Trouble in the Millennium Village – or just troublemaking?

The man pictured on the right is best-known now for selling an insurance comparison website on television. But, strange as it may seem now, John Prescott was once one of the most powerful men in the country.

He made his mark on Greenwich, too. During the early years of the last Labour government, he was the man in charge of the regeneration of the Greenwich Peninsula.

In summer 1997, he clambered along the beach by the yacht club for the cameras, picking up a jar containing a crab. “Hello Peter,” he said – a dig at a man who’s now a fellow member of the House of Lords, Peter Mandelson. He was there to launch his vision for a “millennium village” on the peninsula, just down the road from the under-construction Dome.

The first residents moved in at the end of 2000, and it’s grown slowly since. Maybe too slowly – those first residents had to wait nearly 10 years for any decent shop in the development.

In that decade, it’s fair to say there’s some mixed feelings about the place. I started out not being a fan – seeing flats on what used to be publicly-owned land sold as “investments” for foreign property speculators enraged me. We were sold the redevelopment as something to revive the fortunes of our neighbourhood – what we got looked very much like a yuppie village. With huge hoardings boasting of unaffordable homes and “investment opportunities”, it seemed a triumph of the selfish over the needs of the community.

The community’s more balanced now, and the “yuppie village” tag doesn’t stick like it used to, although Ferraris still race up John Harrison Way to creep into underground car parks. My own feelings on the place are more mixed now. Wander around on a sunny day, and it feels like a lovely place to live – easy to walk around with the bonus of the ecology park right on the doorstep. But around Christmas time I rode through it by bike at night – deserted, and deadly quiet except for the wind howling through the blocks and the banners slapping against lamp posts. It felt like a seaside town out of season.

For many, GMV is something they just pass through on the bus, wondering what the hell it’s like inside, and wondering why some many of its residents queue to use those buses to go just one stop to North Greenwich station. Greenwich-based architecture writer Owen Hatherley has branded it a “a microcosm of New Labour’s wasted opportunities”. But it feels a lot more human now there’s the row of shops there, and hopefully future development will smooth some of GMV’s more uncomfortable edges, and integrate it further into the wider neighbourhood. It’s still early days.

So, with all that in mind… what’s all this about, then?

“We are a group of disgruntled residents and owners living in the Greenwich Millennium Village. Over the years, we witness the village going from an exclusive development of working professionals and peaceful families to a council estate overrun by hordes of feral kids, gypsy camps, violent social residents and people who visit them.

“We fall victim to our neighbors [sic] stealing our mail, stealing our bicycles, vandalising public spaces, peeing and defecating in the lifts and corridors and disturbing the peace. We can’t even park cars on the road, but gypsy encampments are being left alone by parking wardens happy to issue £120 tickets to anyone who parks with a tyre touching the kerb.

“We are tired of council tenants turning the Greenwich Millennium Village into a council estate and driving the property prices down.”

Those damn council tenants, eh? Actually, the travellers have been there for a lot longer than anyone else on that peninsula. (Even if one of their dogs did run at me a few weeks ago, although only to jump around and bark, the useless mutt.) Anyway, what else are these people upset about?

– A man arrested in the “notorious core of Metcalfe Court facing the Oval Square, occupied by both shared ownership residents and social tenants.”cripes!

“Imagine coming back home from work to your £300k+ flat…” and finding someone’s honked up in the lift! Blimey. Imagine how you’d feel if your flat cost £500k and you came back to that! And presumably, if your flat was on the social…

“Social tenants are free to urinate in the lifts and corridors, nick your parcels a reckless mailman left in front of your apartment instead of concierge office, burn the flats into a crisp and generally make a proper mess of the whole area.” Really?

– GMV residents get abandoned by “the TfL” because of a Jubilee Line shutdown which includes Christmas Day – “I just pity the ones who bought into the whole “global warming” champaigne socialist propaganda and do not have a car – they will have to rely on their legs, I guess, or minicabs.”

– A rip-roaring expose of how it SNOWED a whole inch in the relatively isolated Millennium Village yet nobody did a thing about it and yet there was no snow in Canary Wharf!

