Valley House: Greenwich councillors throw out nine-storey Charlton block

Valley House render

Greenwich Council’s planning board has thrown out plans for a nine-storey block of 74 flats on Woolwich Road – even after the developer agreed to remove the “poor doors” so residents of social and private housing shared the same entrance and facilities.

Councillors had demanded the scheme be deferred in July because of concerns about the “poor doors”, but at also because of the size and density of the development, which faces two-storey homes.

Concerns had been dismissed by council officers, who said in a report: “In an evolving area such as this, it is not practical or even reasonable to expect a developer to mirror the low density of the two-storey terraces on the southern side of Woolwich Road, as the opportunity to provide both market and affordable housing would be missed.”

But in a surprising decision, the nine-strong board dismissed the scheme. Four councillors – Ray Walker, Peter Brooks, Harry Singh and Mehboob Khan – backed the proposal. But four voted against and one, Angela Cornforth, abstained. As planning chair Mark James was one of those opposing the scheme.

Council leader Denise Hyland – the only London borough leader who sits on their council’s main planning committee – was absent due to an engagement elsewhere, as was regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe.

A CGI from architects Chassay & Last.
A CGI from architects Chassay & Last.

28 objections had been received for the scheme, which objector David Gayther called “the most important development here for years”. Residents’ groups had feared approval would set a precedent for the forthcoming new Charlton Riverside masterplan, which observers say is likely to feature demands for more tall buildings by the Thames.

Objectors were led by the Charlton Central Residents Association – whose area, which is south of the railway line, does not cover Valley House. Representative Anne Waite lambasted the lack of measures to deal with poor air quality in the area, saying “we’ve got rid of poor doors and replaced them with poor floors”.

Fellow resident Linda Waite picked holes in the planning document, highlighting a “sloppy use of cut and paste” which appeared to recommend councillors approve a completely separate application. She branded it a “pick and mix” of what recommendations from the masterplan were accepted and which were ignored.

Greenwich Conservation Group’s Philip Binns said there was no indication the developer had even considered reducing the height of the building.

But a representative of the developer denied the scheme “disrespected” loals, and said losing the top two floors would have a disproportionate impact on the number of “affordable” homes that could be provided – which was only 18.9%.

Eltham West councillor Ray Walker said he “couldn’t see the impact on existing residential amenity”, but chair Cllr James said he did not think the scheme conformed with the current Charlton Riverside masterplan. He joined Geoff Brighty, Christine Grice and Nuala Geary in voting down the proposal.

Two other controversial planning applications – one to replace the rear of Charlton Conservative Club with housing, the other the expansion of a care home on Victoria Way, go before a separate planning committee on Tuesday.

8 thoughts on “Valley House: Greenwich councillors throw out nine-storey Charlton block

  1. Spoontaneous September 18, 2015 / 09:17

    That’s bad news. It means that we will be stuck with a horrible derelict building for the foreseeable future and, what is worse, will put off developers from buying land currently available for development in the Charlton area. The property bubble is about to explode and, when that happens, nobody will be interested on any of these developments anymore.

    On a positive note, this meeting proofs that the local community can put pressure to stop development and win and should be an encouragement to continue working to improve the community we live in. I just wished there was a cycling line linking The Village with the river front, cycle racks, Santander bikes and more cycle friendly routes an education so we don’t feel we have to use the car so much or a tram linking the peninsula with shooters hill and all the green areas Woolwich Park, Oxleas Wood etc.

    • AGYG September 19, 2015 / 09:36

      I am not familiar with the ins and outs of this case but from what I could understand of the arguments the heart of it was a poor planning officer recommendation that anticipates whatever is on the next version of the MAsterplan. I don’t think that is permitted even though some councillors were happy to let it pass. I think the chair threw it out because of this irregularity.

  2. Fromthemurkydepths September 18, 2015 / 16:00

    A poor decision. With population growth being so high, blocks like this, within 2 minutes of a zone 3 station, are much needed. The affordable element was poor of course, but the council are restricted on that and I cant see central government changing their stance in the next 5 years. So now it’ll be vacant or a new proposal with even less affordable housing will emerge.

    When the riverside is built on it will of course be high density, and far higher than this.

    The arguments that it faces 2-storey houses doesn’t hold much water as 1) there’s a really quite wide road between them 2) those houses ignore the street and turn their back on them with a solid 6 feet brick wall. A block will improve that stretch far more than those houses do.

    Then there’s the environmental argument. If you don’t build dense housing by a zone 3 station then you have more people living way out in the sticks and probably forced to drive.

    • AGYG September 19, 2015 / 09:33

      The problems are deep rooted. With right to buy and no rent cap affordable housing is at a premium and councils are held to ransom by developers. But it is no excuse to offer cheapskate affordable housing when it will do as much harm as good

  3. The Hebridean September 18, 2015 / 17:38

    I decided to do a quick check of the application. What an eye opener!
    Anyone who raises the profile of the shockingly bad (and increasingly ignored by Greenwich Council) air quality issues is to be congratulated. The Core Strategy contains a design mitigation hierarchy to protect against poor air quality (note the word “hierarchy” everyone…….it means items or people ranked one above or below the other) but the developer chose only to use the lowest ranking mitigation measure. The pepper-potting of affordable homes resulted in those units being located on the lower floors overlooking Woolwich Road and Gallion’s Way, whilst the high value units were at the higher levels. So those who can’t afford full market rates would get a higher dose of pollution.
    There wasn’t even a guarantee that 18.9% affordable homes, which is well below the 35% Greenwich target, would be delivered anyway as a further “viability review” was to be conducted.
    Even on a skim-read I was shocked when I looked at the official recommendation. Sloppy didn’t even cover it! Not just compositional errors all over the show, but twisting of the whole Riverside Masterplan in its current format.
    A revised plan is due so let us be “consulted” and know exactly what we are in for. What is done on Charlton Riverside is going to affect a much wider area of Charlton especially as infrastructure provision will not catch up for a number of years. I’m grateful to all those who took the time to look beyond their own streets and consider the bigger picture. Most of us do not oppose development but don’t want to be duped.

  4. AGYG September 19, 2015 / 09:38

    It was good to see air quality issues reported here but this cut no ice with the council. I reckon the council see air quality as the old dog farting sulphur in the corner at your maiden aunt’s tea party. We all notice the small, but studiously avoid mentioning it. I wonder what it will take for the council to own this one.

  5. Joe Thorne October 9, 2015 / 09:16

    Darryl’s post mentions two upcoming controversial planning applications. Did they ever get heard? What was the outcome if they were?

  6. Maggy May June 24, 2016 / 10:39

    After all the talk about this scheme has anyone caught on that the developer has put this in to appeal with the planning inspectors? Very odd when you consider that the council PASSED a new scheme from the same developer for building on this site just a few months ago. What are the developers up to? Is Greenwich defending its case against the old scheme? What are the objectors doing? All is silence at the moment. Any news out there?

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