Saturday, August 30, 2008

The missing bit of the Thames Path...

The other day I wanted to take myself down to the Firepower Museum at Woolwich. It was quite a nice day so I decided to walk along the river to get there, I had the idea of following the Thames Path in my head.

Now you may know this but I was surprised to find out that the Thames Path has a missing bit. I took myself down to the Thames Barrier but you can only get along the river as far the visitors centre.

After that, and somewhat confused, I backtracked to Woolwich Road. There I discovered signs for the Thames Path "Intermediate Stretch" (or something like that). They take you off Woolwich Road at Roston Road and then back to the River. Looking at you can see that there is indeed a missing stretch between the Thames Barrier and the Leisure Centre by the Woolwich Ferry.

For those who are interested below is the route that I took:
I got from Harlinger Street to the river by walking under an archway in the middle of the block of flats that appears in front of you. I believe that this is technically private land, but I was good, I promise.

I'll post some more stuff up later about both Firepower and the Greenwich Heritage Centre but in the meantime I took some photos as I went along, it was really quite nice.A boat that was seemingly very low in the water, odd...

Canons! There was information in the heritage centre about how there was a fear that the Dutch would sail up the Thames as far as Woolwich and therefore the area was fortified. The cannons seem to be on loan from somewhere but I wonder if this is an original emplacement.

A sadly tired looking mosaic about the Thames Path.

Looking back towards London.

A cluster of metal statues outside Firepower.

More of the statues...

Odd set of blocks between Firepower and the river. I wonder if this was the old waterfront?

The Woolwich Ferry has a bed to go to sleep in :) I guess this makes a lot of sense, they can keep the spares out of the way by the river bank without it sinking into the mud. Still I did quite like the idea of it having it's own little cat bed type thing to retreat to.

Reactive or Proactive?

The other day I posted that the contaminated (bins with the wrong waste in them that the bin men therefore refuse to empty) at the top of the street had been emptied.

I wondered if the Council were simply reacting to the problem or whether they had finally made the move to talk to the residents who keep fouling our streets.

Well there appears to be an answer, and I'm said to say that it's not a surprise.

Once again there is at least one bin stuffed full of plastic bags at the top of the street.

Waste Services, the department responsible, want to move from talking to the offenders to actually enforcing the Council's new bin scheme. However they've been unable to do this due to "political" reasons.

So our local Councillors know about the problems and they are unwilling to put the effort in themselves to actually resolve them (as opposed to occasionally organising a clean up) and are preventing Waste Services from sorting it out themselves.

Heads in the sand again.

And you know that they'll get re-elected in a couple of years.

I am well aware that in the end this is the fault of those residents who appear to be completely unwilling to work with the new scheme and are happy to make our streets a waste strewn health hazard.

However the Council chose to implement this new scheme, before which we had no real problems, and therefore have the responsibility to deal with it's fall out.

If there's a spate of robberies in an area the people really to blame are the thieves, however don't we ask questions if the police continually refuse to do anything about it?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bins emptied!

Yesterday the top couple of houses along my road had about five unemptied, or contaminated, bins outside. One in particular, a new small green one that one of them had been given, had been stuffed full of black sacks for at least a week.

I took some photos and lamented as to how long it might be before they were cleaned up.

I get home tonight and they've all been tidied up, blimey!

This means that either the Council are indeed getting on top of things or someone else along this street is starting to give a damn about how our road looks and contacted Cleansweep themselves.

Either way that's a good development.

I'm still sceptical, very sceptical, that the Council have actually talked to the people who continually fill their bins with the "wrong" rubbish. And remember this, it is the same people who are doing this week after week after week. The Council know who they are and Waste Services do want to tackle them, but they're having they're hands tied. As Waste Services themselves said moving to actual enforcement of the new bin scheme has become a "political" issue.

However maybe now we're finally seeing a change.

My fingers are crossed!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cleansweep's 48 Hour Response

Some nice chap along Floyd Road has seemingly been buying some new furniture for his flat. The waste from him doing so has been dumped outside on the street. There's a big pile of huge sheets of cardboard, plastic wrapping, boxes, a small mattress/futon/"bed thing" and other assorted bedding.