– How dare an eco-friendly village install electric car parking spaces! “Some people will obviously be desperate and still park there and council will have an opportunity to make a quick buck and slap them with a £120 parking ticket – unless they are Gypsies.”

It goes on, with another highlight being a particularly unpleasant post about a fire in a flat last year, dispelling my suspicion that the site was a spoof.

Now, I’m not stupid enough to think that all people who bought in GMV are as misanthropic as this particular cyber-vigilante seems – “what are you 11, grow up and start acting like an adult,” chides one respondent. But this is what gave GMV a bad name in the first place – the impression that it was somewhere people with money went to escape from the rest of us. It’d be nice to think lessons have been learned from the Greenwich Millennium Village’s growing pains – but it seems not, with homes on the redeveloped Ferrier Estate also now being touted to foreign speculators.

So what the hell is going on here? Is the Millennium Village dream really going wrong – or is this just a collection of nasty rants? I know there have been real problems with the village’s management company’s attitude to its residents, too – with the quality of the buildings and with the heating systems, and with some of those environmental claims not coming up to scratch.

Unfortunately, we hear very little from GMV – its residents’ forum website has been running for years, but is closed to non-residents. “They were worried about people calling it a yuppie village,” I was told by one resident. (Whoops.) I hear the denziens of the GMV forum aren’t happy with GMVsucks.com – and understandably so.

But hopefully this will prompt the majority of GMV residents who aren’t nasty little snobs to open up a bit more. The best way to fight against bad pictures is to paint a better one yourself. Come on, tear down those walls on your forum, we can help with those queries about what to do when the Tube’s on strike. Or set up a blog – being part of a growing district must make GMV one of the most fascinating areas of London in which to live. It’s prime territory for a hyperlocal site. Instead of the braying minority with no time for their neighbours, it’s time we heard from the real residents of GMV. Come on in, the water’s lovely…

22 comments

  1. Many (if not all) of the new developments in SE London (regeneration . . .) are being sold to foreign investors – Loampit Vale claims ‘80% sold’ and has been advertised in Hong Kong – good article about GMV – the future of present developments ‘writ large’.

    By the way, I used to work on the peninsula in the ’80s – it was a wasteland then (and, actually, not unpleasant for that) but is now a dumping ground after developers have made a few bucks and buggered off to pastures new . . .

  2. I have lived at GMV since 2001 and I love the architecture, urban environment and the river walks.

    We have the most fantastic neighbours, in fact, I would consider many of my neighbours to be good friends. We party together and commiserate together I have never experienced such great neighbourly relations thus far in any other place that I have lived.

    Having the O2 and various exciting developments around the Peninsula is great. For many years it was a bit of a backwater but the Jubilee Line is great, when it works and now that we no longer suffer from regular weekend closures.

    I have not been affected by ASB issues but clearly there are those that have. The Management could be more robust in dealing with these issues and that is really the issue. But with various agencies and bodies involved it does seem to take an overly long time to resolve the problems.

    But to reiterate, IMHO GMV is a great place to live!

  3. First of all it is good to see someone looking on GMV issues from some prospective.

    I am resident in that lovely development leaving as share ownership tenant in mixed court with social tenants. I can 100% relate to EVERYTHING is mentioned on gmvsucks.com as I experienced it ALL and even more unfortunately. I also stopped addressing all the issues to managing company as nothing was being done. You read all about on GMV closed to public forum. You can only guess (and I am sure you are guessing very well) why that forum is only open to the residents. There is a lobby of that yuppies living here and they just like swipping all the problem under the carpet and pretend everything is perfect. They don’t want the world to know the naked truth about GMV as their property value may be in danger. They all got very upset upon discovering GMVsucks.com and most of them don’t experience social housing problems. But it is a very serious issue here plus gypsies, Jubilee line etc etc

    It is good to hear that someone is about to discover a real GMV with ASB issues. I just hope it will lead to resolving it and that would make my life easier, safer and more enjoyable here.

  4. Amazing post Darryl, excellent research too. Can’t believe that post about the fire. Does anyone know if the person in the flat at the time was alright? Person who wrote the page sounds like a nasty shit to go to the effort of finding videos and writing a blog about something where someone could have (in theory) died.

