Charlton Sainsbury’s development – did the community get a raw deal from £1.5m planning cash?

The new superstore store complex looms over housing on Woolwich Road
The new superstore store complex looms over housing on Woolwich Road

The developer behind Sainsbury’s and M&S paid Greenwich Council nearly £1.5 million to help secure planning permission, the Charlton Champion can reveal. But none of this money has been spent in the Charlton area – and promised facilities at the development haven’t materialised.

The firm behind the Charlton Riverside Retail Park, LXP RP (Greenwich 3) Ltd, agreed to pay £1,484,927 to Greenwich Council in Section 106 payments. These are aimed at easing the impact of large construction projects on local communities.

But none of the money has been spent in Charlton – with a chunk of the money going to projects in Woolwich instead.

The Charlton Champion used the Freedom of Information Act to find out what LXB paid Greenwich Council – and how it is being spent.

Making a difference in [insert store name here]
Making a difference in [insert store name here]

So far, £170,685 has been spent. The first £150,000 has gone to “employment and training” – believed to be Greenwich Local Labour and Business, the council’s employment agency, which is largely funded by these payments. GLLaB is due to receive a further £284,613 from this project.

The remaining £20,685 has been spent on a “public safety” contribution – the council’s CCTV control room in Woolwich.

The other sums have been allocated, but not spent. Asked where they would be spent, the council merely said on “schemes within the Royal Borough of Greenwich”.

£303,120 has been earmarked for “town centre management”. This sum won’t be spent in Charlton – instead, it is likely to go to Woolwich, Eltham and/or Greenwich.

A huge motorway-size sign adds to street clutter at Charlton Church Lane
A huge motorway-size sign adds to street clutter at Charlton Church Lane

£209,202 has gone to “public realm” – effectively, making streets look nicer. Again, there’s no pledge to spend this money locally – despite the poor state of the area’s streets (worsened by the huge SUPERSTORE signs that have appeared in recent weeks). A further £217,307 has gone to “environmental health”.

Finally, £300,000 has gone to “bus service enhancements”. Again, it’s not clear quite where this money will be spent. There are currently no plans to enhance bus services in the Charlton area, while Transport for London rejected proposals to extend bus route 202 from Blackheath Standard to serve the new store.

There’s an additional £449,715 too – this is a community infrastructure levy, collected by boroughs on behalf of City Hall to help pay for Crossrail.

So far, so disappointing. But if local groups want to start lobbying for improvements to the area, there’s where the cash is.

It helps to get the small things right...
It helps to get the small things right…

Should residents have expected anything different?

Well, when the plan was first announced, developer LXB held several meetings with local people, who formed the Charlton Riverside Action Group.

Both CRAG’s prime movers have now moved out of the area, but other groups such as the Charlton Society and Charlton Central Residents’ Association also had a hand in these talks – designed to address fears that the complex would add to already-bad traffic congestion in the area..

It appears, though, that these talks they were largely for nothing. Those who took part in the talks believed they were getting…

The proposed exit would have been on long-disused railway land
The proposed exit would have been on long-disused railway land to the left of this photo

A new entrance to Charlton station: One of the proposals to encourage people to travel to the new complex by public transport included opening a new entrance to Charlton station at Troughton Road, nearer the western end of the Kent-bound platform. This plan, however, appears to have stalled.

Bus arrivals information in the store: Residents were told the store would feature boards showing bus times (you’ll see these in North Greenwich bus station and the new Greenwich University building in Stockwell Street). They never materialised. Meanwhile, a new bus stop on Bugsbys Way doesn’t even have a shelter.

Legible London signs installed by Lewisham Council on Blackheath
Legible London signs installed by Lewisham Council on Blackheath

Local signposts: Another plan was to make it easier to walk to the store by installing Legible London signposts in the local area – the black and yellow signs used in Blackheath Village and Woolwich Town Centre. This scheme could have been rolled out to make it easier for visitors to find Charlton House, Charlton Lido, Charlton Athletic and other attractions. Nothing has appeared.

Why does this matter? Well, Charlton’s riverside will soon undergo huge redevelopment – community groups are waiting for a new masterplan to be announced. If local people aren’t getting anything from current developments, what hope is there when the diggers start going in by the river?