Now it's quite possible that he can't get it to the dump himself, after all he's got a very nice silver Mercedes and he probably doesn't want to get it dirty. So instead it's the street that he dirties.

At least once this week the pile has been kicked over by passers by and he's had to tidy it up. Last night it was kicked over again, it's now blocking the pavement and spilling over into the road.

CleanSweep were told about this and I was given a 48 hour response time, that was on Wednesday. There's a Charlton match today and in a few hours tens of thousands of people will pour down the street and over the rubbish. That can't be good.

Phoning the Council all I can be told is that the call has been marked as "work in progress."

So to fulfil the 48 hour response all Cleansweep have to do is to go onto the task list and mark a task as in progress?

The Council will show due diligence and begin to remove cars from the street in a few hours, for which they will get at least £50 a car.

Hopefully the Council will show due diligence and begin to clear the pavement, for which they will get thanks from residents and fans.

Update: Quite literally as I type this a lorry has turned up and the rubbish is being cleared up. Great stuff! It doesn't take much for the Council to impress me, they've managed to do it.

Now will the Council just react to this problem or will they have a word with the resident responsible and try to stop it happening again?

Monday, August 18, 2008

"A-level success"?

Well the A-Level results are out and Greenwich Council are making a bit of a song and dance about them.

"A-level results day was one of celebration in Greenwich. With an overall pass rate of 96.4%, a number of pupils achieved excellent results and will attend top universities" says a news update email that they sent out.

A page on the Council's web site boasts of "many success stories".

Let's step behind the spin and have a peak at what's really going on.

Pupils educated by Greenwich achieved an A-Level pass rate of 96.4%.

That's below the national average of 97.2%.

It's worse than last years pass rate of 97.8%.

It's worse than Lewisham's pass rate of 98.3%.

Once again Greenwich Council has gone into "head in the sand mode" in the face of a potential crisis.

Greenwich Council, failing our streets, failing our children.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bin Blog Update

It seems that despite claims to the contrary people are interested in reading and commenting about the state of the streets since the new bin scheme staggered into life.

So here's a quick update, and it's actually reasonably positive, sort of.

The street has been a lot cleaner of late and the problems at the top of the road haven't reoccurred. There is, or was, still a small green bin up there stuff full of plastic waste but that's better than it was.

It seems that recently the Council have even been around every week to take black sacks away.

However just around the corner the Last Bus Home is still having problems.

I was told a while ago that Floyd Road was a "priority road", is it still? Is this a standard level of service or are the Council still scampering around trying to keep on top of the mess while failing to tackle the cause?

Time will tell, and hopefully I'll have a bit more time on my hands to do the telling...

Monday, August 04, 2008

A quick update...

A very quick follow on to my last post...

After last weeks cleanup a green bin at the top of Floyd Road is once again over spilling with plastic bags and recyclable waste.

What was I saying about the Council seemingly being unable to be proactive about the causes and simply reacting to problems?

I closed the last post with:

I think I'm right to be pessimistic over this being any change in the tide, I think I've got the historic evidence and an explanation of how the system works that back me up.

But come on, someone out there prove me wrong.

It looks like I've been proved right, again. That's such a shame.

On a lighter note did anyone see the air race this weekend?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

I've caught people's attentions...

My last post and the email it described has attracted a number of responses.

To open with I'll point out, to those who might not know, that my street has now been cleaned up. I suspect this is only temporary, I'm depressingly sure that the same residents and businesses will once again pile their rubbish up at the top of the road. However for now something has been done, I can only hope that that something included actually tackling the causes of the filth and not just the filth.

Have a look at the post for all the comments made there but here's a summary of everything that's gone on.

Monday 28th of July
Coucillor Janet Gillman emails me twice with an impressive average word count of 9 words per message. To be fair though one of the emails was blank. She told me that she had forward the email on to Councillor Maureen O'Mara who is responsible for Cleansweep. This response, in a way, goes right the heart of the problem. Cleansweep are a reactive group who clean up mess when it occurs. To the best of my knowledge Waste Services are the ones who are responsible for the longer term management of the problem. Greenwich Council, and Cleansweep in particular, actually do do a decent job of cleaning up when they've been made aware of something. However all they do is keep reacting and seemingly do little, or little that actually has any impact, to tackle the cause.

