A little while back, while alerting people to a meeting about the new masterplan for the Charlton riverside, we touched on plans for a 28-storey tower block on Anchor & Hope Lane, along with other big blocks behind Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens. What we didn’t know is that a planning application had already gone in. We’re grateful to those who took the time to let us know – here’s an update on what’s happening.
What is planned? According to planning application 16/4008/F (search via here), developer Rockwell wants to put up nine buildings ranging from 2 to 28 storeys on the site of the VIP Trading Estate and Industrial Estate – the old British Ropes site off Anchor and Hope Lane, providing 975 homes with retail, community and leisure facilities. “Affordable” housing is set at just 13%.
What is Rockwell? Rockwell was founded by Donal Mulryan, whose previous company, West Properties, secured the original planning permission for the cruise liner terminal development at Enderby Wharf in Greenwich back in January 2011.
How come I didn’t hear about this earlier? Good question. There had been two consultation sessions, one in September, and one on 24 and 27 November, billed as Charlton Conversations. However, that second consultation didn’t take long to digest, because Rockwell put in a planning application on 5 December. It was published by Greenwich Council in mid-January, but Rockwell doesn’t seem to have alerted people on its database to respond, and no amenity groups or residents’ associations kicked up a public fuss. Nor did the nine ward councillors who represent areas within a few hundred yards of the site, although we know a lot happened behind the scenes.
One factor which complicates matters for those of us who choose to look at this kind of stuff in our spare time is that Greenwich Council no longer publishes many of its planning applications in a newspaper, making them harder to seek out. (When Greenwich Time closed, only notices about conservation areas moved to the Mercury, whose print edition is rarely seen but a digital version can be found online.)
When word did get out – here’s the From The Murky Depths piece on it – the deadline for comments (last Wednesday) was fast approaching.
It’s a classic example of how checks and balances can fail, because it’s so easy for these things to pass completely under the radar, particularly now there is no effective local press and we’re all scrabbling to do this in our spare time. (You can tip us off on our open thread if you get a heads-up before anyone else about an issue like this.)
No public campaign against it – this must be fine and dandy then? Nope. Basically, this drives a coach and horses through the 2012 Charlton Riverside masterplan, which cites the area shouldn’t have buildings of more than five stories. I’m grateful to the Charlton Society for passing on its objection letter, which brands it a “completely inappropriate use of the site while setting a fundamentally misleading precedent for Charlton Riverside as a whole”.
While building a tower close to Charlton station makes sense (in theory, whether the transport network can cope is another matter), what’s planned looks ugly. And the other blocks loom over Atlas and Derrick Gardens, the two cul-de-sacs off Anchor & Hope Lane.
But isn’t there a new masterplan? Yes. It’s out this week. And it sticks two fingers up at that, too. The new masterplan allows buildings of up to ten storeys, not 28.
What does Greenwich Council think? It had been pretty widely assumed that this was fine by the council. Recent highly controversial planning decisions in Greenwich and Woolwich together with the imminent redrawing of the masterplan suggested to some that this was going to be another done deal. This actually wasn’t the case.
We know (and thanks to commenter The Hebridean for mentioning this to us) that Greenwich Council suggested that Rockwell might like to hold off with its plans until the new masterplan was ready to go. This was confirmed at last week’s public meeting into the new masterplan. Rockwell ignored the council, and claims the (original) masterplan is “not deliverable” because of the complex land ownership on the site, a criticism that would surely apply to the new one.
We’ll deal with the masterplan in detail another time, but reading between the lines, it looks as if Greenwich wants a lot more control over what goes on at Charlton Riverside than it has had at Greenwich Peninsula or in Woolwich. There’s talk of compulsorily purchasing land, a tactic it’s using to revamp the town centres in Eltham and Woolwich. With this strategy, you don’t want a developer barging in and calling the shots. And yet this is what Rockwell is doing, even calling the development Charlton Riverside Phase 1.
So what happens next? Objections by councillors mean this is all set go to the council’s main planning committee, the planning board. If the planning board objects, Rockwell can resubmit something new or appeal to planning inspectors.
One potential spanner in the works is London mayor Sadiq Khan, who can call in planning applications if he thinks he can do better, as his predecessor Boris Johnson did to Lewisham Council over Convoys Wharf in Deptford. Khan has already acted on two rejected applications, a tower block in Tottenham and another development in Wealdstone, in an attempt to secure more affordable housing. This doesn’t feel as likely with Khan, but you never know.
In any case, this will probably rumble on for ages. So watch this space.
And the new masterplan? Coming this week. Details were revealed at a meeting last week, and it actually looks like a very carefully thought-through piece of work – those used to holding their head in their hands at Greenwich Council development plans may be in for a nice surprise. Again, watch this space…
Anything else? Plans for 350 homes and an 11-storey block at the foot of Victoria Way have also come to light. From The Murky Depths has more. And just outside SE7, plans for a 20-storey tower to loom over the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park have returned.