    I am sure this person ‘Big_Jo_Daddy’ (or persons?) doesn’t represent the view of the whole of GMV though. Hope so!

  5. That site really is an amazing – and depressing – discovery. I’d be tempted to start an equivalent for my street, but I think I’d struggle to reach quite the right shrill tone of entitlement and ‘it’s not fair’.

    And also my neighbours would probably – quite reasonably – chin me.

  6. There’s been a few bad social tennants, generally in one of the newer blocks. A few hard working private residents near them are (you have to say understandably) extremely frustrated at having to put up with the ridiculously slow progress towards eventually taking action against them. Sadly one or two have become bitter and twisted about it – creating this website and indeed hijacking almost every thread on the GMVA website with rants about how evil the labour party, housing associations, the managing agents, TFL, the council, and everyone else is.

    The rest of us love it for what it is (and having the rest of Greenwich in easy walking/cycling distance). It’s probably not for everyone but having the shops and the college open now is giving the windy peninsula a bit more of a soul and I can’t wait for development at Enderby wharf etc to connect us more firmly to the rest of town.

  7. For most of the items on that site, you just can’t take seriously (the snow and the tube the most obvious ones). For the rest, as “ILOVEGMV” says above, there are ASB issues which are being dealt with behind the scenes with the Council, with Moat and with the Management. I can’t comment, because I’ve never experienced it in my years here. But the people here are proactive in tackling these things that pop up in any community. In fact, I’d be very worried if they decided to ignore these issues and let it spiral. It’s unfortunate that the webmaster doesn’t want to be part of the solution, and instead wants to vent. That’s his (or her) prerogative, I suppose.

    I’ve no issue with the forum staying closed – sometimes you need to have heated discussions without the whole world watching, and besides, quite a few communities have closed groups. That shouldn’t stop residents from posting on sites like this, though.

    Two small points – One one hand, I’ve never ever seen a Ferrari driving around here (or any luxury car – though maybe I’m not paying attention). On the other hand, like you, I don’t understand why people don’t walk the ten minutes to the station. 30 people waiting for a bus at 830am to go one stop is comical, to the say the least.

    Anyway, I can only echo ILOVEGMV’s post on the village. It’s great here!

  8. I am enjoying the comments from the GMV locals. Hope to see more. Can you add a link to this article to the the residents site? Worth it? 🙂

  9. This blog has been posted on the forum gmva.net but it is does not necessarily reach the whole of gmv. There are approx 350 members and maybe one third are active. There are approximately 1100 homes at GMV.

  10. “A Jubilee Line shutdown which includes Christmas Day”

    That’s awful. I know the WHOLE TUBE shuts down on Christmas Day, and the WHOLE OF LONDON lacks tube service, but I would have thought these awfully important people living in the GMV deserve better than the rest of us plebs…

  11. I’ve copied and pasted my recent reply to the moaners on the gmv forum, i moved here christmas 2002 when a big part of it was very much a building site.

    ‘I actually really enjoy living in GMV.

    I like the unique design of the place.
    I like saying hello to the porters and dave at the concierge
    I like saying hello to the neighbours
    I like walking the dog around the ecology park and along the river, it never fails to be an interesting walk
    I like hardly using the heating because the house is so well insulated, so well in fact that next doors band practice is hardly audible.
    I like having the o2 on the doorstep, yep it is a pain getting back from the tube occasionally but still never takes more than 10 mins to get a bus, hardly a huge inconvenience,
    I like having the main a2 near but not noticeable
    I like having the pilot pub a 5 min walk away
    I like the variation living in greenwich brings; the parks, the river, the history.
    I like central london being only 10 mins away on the tube, surely this area is unique for zone 2?

    I’ve been here for over 8 years and still enjoy living here’

  12. I think GMVsucks is the opinion of a small minority of people and as the comments to this article show, many people really enjoy living in GMV, myself included.

    I have to say, some or the things you said about GMV in the past Daryl, were equally ill informed and in a different way showed your own prejudices about the place.. I seem to remember your attitude changing around the time you were running for the local elections as The Green Party candidate and GMV fell within your ward.

