Greenwich councillors tonight unanimously backed an extension of Greenwich Shopping Park onto Woolwich Road, centred around a new “public square” and boasting branches of Matalan, Starbucks and Frankie & Benny’s.
All 10 councillors on the board supported the scheme, which its promoters say will create 200 jobs, including 100 full-time positions.
The site, opposite Victoria Way, was kept empty for some years awaiting the scrapped Greenwich Waterfront Transit fast bus scheme. A Travelodge was due to be built on the site in time for the Olympic Games, and gained planning permission, but that proposal also fell through.
Concerns raised by councillors included traffic, maintenance of the public square and the fate of a willow tree at the centre of the site.
“If we had Monty Don here, we’d be able to find a solution to this,” council leader Denise Hyland said as she lamented plans to knock down the tree, which she said “brings joy as you drive or walk past”.
Kidbrooke with Hornfair councillor Norman Adams said traffic in the area was “chaos” on Saturday and Sunday mornings, although the hearing was told the development would only bring 43 extra “vehicle movements” to the area during peak Saturday shopping hours.
Local resident Simon Hall said he was pleased developers had taken on board criticism of the plans, planting trees so he and his neighbours didn’t have to “face a dull brick wall”.
He called on Greenwich planners to make sure the development wasn’t as close to the pavement as the new Sainsbury’s/M&S scheme is, adding that developers’ money should be used to improve the “disgusting” street scene on the south side of the Woolwich Road and to turn the zebra crossing at the site into a pelican crossing.
Developers also plan to put lighting down the side of the Frankie & Benny’s unit to illuminate the existing pathway to Asda. The pathway’s owner, Ramac Group Ltd, did not respond to requests to co-operate with the planning application.
One sticking point was whether developers should contribute to a possible new bus route in the area – so far TfL has declined to extend the 202 service from Blackheath to serve Sainsbury’s/M&S, despite the developer offering money.
Regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe said that “even though you sometimes can’t get on a 472”, he would prefer to see money go into improving the surrounding area. But Denise Hyland added: “I don’t want to see Transport for London refuse to introduce a bus because there’s no Section 106 [money for it].” In the end, it was decided to leave the issue to officers.
Questions over the state of the public space – to be centred around a red oak tree – included whether it would end up being colonised by skateboarders. Which led to one Charlton Champion follower on Twitter to suggest a solution that could help the Charlton Park scheme…
Details to be ironed out with the council before work goes ahead include sorting out a “travel plan” and finalising just where developers’ money should go.
The Matalan planned for the site would replace the one in Greenwich’s Millennium Retail Park – slated for demolition as part of the controversial Ikea development – which itself replaced its earlier site on Bugsby’s Way.