It also matters because community groups believed they had a scheme that could have delivered tangible benefits for residents. Instead, those locals haven’t seen any of those benefits – and are suffering from rat-running as cars head down side roads to the new supermarket.

A few weeks ago, this website asked if Charlton needed a regeneration plan. We now that thanks to this development – and others – there is money available, even if only to tidy up the public realm and put some signs up to direct people around. If community groups want to take this seriously, then they should be watching where the cash from these developments go – and making sure SE7 gets more than scraps.

38 thoughts on “Charlton Sainsbury’s development – did the community get a raw deal from £1.5m planning cash?

  1. Nat September 1, 2015 / 18:24

    Out of interest, do we know who paid for the alterations to let traffic from Charlton Church Lane go straight across at the pub junction instead of turning left and using the road by Makro as a shortcut?

    The buses was a missed opportunity, should have out in a loop outside the store similar to Surrey Quays

  2. Spoontaneous September 1, 2015 / 19:23

    I am sorry if I offend anybody but all I see is that local groups make a lot of noise to stop developments instead of negotiating how these new developments can improve the community. Development will happen sooner or later and it is important we get as much from it as possible. A good example is the IKEA plan, the block of flats planned for Woolwich Rd next to Sainsbury’s, the Conservative Club in Charlton Church lane… The list goes on… This is such a fantastic article, thanks!!

    • Darryl September 1, 2015 / 19:38

      This was where local groups got involved, though… and appear to have got nowhere.

      So where’s the incentive for them to get involved in future?

      • Spoontaneous September 1, 2015 / 21:53

        In my view, constructive negotiation needs to happen before planing permission is granted. Once the application is granted and, in this case, the building is finished the opportunity has passed. At this point there is very little to bargain with (other than with our vote)

    • Katy September 1, 2015 / 22:09

      I attended the planning meetings a generally local groups and individuals didn’t want to stop the redevelopment, but wanted it done in the right way. At the planning stages the council and developers promised a lot, as mentioned in Darryl’s article, but they have gone back on their word. One thing was to make the area more cyclist and pedestrian friendly. However, they appear to have worked on building a very large car park and designing the road layout best for access by car. I’m pretty sure now cycle lanes have been put in and the whole area remains pretty difficult for pedestrians in general.

      • Spoontaneous September 1, 2015 / 22:48

        You are right, walking there is no good and cycling only ok if you want to risk your life. Where the promises specific, in writing, with deadlines so they could be followed up and where they included in the plan for the development?

  3. mr_chas September 1, 2015 / 20:39

    How about starting an online petition, Darryl ? Surely worth a try, and costs nothing.

    • Darryl September 1, 2015 / 21:21

      Petition for what, Mr Chas?

      • mr_chas September 2, 2015 / 07:35

        Petition RBG to allocate/ringfence £x ( £250k ? ) for upgrading the infrastructure of Charlton Church Lane & The Village . Something like that. Stake a claim on behalf of local residents ?

      • Spoontaneous September 2, 2015 / 10:16

        I think a petition for money is a brilliant idea but also moneys need to be justified specifically. Why £250k and what for precisely: it needs to be a specific project, realistic, with measurable repercussions for the community and with a budget/ estimate and a time frame.

      • mr_chas September 2, 2015 / 10:43

        Just brainstorming here, Spontaneous. Trying to see if there is enthusiasm for the idea of a petition. I pulled £250k out of the air just to get the ball rolling. Maybe people in this group will have ideas ? Know how much things cost ? Signage was mentioned above, the pavements are grubby, some shop fronts are very shabby, hanging baskets in summer……bring on ideas, especially from those reading this who have experience of regeneration.

        • Spoontaneous September 2, 2015 / 13:12

          It’s good to hace an ideas’ shower. I think most residents would support a petition that will improve the area. Perhaps some of the people that attended the meetings remember something specific they asked for and wasn’t fulfilled…

      • mr_chas September 2, 2015 / 10:48

        PS Something I do feel could be very beneficial would be a ‘trade association’ of all the retail outlets along the Y. From the station up the hill then both left and right to the end of the shopping parades. That would be a good way of finding out what the outlets think could help boost footfall and trade. Maybe one of them is reading this thread ?

