Sunday, 6 May 2012

It is nice to be kept informed ...

Living near the top of Shooters Hill, one of the highest points around London, has it benefits as well some drawbacks. One of its main benefits are the view. Our house faces west, which means that on the horizon we can see everything from the O2 venue to Chrystal Palace, including Canary Wharf (London's own Manhattan skyline), the Gherkin, Tower Bridge, St Paul's Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Battersea Power Station, and even the Wembley Arch.


When the announcement was made that Shooters Hill had been selected as a possible site for an anti-aircraft missile battery during the forthcoming Olympics, I was not surprised. It is the obvious location, given its commanding position. It is also following several historical precedences. For example, during the Napoleonic Wars one of the Admiralty's signal towers was located on top of Shooters Hill. During the Victorian era the hill was also the projected location for a massive fortification that would be the last line of London's defence in the event of a French invasion. Finally, during the Second World War the hill was the location chosen for an anti-aircraft rocket battery (also known as a Z Battery or battery of 3-inch Unrotated Projectile (UP) projectors) ...


... as well as a barrage balloon ...


... and several camouflaged anti-tank defensive positions. (One of the latter – a flame fougasse – was located less than twenty yards from my house!)

As you might gather, we are happy with the decision that Shooters Hill be selected as a possible site for a Rapier anti-aircraft battery. What we are not happy about is the way this decision was communicated to us. The only communications we have so far had are a hand-delivered letter from the local council, the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The letter was delivered today, 6th May ... but was dated 27th April(!)


The letter was accompanied by a leaflet from the Ministry of Defence ...



... which informed us that we could visit the site chosen for the missile battery so that We could talk to the Officer Commanding ... but the date of the visit was 4th May, two days ago!

This is typical of so much of the Olympics-related communications my wife and I have received over recent months. Another example is the as-yet-to-be-announced car parking arrangements for the period of the Olympics and Paralympics. We have been informed that our house is within the area in which car parking will be restricted, and that local residents will be issued with parking permits. We were told that the arrangement for doing this would be done 'early in 2012'. Well it is now the start of the fifth month of 2012 ... and as yet no arrangements have been announced. Furthermore there have been suggestions that we will be charged up to £75.00 per car for the permits, and that we will have to buy books of temporary, limited parking permits for any visitors who might come to see us during the Olympics and Paralympics.

It is nice to be kept in the picture about what is going on ... but this is just not happening at the moment.

20 comments:

  1. Olympic chaos is to be expected for those that live close. That will include you Bob!

    In Edinburgh, 400 miles away from London and the Olympics, we have had roadside posters warning us that certain roads will be affected during the games!

    There will be some Olympic football in Glasgow but even that is 50 miles away.

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  2. Thank goodness that we in the North West are having nothing to do with the Olympics, apart from sharing the cost!

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  3. for some reason this made me think of the beginnings of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", where Arthur Dent finds out about the impending destruction of his house... (not so funny when you are living it)

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  4. The preparations in general strike me as silly. Any AA battery kills will still likely result in civilian casualties, moving any airial attack from "total success" to "moderate success".

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  5. Jim Duncan,

    The chaos – well, disruption at the very least – has already started. The range at the shooting venue in Woolwich goes across one of the roads that serves the local hospital. It is currently shut as a 'test' ... and for the first few days’ traffic in the area was terrible until people got used to the new arrangements.

    In addition, the powers-that-be have been running some local transport links (such as the Docklands Light Railway) on ‘Olympic timetables’ at weekends to ‘test’ that they will work. This has meant that it has taken me much longer to travel into London by DLR because I am not going to and from an Olympic venue … just from an Olympic venue to Central London.

    In the near future we will see the introduction of 'Zil lanes' (AKA ‘The Olympic Route Network’) on some of the local main roads and in the Blackwall Tunnel (one of the few north-south crossing points on the River Thames east of Tower Bridge). These lanes will be used 'by the people who are making that Games happen' i.e. the athletes, the officials, the organisers, the sponsors, and the 'Great and the Good'. Everyone else may not use these lanes (on pain of a large fine) and may not cross them, even if it means – for example – that if their house is on the right-hand side of the road, a householder has to drive past their house to somewhere they can legally turn around and drive back on the other side of the road. Delivery lorries are not exempt from this ruling, and it has led to a situation where a one of the closest pubs to the Olympic venue in Greenwich may have to close during the Olympics because deliveries of drink and fresh food may not be possible.

    Frankly, I think that the whole thing has been poorly thought through and planning has been done without proper reference to those who will be affected. All I know is that whilst the Olympics are on, my wife and I are going to find going anywhere much more difficult than usual.

    Rant over.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. Martin,

    Be thankful that you live well away from the Olympic venues.

    As I understand it, the financing is coming from three sources:
    64% from Central Government;
    23% from the National Lottery
    13% from the Mayor of London and the London Development Agency

    As I subscribe to all three (Income, Value Added, and Corporation Taxes, lottery tickets, and Council Tax) I am not sure if I am getting value for money!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Fitz-Badger,

    Your comment has more than an element of truth to it.

