house from 1896 when Joseph Randall of Randall and Kirk purchased the plot of land from the British Land Company, and includes some excellent drawings of the architecture of the house, including the drawing of the front elevation above (you may need to enlarge it by clicking on the image).

The house was built at the turn of the century and started out as number 303 Eglinton Road. It changed to number 353 Eglinton Road on 4th March 1913 when new houses were built lower down the road, and then became 153 Eglinton Hill on 16th March 1920.

G.J. Paszkowski lists the occupants and owners of number 153 in his report. Houses in Eglinton Hill were popular with officers from the different regiments based in Woolwich, and the report mentions several servicemen. One was Major F.H.G. Stanton RA who moved there in 1908. Major Stanton seems to have been a cricketer at the end of the nineteenth century, who saw action  in the Second Boer War. He is listed in Creswicke’s South Africa & the Transvaal War as being one of the prisoners freed after the British forces captured Pretoria in June 1900, and  he was mentioned in dispatches for rendering special and meritorious service in 1901. Major Stanton later served in the British Salonika Army which fought on the Macedonian Front in the First World War.

Captain Alfred Herbert MacIlwaine bought the house in 1922 for £1350. He sounds very highly accomplished if the various references I have found are the same person, and they fit together from a date point of view and with the most complete biography on the Militarian Military History forum. The son of the founder of the Hull Oil Manufacturing Company, he won five England rugby caps in 1912, England winning four out of his  five games. He served in the Royal Artillery in WWI, and his courage was recognised with the MC, DSO and Croix de Guerre. After the war he was at the Royal Military Academy, and helped set up a Central Army Rugby Referees Society. He moved to what was then Rhodesia and became a farmer, but was again active in WWII when he was the primary force behind the formation of the Southern Rhodesia Artillery. Back in Rhodesia after the war  he created Troutbeck, a lakeside inn in the Nyanga mountains of Zimbabwe, where “a portrait of him sitting on his boat with a fly rod at his side and a net in his hand hangs above the eternal hearthside fire”.

Intriguingly MacIlwaine gets caught up in Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration of independence, when in 1967 he is mentioned in Hansard because his Rhodesia passport was impounded when he visited Britain: an incident that gave a footnote to a book about Rhodesian UDI: A Matter of Weeks Rather Than Months by J.R.T. Wood.

So, some interesting stories prompted by local buildings. There’s just one thing I need to follow up on, a paragraph in G.J. Paszkowski’s report:

From the Barrow in Shrewsbury Lane is a long green lane still to be found at the back of the houses in Eglinton Hill. It followed the edge of steep slopes till it reached the levels of Woolwich marshes near Woolwich Arsenal station site.  Cows still came down from grazed fields on Shooters Hill to be milked at the dairy in Ripon Road.

This is a reference to Mayplace Lane, which I had noticed appears on the earliest old OS maps, before any development. I’d love to know its history.