  4. fromthemurkydepths September 1, 2015 / 22:16

    Ah, Greenwich council and ‘missing’ section 106 and CIL payments. Seen so often. Most London boroughs spend a decent chunk locally on improvements. The results of this are better estates and streets in many areas – this can be seen all over Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham etc. In Greenwich, where quality public realm and good street design often seems to be something to ignore, there’s scant evidence of any improvements around large new developments. It all too often goes to Gllab. Why does Greenwich need this in the first place and why does it need to suck in so much cash? I’m sure they do some good but seem to cost a great deal and often provide little better than other agencies. If worth keeping, should it be funded from s106? CCTV is often listed too in many s106s taking large chunks.

    In east and west Greenwich right now there’s masses of very large developments bringing millions in, and has been for a few years. Yet Trafalgar Road, the Blackwall roundabouts and their approaches (those that are not TfL managed) plus much else in East Greenwich and the Peninsula are often a public realm mess. Awful for pedestrians and cyclists, and so ugly many people will rush through and not stop at the retail units, which is harming business. The crap public realm around east Greenwich library is hardly going to help the sale (it has been advertised recently) nor help any business looking to take it on. The surrounding area is grim.

    Many other authorities would have improved areas with so much money flowing in. You just have to look at the priority list of spending for CiL payments now it has generally replaced s106 – public realm, better parks & streets etc are barely mentioned. Other authorities have it around the top.

    I think it’s worth a few people asking the Highways and Regeneration cabinet members why public realm is left to last in Greenwich, in contrast to elsewhere.

  5. Matt September 2, 2015 / 15:49

    Hi Charlton. Sorry I left you…and sorry I never call.

    I was one of the members of the CRAG residents group mentioned in this article. After planning was granted for this development I quickly lost interest due to the fact I was moving out of the area.

    I now live in the Lee/Hither Green borders and have other things to worry about, like which craft ale to drink at which newly-renovated gastropub, which artisan bread to buy from which farmer’s market or which size box to opt for from our locally-sourced vegetable community group.

    But on a serious note, all these proposals were made and some were reiterated during the planning meeting. I even remember using my “angry” voice to make sure they were spending the section 106 cash in Charlton. You shouldn’t let them get away with it.

    Here’s a link to some updates from that evening in January 2013.

    What could you do? Is it too late? A quick email to the councillors on the Peninsula ward could start the ball rolling. A formal question for the next full council meeting could also help. Alert the CCRA, alert the Charlton Society. Even talking to Harry Sadlier at LXB Properties might shine a light on what’s happening.

    Do something…if only to lesson my own guilt.

    • Spoontaneous September 2, 2015 / 17:54

      Hi Matt, thanks for sharing, life in the Hither Green/ Lee borders sounds tedious 😉 I’ve no idea who LXB is/are but this twit is interesting…

      Charlton Champion

      Charlton Champion– ‏ @CharltonCSE7

      LXB has set out a plan to Network Rail for 2nd entrance to Charlton station on Troughton Road (at transformer site) – sep issue #sainsburys

      I wonder if there is a document with any commitments that were made but not fulfilled…

  6. Joe Thorne September 3, 2015 / 10:17

    From my experience the local societies are well aware of the pressing need for development and do not campaign to stop it, just ask that it is done better and with more consideration for current residents and for real sustainability. This has to be done at the planning stage when things get heard by the planning board and the only way to get that hearing is to object. Unfortunately the system is stacked against them. EGRA put a compelling case together NOT to stop the cruise terminal but to get something decent. They were cried down in the most shameful way by those wanting to get it through at any price.

    • Spoontaneous September 3, 2015 / 11:49

      This is a fine example of what I mean. Now the IKEA application has been granted, this group has no bargaining power whatsoever. What a waste. (You can find them on Twitter and Facebook too)

      Also, there were people opposing the new Matalan development in-between Sainsbury’s and ASDA because of the fate of a willow tree, when I saw that I didn’t know whether I wanted to laugh or cry. I am sorry If my comments sound harsh (I don’t think they are harsh, they are just an spontaneous individual opinion. I know many people will disagree, which is fine with me) but I usually see very few constructive suggestions other than ‘stop development because it will increase traffic AND traffic causes pollution AND we will eventually choke to death’…never mind the rubbish recycling plant in the middle of the peninsula or the heavy sandy dust from Lafarge Tarmac, that all seems to be fine. There is even an ‘ad hoc’ train line that is used just for the transport of heavy materials (not people) but let’s concentrate our efforts stopping IKEA because it will create congestion… 8-!

