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Greenwich Business Club:
Inaugural Meeting

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GMT2000. 17 April 1996

The Greenwich Business Club held its inaugural meeting on Wednesday 17 April 1996 at the banqueting rooms of the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich.

The meeting drew 284 members of the business community to hear Sir Bob Scott of Greenwich Millenium Trust and Cllr Len Duvall, Greenwich Council Leader, present an update on preparations for the Millennium Celebrations and outline the prospects for businesses in the Borough.

Sir Bob Scott gave the background to Greenwich’s successful bid to be the official site for the Millennium Celebrations, which he headed. He recounted how of the two finalists one presented a structured, feasible plan and the other, Imagination, presented a brilliant design based on the “Circle of Time”. Imagination’s plan for Birmingham won--and was now being adapted for Greenwich.

Under Sir Peter Levine’s chairmanship, a team was seeking to fill the resultant void--by identifying one great British company to take the overall responsibility for the project and put in place the funding required to build and run it. Sir Bob expressed confidence that by 15 May 1996 a decision to proceed in earnest would be made--or there would be nothing.

Now that its prime objective had been achieved, the Millennium Trust was redefining its role so that it could continue to be a positive force, said Sir Bob. He stated that the Greenwich Millennium Trust Forum, representing MP’s, groups within Greenwich Borough, large companies and contiguous boroughs, would represent and forward the community’s views. “This is essential” he said “as the Millennium site in Greenwich is not a green field seven miles from the centre of Birmingham (a reference to Greenwich’s last main contender in the bid race) but a vibrant community which has to be behind the project.” He felt that the Forum was communicating with most of the players--although he admitted that some did not feel so.

Not a sound could be heard in the packed audience as he quoted the mayor of Barcelona’s view after staging the Olympic Games in his city that ‘he had got 30 years of work carried out in five years’. “We’ll be in the same position,” he rallied. “You can’t renegotiate the timing of the Olympic Games--and you certainly can’t renogotiate the thirty-first of December 1999.”

He invited the people of Greenwich to look beyond the disruption and annoyance that will inevitably accompany the Millennium preparations to the solid results that could be achieved through them. “With their backing we can achieve 30 years work in four years,” he declared.

He painted a picture a “Versailles axis” from Blackheath to the river--and looked to the day when Greenwich would become a World Heritage Site. “It cannot be allowed to fail,” he concluded. “My job is to keep the optimism going.”

In his presentation, Cllr Duvall declared that the business community was as vital a part of Greenwich as the residents. He referred to major forthcoming events which would impact beneficially on the Borough, such as the arrival of the Jubilee Line at Greenwich Peninsula and the Dockland Light Railway at Cutty Sark Gardens, which would be important for the town centre well into the new Millennium. He mentioned the success the council had had with widening roads in Greenwich--and referred to the challenge presented by the departure of the Armed Services from the Naval College.

Though regeneration had not been very successful in the late 80’s, the 90’s had seen a turnaround, with SRB’s and European funding channelled into Woolwich with very posiitive results. Progress was not as fast as he would like, he said, but argued that there were other priorities, such as schools and youth training. He stated he was very much for job creation, and felt that the £500 million investment earmarked for the Milliennium preparations would favour this.

He said that London is developing eastward along the river--of which Greenwich was an important part--and thought that the legacy of the Milliennium project would be that people would want to live, work and come to play in the Borough--all of which would be healthy. He stated that the Council would be vigilant in pursuing higher standards of service from bus and rail operators--in terms of frequency, comfort and cleanliness.

“Given that we have more development land than either Docklands or the Royals, it is very important that we get this right,” he avowed--and gave his full backing to Agenda 21.

He declared that the Milliennium Celebrations should not be seen merely as a one-year party--but as a way of changing people’s perception of Greenwich so that it would be established as a place to come and work.

He could not foresee specifically the goods and services that will be required: some would inevitably have to come from outside Greenwich, he felt--but as Council Leader he would do his best to see that as much as could be drawn from the Borough would be. The Council was not following a single sector strategy, he said. “Greenwich has more to offer than tourism alone. We have thriving manufacturing and construction industries here, and it is the task of all of us to ensure that standards, quality and fit are all in place so that outsiders will see that it makes good business sense to use local labour and businesses.”

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