Tuesday 29th of July
I'm emailed by someone, who's name I have but will omit, from the Greenwich Contact Centre. Last Sunday as well as the email I reported the problem online to Cleansweep. There's a ridiculously tight word limit to what you can enter so all I managed was this:

Other information: Between number 2 and the top of the street and down the alley between number 1 and the top of the street.

Description: Blue Clear Away bin between #2 and the top of the road full of rubbish and smells. Outside #2 are green bins full of plastic bags also smelling. Alleyway between #1 and top of the road also has green bins filled with plastic and sacks.

Their response was:

With reference to the green top bins that are full of plastic etc. Do they belong to any of the residents in Floyd Road.
It is the responsibility of the residents who these bins belong to, to contact us to get these bins emptied. However, I have raised a Service Request (ID 225927) to advise Waste Services that these bins need emptying.

With regards to the Clearaway Bin, Clearaway need to be contacted to get this bin emptied as this does not belong to the Council.

The first point seems almost dismissive of my report, which was nice.

The second shocked me. They seemed to be saying that the bin was nothing to do with them and that they weren't going to do anything about it, to get it cleaned up I would have to report it to Clearaway.

Excuse me but isn't dumping commercial waste on a residential road fly tipping? Isn't that kind of the Council's business or can any group leave what they want where they want?

I did email them back asking:

Thank you for your response. Should I not report overspilling bins to Cleansweep? As to the Clearaway bin is this being dealt with or are you saying that I need to contact Clearaway myself to get it removed?

I've heard nothing back from them.

Councillor Gary Parker also emailed me. He did this to my email address for this site and not the one which I used to send the email. That does show that at least he remembers me and has got something filed away under my name. A small touch but one that did quite impress me.

He had this to say:

I was already aware of issues on Floyd Road, I have spoken to Jim Wintour and action should have been taken today to deal with the backlog of waste today; recent industrial action in waste services due to national pay issues may also be a contributory factor here, there is more planned in September, unless the dispute is resolved. Jim Wintour will be writing to you in the next few days with an update on the situation, if there are further issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

So the mess was the fault of the national strike? Really? What about all the other times that the same people and businesses have fouled the top of my street? The strike doesn't really have anything to do with this at all, well apart from their possibly being a delay in getting it cleaned up. This once again goes back to my point about all we see Greenwich Council being is reactive and not proactive.

However he did successfully prompt Jim Wintour into action, as we shall see in a bit.

Thursday 31st of July
An appropriately named commentator commented:

Isnt it about time you start having a go at th pigs that live in your local area creating this problem ie the residents rather than blaming the council for the scum that live in your street?

I've had that kind of comment before. My response is that yes it is the fault of the residents and businesses who make the mess. However the Council have implemented a new, and somewhat complicated, scheme with seemingly no thought given to what to do when it goes wrong. It's been over 7 months now and still there are repeated problems. To begin with it seemed to be just residential waste that piled up, now however certain shop owners have cottoned on to the fact that the Council do nothing about the causes of the problem and have added their waste to the pile. The Council may not be the direct cause, however as the creators of the new scheme (which incidentally I do support) they have a duty to see that it's implementation does not cause problems. When problems are caused they have a duty to keep the streets clean.

I also hear from Jim Wintour, the director of Neighbourhood Services.

He said this:

Your ward councillors have contacted me about your concerns about Floyd Road. Indeed I should make it clear that your ward councillors have been assiduous and consistent in pressing me for a higher standard of waste collection, particularly in Floyd Road.

The new waste collection service has had many successes. For example, the percentage of waste recycled has increased from 24% in 2006/7 to 42% now.

The service has also had its problems, particularly with black bags. We have listened to what residents told us and taken action. The Council has agreed to offer all households black topped bins to place their residual rubbish in. Owing to the European shortage of bins we will not be able to introduce this until March 2009. In the meantime we are putting more intense efforts into collecting black bags and bins with incompatible rubbish.

There have been particular issues in Floyd Road. The road is closed to vehicles, making collection more difficult. However, I can only apologise for the unemptied bins on Sunday 27 July. I attach a photo which I took on the morning of Wednesday 30 July and you can see the bins had been emptied.