      I would be all for putting pressure on the council by writing to them so they see we exist but we go back to the same issue: what exactly do we want from them? Does anyone have a list of our demands/ suggestions? Perhaps some of the groups involved in the negotiations have something/ anything we can use? What is it that we want Royal Greenwich Council to do in Charlton with the money specifically?

      • Darryl September 3, 2015 / 11:54

        Spoontaneous – can you give me an example of where someone objected to *the entire development* because of the fate of a tree? It seems to me that in your rush to promote a reasonable way forward, you’re exaggerating some of the objections to past developments. Have you tried getting involved with some of these issues yourself?

        (Oh – minor point of order: it’s Greenwich Council. The borough is royal, the council is not.)

  7. The Hebridean September 3, 2015 / 10:34

    Just two comments here. The current difficulties arise because planning conditions are not worth the paper they are written on. No one at the council seems to check they have been carried through or enforces them. If all the aggrieved parties writing here hassled the relevant council departments and their ward councillors perhaps things might change. If you tie up enough of their time the message might get through. So something for some here to consider.
    Secondly, it seems harsh to criticise the local societies for the situation. As far as I know the Charlton Society, Central Charlton, Westcombe, East Greenwich (to name the ones I know of) are all volunteers doing their best and putting into the community. When they go up against the multi-billions of the big developers it is a bit unrealistic to expect them to win mega concessions when the planners seem to favour the case of the developers.

  8. Spoontaneous September 3, 2015 / 13:16

    In answer to your question yes. And to reinforce my point which BTW is not a point that can be won:

    What I am trying to explain, as an example, we all love the willow tree and we all know the willow tree is going to be smashed into pieces so, why not say: there is a mature willow tree, we demand that the new development includes at least 6 trees (cedar) to replace the old willow tree.

    That’s an objection with a solution. Then the developers will say something like; oh no!!! 6 is way to many!! how about 4 and lets make it conifers. Then we say fine but if we don’t see the 4 trees growing as part of the development well be onto you, with a picket stoping traffic etc so you’d better blah blah. I hope that explains my point.

    You can have our full support but it will cost you and this is how much. A B C…

    • Darryl September 3, 2015 / 13:26

      That’s what happened, Spoontaneous. And they got screwed over.

  9. Spoontaneous September 3, 2015 / 13:37

    Great so what I am asking is:
    Does anybody know the specifics? Did they say no or did they say they’d do something they didn’t do? I’ve seen before the Charlton Riverside master plan. Are we happy with it? I feel the master plan will ve the basis for everything else, specially stuff like new access points to Charlton station, etc…

    • Neil C September 3, 2015 / 19:22

      I believe the masterplan is up for review/revision – think it was mentioned in the planning meeting that looked at the next round of retail development off Woolwich Rd (Frankie and Benny’s, etc).

  10. Joe Thorne September 6, 2015 / 10:19

    I would love a master-class in negotiating with developers to be put on by Spoontaneous to show everyone how it is done. I know of groups who have “negotiated” with the super smooth frontman of LXB. He promises to consider anything but somehow by the time planning conditions come along these things have disappeared into the long grass. All the considering does is add weight to the developer’s case that the community has been consulted and is on board. I believe that IKEA have been running the same kind of consultations and I expect the same kind of results. Zilch.

    • Spoontaneous September 6, 2015 / 11:15

      I have limited experience negotiating but, when I used to do it, negotiation points had to be SMART and in writing. I hope such fairly basic guideline helps someone, somewhere, somehow, sometime 😉

  11. Joe Thorne September 8, 2015 / 14:05

    Not quite the detail I’d hoped for Spoontaneous. Sounds more like a SMART leg-pull to me rather than a serious way to move forward. So perhaps you don’t quite have the experience to mentor others, and really shouldn’t be criticising the efforts of those who have got down and dirty to try. Think about it.

    • Spoontaneous September 8, 2015 / 16:22

      Dear Joe,
      I really don’t wish to waste my time engaging in some fishwives’ argument.
      If my late mother failed in her many attempts to prescribe what I should and shouldn’t do, I doubt very much you are going to succeed 😉

      I think I mentioned somewhere before, I’m not here to win a point.

      I have posted some questions to see if anyone may have some answers but haven’t seen any.

