A developer has applied to Greenwich Council to turn the old Charlton Conservative Club on Charlton Church Lane into 26 bedsits, accommodating up to 49 people.
The club closed seven years ago and permission was given in 2015 to demolish the rear hall to provide a two-bedroom flat and a three-bedroom maisonette together with a new block of three two-bedroom flats, and construction of a terrace of four two-bedroom houses on land at the back of the property. Work began but was never completed.
The plans for what the developer is calling “co-living units” will, however, have to go through the existing system. “The proposal is a form of residential accommodation aimed at providing affordable and high quality accommodation in the form of co-living arrangement,”planning documents say. “With the average house price in Greenwich at a value of £554,000, co-living which is a house in multiple occupation, offers an affordable alternative of living accommodation whilst retaining the luxury. Therefore, this a growing trend and co- living arrangement caters for young professionals who struggle to afford London’s increasing property prices.”
Planning documents refer to 30 rooms with 19 double rooms, 3 accessible double rooms and 8 single rooms. The developer says there “will be a concierge presence 24 hours a day”.
Demolition crews have moved in to the Morris Walk Estate on the Charlton/Woolwich border, starting a year of work to dismantle the 1960s blocks before work can start on 900 new homes.
The estate is being redeveloped in conjunction with the Connaught Estate in Woolwich, which has largely been rebuilt by developer Lovell as Trinity Walk. The company hopes to start work on the new homes at Morris Walk in autumn 2021.
Built in the mid-1960s as part of a long-delayed slum clearance programme – Morris Walk was one of the streets destroyed – the estate was constructed using prefabricated parts built at a factory in Norwich and taken by train to Charlton, where lorries would take the parts to the estate. Two flats were put together each day. The first tenants were housed in December 1964, and the estate was finished by the autumn of 1966.
The distinctive blocks were seen as a success at the time, but within a year of the estate being completed severe condensation started to blight its 562 homes along with rodents and poor soundproofing. A gas explosion at Ronan Point – built using similar methods – across the river in Canning Town in 1968 led to more worries about the blocks, and they were refurbished in the mid-1980s. Plans to demolish the blocks were announced in 2006. Delays have reset the project since then, with discord between the council and Lovell. Demolition was due to begin two years ago.
In 2014, outline planning permission was given for up to 766 homes – a quarter for social rent and 10 per cent for shared ownership. Those plans envisaged tall blocks to the north with houses and maisonettes to the south. However, a new masterplan is being prepared and detailed plans will have to be approved by Greenwich Council before work can begin. A consultation is due later this year.
Chris Wallace, the construction director at Lovell said: “The demolition work is a very complex procedure which has to be carefully planned due to the height and layout of the estate, the vicinity of the rail lines and proximity of the local community. As usual, health and safety is our key priority and we will communicate to the local residents on a regular basis.”
Both Greenwich Council and Lovell said they were not responsible for allowing emergency services to carry out exercises on the estate, with conflicting accounts over what happened. Lovell has now blamed a “miscommunication” between it, the MoD, police and council.
The MoD said: “We regret that the conduct of this exercise caused disruption, particularly as the activity took place late in the day. The Ministry of Defence continues to be extremely grateful for the support from the local community for critical exercises such as this, and we apologise for the inconvenience it has caused.”
The Metropolitan Police said: “The Metropolitan Police Service were advised of a military exercise due to be held on the 23rd June at the Morris Walk Estate. The MPS regrettably did not foresee the impact that this would have on the community. We apologise for any upset or distress caused to the community by the Military activity during their training exercise.”
Greenwich Council says it will oppose any attempt to move Charlton Athletic out of the borough as the club’s future hangs in the balance following its relegation from the Championship last week.
Supporters had rejoiced last October when the Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet sold the club after five turbulent years to a group called East Street Investments (ESI). But promises that the new owners would invest in the side were not followed through – wrecking hopes it would stay in football’s second tier – and ESI collapsed into acrimony last March, with leading figures Matt Southall and Tahnoon Nimer trading insults on social media.
To make matters worse, Duchâtelet – apparently attempting to recoup the millions he lost during his time in charge – has held onto The Valley and the club’s training ground at Sparrows Lane in New Eltham. Last month, the club claimed ESI had been sold to Manchester-based businessman Paul Elliott, but that deal has yet to be ratified by the English Football League.
Supporters fear The Valley could be redeveloped, but Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe has told The Charlton Champion the authority wants to see the club remain.
“Generations of Greenwich residents have supported Charlton Athletic and they would have been devastated by their relegation last week. The council has very close ties to the club, especially its Community Trust which has worked with us to coordinate over 1,000 volunteers to deliver food and other vital support to residents during the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
“I wrote to Mr Duchâtelet two years ago when there were protests about his ownership and had hoped that winning promotion last year and new ownership would bring about some stability to the club. Sadly that hasn’t happened, and relegation could make things even worse.
“The stadium and training ground sites are designated for specific uses and we would not be interested in any proposals that involved a change of use. Charlton Athletic belongs in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and we will oppose anything that could lead to them being moved out of the borough.”
While The Valley is generally thought to be a difficult site to build on – a large sewer runs underneath it and road access is limited – fans have feared development proposals for many years. Duchâtelet’s predecessors as owners, Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez, had explored the idea of moving to Greenwich Peninsula and striking a deal to have The Valley used for social housing, a court case in 2017 revealed.
Further back, a separation in the ownership of club and ground led to Charlton leaving The Valley in 1985 for Crystal Palace’s ground at Selhurst Park, leading to a damaging seven-year exile from the area. Greenwich planning policies designate it as “community open space”.
However, there is also concern at Woolwich Town Hall about the fate of Sparrows Lane. While it is designated as Metropolitan Open Land – giving it one of the strongest protections against development – councillors fear a planning inspector could still allow building there.
A Premier League side as recently as 2007, Charlton were relegated back to League One last week after a 4-0 defeat at league champions Leeds United. Fans fear the relegation and off-field drama will lead to the departure of manager Lee Bowyer as well as several key players.
The club said tonight: “Getting the change of ownership approved is the top priority of everyone at the club and there is no delay on the part of the club.
“The club will be in touch with the league on Tuesday morning with aim of getting this process concluded.”