  13. I don’t have anything to change my mind about, so not sure what that comment means? My point is that some of what you have written is in some ways similar to GMVsucks, from a different angle admittedly but still equally prejudiced.

  14. Work it out for yourself Patrick, or “Canz” as you posted as in 2009 with almost exactly the same complaint, and then once again after I’d tried to argue that people do actually change their minds on things.

    Interestingly, this post has had more slightly more referrals from the private residents’ forum at Deptford’s Millennium Quay development than the similarly private GMV residents’ forum. MQ’s probably bigger, mind, but it’s a shame to miss out on the discussions at either place.

  15. I have lived in GMV for four years now and I have to say I really like the peaceful atmosphere… Considering we’re in Zone2 and very close to central london this is very quiet… We do have some minor issues such as street lighting sometimes and other management issues but overall I really like it here. O2 doesn’t bother me at all. If we lived in other Zone2 areas, I’m sure we’d have more crowd and noise problems than what we do here. I like the fact that we have an option of going to O2 for meals, cinema, bars, concerts, etc. all in our doorstep. And the best thing is that it’s getting even better, slowly but surely. The place is little bit more lively with more amenities.
    Just to put things in perspective, I grew up in a farm in the country side, when my mum stayed with me for 1 week, she kept asking me whether there are any people living in GMV really because it all seemed so quiet for her. And this was in warm May day and not in a freezing winter day.
    Stop moaning and work together within the village to sort out the problems we might have. It’s never perfect, but it’ll never be perfect for some people.

  16. Canz was my old email address, hence I used it as a moniker – why do you mention that? I’m not trying to hide anything- lots of people use nicknames on blogs – I think yours was Inspector Sands? My point is that whenever you write about GMV there is a negative tone, which I don’t really get and in the past, what you have said hasn’t reflected the reality of living here. I just thought it was quite amusing that this changed when you were standing to be elected as the Green Party candidate for this area. I think that is a fair enough point to raise in the context of this post (which is about someone writing a negative blog about GMV). I’ve still got no idea what you mean about me changing my mind and I have as you suggested tried to work it out for myself..

  17. The shrillness of the website asides (the authors are clearly exasperated with the poor management of the development), I’d also be a bit peeved if Gypsies had occupied the road and were trashing the area. As I would be if people were repeatedly trashing, urinating, defecating and vomiting in communal areas. As I would if there were repeated thefts….

    And I assume you would be too.

  18. YES we have a problem in GMV its called GMVsucks, a childish little man who hides behind a pseudonym moaning about everyday life in London.
    This guy is one of the villages eternal wingers, always blaming someone else but not wanting to do anything or get involved.
    There are systems in GMV to deal with theses problems, not fantastic but they work and most importantly they are guided by law.
    The village residents association has invited him to get involved but it seems to no avail.
    So instead his (gmvsucks) intention is to bully the rest of us by deliberately targeting our property value.

    It now seems that he is editing his site, removing any question or argument that reflects badly against his narrow view.

    This person has no respect for his community or where he lives, hiding behind this website.

  19. it really makes me laugh when i read some of the whinges by posters regarding GMV….they need to appreciate that the village is an ABSOLUTE paradise compared to most of SE London (though SE10 is generally very safe / nice area to live in )…..it is beautiful, clean and maintained…..a couple of teens swearing / writing graff here or there is nothing to get so hyped about……in a way it is good people do as this is what maintains the beautiful tranquil surroundings of the village…..my point is that in the grand scheme of things GMV is – without doubt – an AMAZING place to live…….you can be paying the same money and live 10 mins down the road in deptford / new x and see people getting shot outside your house or have to worry about getting mugged everytime you want to get some milk……..that is no exaggeration, i am particularly referring to the area around new x station……….my point here is that GMV offers that perfect escape from hectic London life but when you want to do something there is so much on offer……o2, beautiful parks, imax + 2 other decent cinemas, greenwich is a really safe place to go out at night and has some amazing pubs on the river…….if you are looking for somewhere peaceful, tranquil with good connections and above all SUPER SAFE GMV is the place to be

  20. Hello, does anyone have views on the Millenium Primary School? We have just been oggered a place for reception class & would be happy to hear from you. Thanks! Naomi’s mum

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