    When my wife and I were looking for the map that showed the projected restricted parking areas, we had great trouble finding it ... and when we did the map's legend was printed over the area where we live!

    I have a feeling that the first thing I will know about needing a parking permit is when I get a parking ticket because I haven't got a permit!

    All the best,

    Bob

    PS. Our house has a hard-standing on which we park our cars. We therefore assumed that we would not need parking permits as we will not be parking on the road ... but we have been informed that we might need them. We understand that the decision as to whether or not we will need them is still pending!

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  8. Arquinsiel,

    I must admit that this very public show of potential force seems to me to be being done more for public relations than anything else.

    If a hijacked aircraft does try to crash into the Olympic site, it should have been shot down well before it reaches London ... assuming that the duty Minister will give the order to do so. If it gets as far as Shooters Hill or Bow then its shooting down will cause considerable casualties on the ground. Not as many as it would if it hit the Olympic site ... but many thousands, nonetheless.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. You cannot imagine how happy we are many in Madrid to have failed to be chosen as the olympic city in 2012, ja,ja

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  10. I had a feeling that there would be an AA site near you. Have you volunteered as stand-in operator in case the military are short-handed?

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  11. Anibal Invictus,

    I should imagine that you are about as pleased as I would have been if Paris had got the Olympics rather than London!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  12. Tim Gow,

    It was such an obvious position to select for an AA Battery.

    I am tempted to offer my services ... but somehow I don't think my offer would be accepted.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. No amount of missiles will protect us from the tedium that is the Australian media with a major sporting event to report on. Sport is this country's official religion ...

    (And I'm the equivalent of an atheist)

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  14. 75 Squid just to park outside your own house? OUTRAGEOUS! Seriously. How dare the local council even suggest you should have to fork out money for your own permits. That's beyond a joke.

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  15. Kaptain Kobold,

    The majority of sport on the visual media in the UK is transmitted by Sky, and is only accessible by satellite or cable ... for which you have to pay. As the only sport that my wife or I will watch is cricket, this can be problematic. Luckily the Indian Premier League is shown on a non pay-for-view channel otherwise I would have to pay quite a lot of money to Sky and Virgin Media to see the games. Whilst I have nothing against paying for a service, I object to the way these companies ‘bundle’ channels together so that you have to ‘buy’ a ‘package’ … most of which I don’t want or need!

    In the case of Sky, I also object to increasing the wealth of an organisation which seems unable to run parts of its ‘empire’ with out resorting to wholesale corruption and dishonesty, and which is run by people who were recently described as ‘exhibiting wilful blindness’ with regard to that dishonesty and as ‘unfit persons’ to run a media company.

    In the UK there is an assumption that you will like sport … and football in particular. Were Marx (Karl not Groucho) were alive today I suspect that he would now be writing that ‘Football and celebrity are the opiate of the masses’.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  16. Lead Legion,

    The local council already does charge for parking permits in some parts of the Borough.

    In areas where there is controlled parking annual residents' parking permits cost between £57 and £92 per year, and the cost of a visitor’s daily parking permit varies between £3.40 and £7.00 per day (and you may not buy more than 100 of these visitors permits per year).

    If you are a Nanny or a Doctor who has to park in a controlled area (i.e. whilst making a home visit), the annual cost of a permit is £216 … and tradesmen have to pay £15 per week for the same privilege (this works out at £780 per year!).

    What concerns us is that once the council introduces parking restrictions for the Olympics and Paralympics, it will not remove them when the two events are over.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  17. As a new commuter I checked the official Transport for London tube travel advice for the Olympic period.

    Apparently Euston & Bank (the two stations I use) are going to be very busy between 7:30 & 9:30am.

    Wonder how they worked that out?

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  18. Trebian,

    They probably paid a consultant (or consultants) a lot of money to study the situation before making a pronouncement. Surveys would have been conducted, computer models would have been designed and tested, and a long report (including a PowerPoint presentation) would have been written … all to state the bl**din’ obvious!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  19. I feel your pain, we are next to the O2 in Greenwich and our local road is going to be where they escort suspicious vehicles that approach the O2 to.....

    Still, the fact that the closed road by the hospital that you reference is called 'Ha Ha road' meaning that all the signs state 'Ha Ha, road closed' never fails to tickle me.

    Sums up LOCOGs attitude pretty well.

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  20. Telemachus,

    As a near neighbour of mine you must be very well aware of the disruption the people of South and East London are going to experience during the Olympics.

    I must admit that until it was explained to me I could not understand why they decided to locate the shooting events in Woolwich. Apparently it was done to keep the area of London used for the Olympics as compact as possible!

    I still have not had an explanation why the shooting range crosses Ha-Ha Road, thus requiring the road to be closed and non-emergency access to the hospital to be limited.

    I had not seen any signs stating 'Ha-Ha Road Closed' ... but I will now look out for them, and if I can take a photograph, I will put it in a future blog entry.

    All the best,

    Bob

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