Sir Bob Scott gave a brief overview of the Forum to date. It had functioned for 4 years and performed a useful role. Membership had increased. A new 'work and learn' Centre has recently been set up at the Dome. There has also been much discussion about the route of Phase III of the Waterfront Transit (from the Dome to Greenwich Town Centre). Although it had previously been thought that it would avoid the major routes of Blackwall Lane and Trafalgar Road, and instead service Banning Street and the waterfront developments such as Lovell's Wharf, planning a feed back in to Trafalgar Road closer to the Town Centre has proved problematic. It now seems likely that it will have to follow the original route despite the difficulties of doing this while maintaining normal traffic flows. As far as the Dome is concerned he stated that much still depends on whether a casino licence will be granted.
The O2 Waterfront
Work is now 16 weeks in to the 98 week project inside the structure previously known as the Dome. Most of the 'cores' of the Arena itself have been erected and it is understood that around 300 workmen are now to be found regularly involved in construction work on the new Arena and first-level 'raft' area located around the Blackwall Tunnel ventilation shaft which it is hoped will eventually form the base of the proposed casino facility. The roof of the O2 Arena is apparently being constructed on the floor. It will then be jacked up in to position when complete. This is apparently the largest structure ever to be raised in to position in this way. As well as the Arena and 160,000 sq. m. second-level 'raft' located in the vicinity of the Blackwall Tunnel ventilation shaft, the first phase of the work will include a 60,000 sq. m., 2000 seat live music club, an 11-screen cinema, a 70,000 sq. m. Eden Project-style 'biome' housing three floors of exhibition space and a tree-lined boulevard of five retail outlets, 10 restaurants and three nightclubs with an 'electric sky'! Although the Arena itself is due to be completed around March 2007, the official opening is now likely to be delayed a month or so to coincide with completion of most of the Waterfront area and a planned exhibition of Tutankhamun's Treasures.
Phase II of the Waterfront development within the Dome curtilage will involve the development of a further 13,000 sq. m. of space. An adjacent high-rise hotel topped with a revolving 'sky' restaurant is dependent upon a successful bid for a casino in the O2 Waterfront. This will apparently be operated by Sol Kerzner, the millionaire behind South Africa's Sun City, who has already appointed Sir Richard Rogers to develop concepts for the hotel.
The David Beckham Football Academy, built by the Anshutz Entertainment Group on the site of part of the old MEX coach park, is now complete and occupied. The initial opening is planned for the October school half-term, with the first use by Deptford and Greenwich schoolchildren in early November.
Greenwich Millennium Village
Andrew Storey, GMV's Development Director, provided an update on plans for the 'Village Square'. On the Village Master Plan, originally not a 'square' but an oval, the development of the Peninsula to date has forced a rethink on the precise location and alignment of the Square. West Parkside Phase II is due for completion in September 2006. It is hoped that the current proposals will be approved and contruction begun in early 2006, with completion at the end of 2007. The housing mix will be 162 private, 84 affordable, 161 car parking spaces and 1231 sq. m. of retail/café/bar space. The square will have buidings to the east and south with ground floor commercial space and mature trees located alongside the dedicated bus lane on West Parkside and on the John Harrison Way frontage, which itself will be 'calmed' as it is already a 'dead-end' route the Thames Path.
A New Heart for East Greenwich
A joint presentation by English Partnerships and Greenwich Council stated that proposals for the site would require the 'highest quality urban development' with exemplary public leisure, retail and commercial facilities. Overall it would offer a highly sustainable development, would foster investment and opportunity and would offer priority to pedestrians and cycles. Consultation, consultation, consultation was the name of the game! Demolition of the old Greenwich District Hospital should be complete by May 2006. A Development Framework would be completed by the end of November 2005 and there would be a development competition to be decided by May 2006. Dick Hogbin for the Council described the current designs for the new Eltham Baths/Library/Council One-Stop Shop and explained that it was planned to implement a similar concept here.
The Leader of Greenwich Council then summed up. There were many questions to be answered. With a focus on housing, what infrastructure improvements were needed? What sort of accomodation would be on offer? There was a need for family houses as opposed to the ubiquitous riverside flats. How much employment can be localised? What sort of jobs will be available? There were already massive traffic problems in the area. How can a solution be found? Gridlock v. dereliction. How can it be addressed? Move it, block it or charge it! There must be a dialogue soon before it is too late and there is a need to manage change.