  12. Joe Thorne September 9, 2015 / 14:51

    To Spoontaneous: ‘tev’!

  13. Maggy May September 11, 2015 / 14:36

    I have followed this exchange with interest. It is food for thought that when the council refused permission for Sainsburys to put up its horrible signs they went ahead and did it anyway. What happens now is anyone’s guess. But if the council with access to legal advice and so on cant or wont make a developer behave itself and accept a planning refusal what realistic chance has the Charlton Society or similar got, to play hardball with them? It seems fairly obvious that a developer can promise anything and then walk away from the promise.

  14. Spoontaneous September 11, 2015 / 16:55

    The signs are an example of something specific. If there was enough outrage about them I’m quite sure it would be possible that they take them down or at the very least it would be fairly simple to start a campaign about it. The problem, in my view, comes when requests are vague. An example being ‘Improve pedestrian access’ That could be interpreted in so many different ways that a developer will for sure get away with whatever they want and be right about it.

    I saw another example a couple of days ago. I went to ye old cottage coffee shop and noticed a petition opposing the skate park project. The petition is so vague, I couldn’t decide wether I was in favour or against it… There were statements such as ‘enough funding’… I can’t remember the whole thing but there was nothing specific about it. Someone here made a very good point about training and I support the idea that training could be highly beneficial. Training is how negotiators that work for developers learn their craft. 😊

  15. Maggy May September 14, 2015 / 11:27

    There has certainly been a lot of ill feeling about the signs and to the best of my knowledge the council has been lobbied with as yet unknown results. The issue is not a vague one: it is simple and clear cut and always has been. Local people objected to the signs via the planning process, the council itself accepted that the signs were unsuitable and refused planning permission. Sainsbury went ahead with an illegal act by putting the signs up and has kept them up although it knows it shouldn’t. What kind of a campaign do you suggest to make the firm a better neighbour?

    • Spoontaneous September 14, 2015 / 12:04

      But I agree with you. This is something specific and clear cut. How many people oppose the signs being up? Has there been a campaign such as collecting signatures to show the council the number of local people that want the original planing being enforced? I assume the original plan had specific limits in feet and inches of how big the signs could be.

      The Council would probably have to take Sainsbury’s to court over it and that is costly. If nobody says anything they might not do it.

      Do we know any details about the request to the council to take the signs down and replace them with signs that comply? Is it available online? Have we sent the details to the local and national press? I personally don’t know anything about what action the local community has taken regarding the signs being up and for me that is the main problem. Perhaps if someone that doesn’t want the signs and has a letter with the original planing and what Sainsbury’s have done and what they should replace them with, the letter could be put online (here for example) addressed to the appropriate person or department and then individuals could print it out and post it or copy it and send it by email. (Just an idea).

      That can be followed up by a request of an update about what the Council is doing about it always infirming national and local media

      I personally have no problem with the signs but if the community doesn’t want them and they are illegal, they should be taken down, no question about that

      • The Hebridean September 14, 2015 / 18:43

        Advertisement consent is totally separate from planning applications and is not submitted until a project is nearing completion. It is not, therefore, subject to Planning Conditions about size etc so there was no prior agreement about what was suitable. There are special national guidelines about various forms of advertising and what is allowed. The Sainsbury’s application is 15/0835/A and can be found online on Greenwich council’s website. Comments submitted by email appear on the website but support or objection letters do not as Greenwich’s software does not seem to include any facility to permit these. By the way Greenwich Council does not have a clear cut policy on petitions either, and it is very doubtful if Sainsbury’s sign is going to grab the news headlines.

        • Ken September 15, 2015 / 12:43

          The truth is that councils and all our little communities are in the hands of the developers and their financial clout. Sainsburys have flouted a planning refusal to put up its signs, and any legal action would cost the council tax payer and just be a minor inconvenience to the store. We have seen the reports of how Barratt homes have been allowed to move people in to flats with no working sewage and the temporary solution stinks in every way. The skate park is going to Charlton because Berkeley homes wanted it away from it prestige development but within so many miles of it and has provided the cash. These are examples of a trend rather than one-offs. I guess that this sort of thing is going on up and down the country and little local protests have little impact. And the media are not interested I suppose because it is not dramatic and eye catching but just rotten to live with.

Comments are closed.