Some residents in Floyd Road still seem uncertain about recycling. You may wish to draw your neighbours’ attention to our website, setting out what rubbish goes in what bin, and when black bags are collected. The website is at:

In conclusion, can I again thank you for the hard work that you and your colleagues do. The reports from concerned citizens like you are essential to delivering a cleaner and a greener Greenwich.

So my Councillors have been "assiduous and consistent in pressing" for cleaner streets? 7 months of pressure? With no end to the problems? Make your own mind up on that one...

As with Councillor Parker and the national strike Jim Wintour wheels out the water works as a partial cause of the problem. As with the strikes though the water works are a one off event, the same problems have been going on in my street for months, there's no connection there.

Yes some residents are unsure about the recycling so why don't the Council go and actually talk to those people? We all know who they are. You know reach out and make contact? I really don't see it as my job to go up and down my street trying to sort people out who for all I know could be not the most pleasant of characters. Don't we pay Council Tax to keep the streets clean? I would, and have had to, talk to my immediate neighbours about certain issues and between us we've sorted them out. However am I meant to take on that role for the entire street?

Saturday 2nd August
I get a surprise comment from Councillor Paul Webbewood of the Liberal Democrats.

Well the Liberal Democrat councillors put down the following motion at last Wednesday's Council:
(sorry it's a bit long)

"Council wishes to take stock following the introduction of the part-fortnightly rubbish collection system in January 2008.

Council notes that estimated recycling levels between January-March 2008 were 42%, compared to 24% in the whole of 2006-07. Compostable rubbish has increased fourfold following the introduction of the separate collections for food and garden waste.

Less positively Council notes many complaints about untidy streets due to the greater use of black bags.

Council welcomes the decison to purchase bins which will be offered to residents to use for non-recyclable rubbish in place of black bags, although it notes that this may cost over £1 million and believes that the problems should have been foreseen earlier.

Council notes that, while it is frustrating that a minority of residents are not co-operating with the new collection arrangements, it is not accepatble to leave bins deliberately uncollected even if they contain the wrong type of rubbish.

Council therefore:

1, Thanks all staff involved with the new rubbish collection system;

2. Congratulates new residents who have contributed to the increased recycling levels;

3. Apologises to residents for the extra mess on our Borough's streets since January;

4. Calls on Councillors Roberts and Sidhu to repeat this apology in a signed article in Greenwich Time;

5. Guarantees that all bins will be collected promptly even when contaminated by the wrong type of rubbish;

6. Will collect black bags weekly until the bins for residual waste become avaialble;

7. Will use all available powers to deal with residents who consistenetly fail to separate their rubbish in the proper way. Where such residents are private tenants Council will endeavour to make the owner of the property take responsibility for any such failure"

This was voted down by both the Tories (who at least had an alternative motion) and by Labour (who clearly resented discussing this in public). Deputy Leader Peter Brooks clearly wasn't interested and his only contribution to the debate was a bogus point of order.

All very interesting.

However if the opposition really do care about the borough then why not come out here with your camera and a journalist or two and really make a big deal about this issue. Perhaps they already are, but if so why aren't I hearing anything about it?

We have a real and demonstrable example of the failings of this Council on the streets of Greenwich. Use it.

Councillor Allan MacCarthy
Councillor MacCarthy gets a heading all to himself.

I heard nothing from him.

I presume he's too busy with his new role as Deputy Mayor, before then he was always so prompt with his responses and committed with his actions.

Oh wait, hang on, no he wasn't.

I've got an image of him spending the time that he used to spend ignoring the needs of his electors spending it sneaking into the Mayors Office, putting on the pointed hat and spinning round on the chair going "wheeeeeee!". Oh that and still ignoring the needs of those that put him where he his.

The Conclusions...
Congratulations to anyone who's made it this far!

We've seen a whole lot of hot air spouted above, a fair proportion of it from me. So is anything going to change? Will we see a real desire to resolve the problems? Will the opposition parties swing into action and really tackle the Council over this? I'd put money on the answer to those questions being "no".

Remember, as I found out, Waste Services are severely under resourced. Their rules of engagement are also being limited by "political" constraints, namely over their desire to use the law to tackle the persistent offenders.

I think I'm right to be pessimistic over this being any change in the tide, I think I've got the historic evidence and an explanation of how the system works that back me up.

But come on, someone out there prove me wrong.