Greenwich Council’s planning board faced jeers last night after backing plans to build 330 new homes on the site of a warehouse at the foot of Victoria Way.
The eight-strong planning committee were barracked after endorsing the Fairview New Homes proposals, which include two 10-storey blocks and 144 car parking spaces, as well as a nursery and office space.
Councillors on the planning board voted by six to one to back the scheme, with one not voting. The vote was greeted with cries of “shame!” and “you shouldn’t be our councillors”.
Planners had recommended the scheme for approval, despite 125 objections from residents, three written objections from local councillors in Peninsula and Charlton wards and concerns raised by Transport for London and the Greater London Authority about the high level of car parking spaces.
Neighbours had called the plans “overbearing” and had voiced concerns about traffic congestion and the lack of facilities for residents. Others criticised a lack of consultation with residents about the scheme, with the Charlton Society’s Roden Richardson suggesting it was part of a wider “failure of democracy”.
“The perspectives of council officers and residents differ so much we wonder if the officers are on the same planet,” he said.
However, there were 10 submissions supporting the scheme, some citing its provision of 35% “affordable” housing – two-thirds which would be for social rent, with the remainder for shared ownership.
Unusually for such a meeting, councillors did not give their reasons for voting ahead of the vote, although council deputy leader Danny Thorpe said he was “mindful” of concerns residents had raised, and asked for Section 106 funds from the development to go into local transport.
Charlton Central Residents Association chair Jodie Coughlan said the plans were “unrealistic” and would affect the quality of life for people living in the area. “If you act in haste, you will repent in leisure,” she added.
Peninsula ward councillor Stephen Brain said approving the scheme, which sits outside the area zoned for tall buildings, would set “a dangerous precedent”. He also said concerns about congestion had already led the London Fire Brigade to ask for a yellow box junction to be installed outside East Greenwich fire station because engines were having trouble accessing the road.
There were also concerns raised about the scheme only having one point of access for vehicles, on Victoria Way. One resident said Victoria Way and Eastcombe Avenue had already effectively become “arterial roads” and that any development would cause “irreversible damage”. There were sniggers from the public gallery when a representative from Fairview said pedestrian-only access from Dupree Road would “help people move around the area more easily”.
Residents walking through the site would have the benefit of play areas “away from the traffic of Victoria Way”, the rep added.
Another pointed to the frequent conflict between drivers on the pinch point at the Victoria Way railway bridge, recently narrowed by the council so it can only be accessed by one vehicle at a time. Cllr Thorpe suggested Section 106 money could go to a scheme to ameliorate this problem.
Others raised the heights of the buildings – including two 10-storey blocks, one 9-storey block and three 8-storey blocks – while one resident of Gurdon Road said the incline of the hill would mean her own home would be overshadowed by a three-storey block.
The Charlton Society’s Roden Richardson praised the neighbouring, lower-rise development at Fairthorn Road, on the other half of the warehouse site, and asked why the Fairthorn scheme could not be like that.
A claim that Fairview had held “a number of local meetings” was met with disbelief from the public – CCRA’s Jodie Coughlan branded the developer “remote” while one resident said “bullying tactics” had been used. The consultation for the scheme had been handled by Cratus Communications, whose deputy chairman is former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts.
After the vote, one resident tried to quiz a council officer on the heights of the building while another asked councillors if any lived in the area. None responded. The one councillor on the planning board who does live in the area, planning chair Mark James – whose home is very close to the site – was not on the panel. Council leader Denise Hyland was also not present.
The decision appears to contradict an earlier refusal for a nine-storey building on the site of Valley House on Woolwich Road, which was thrown out in 2015 because of the size and density of the development. A seven-storey scheme was later approved.
And a much more modest development close to Eltham station was thrown out by the same committee last September because of a lack of car parking spaces.
The Fairview scheme will now have to be ratified by City Hall, which may give disgruntled residents a glimmer of hope that the mayor’s office will demand changes.
Later in the meeting, a plan to extend Queen Elizabeth Hospital was unanimously approved by councillors, despite concerns about car parking raised by Kidbrooke with Hornfair councillor Norman Adams. Danny Thorpe said he would ask health cabinet member David Gardner to raise the issue with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.
Votes for: Mark Elliott (Conservative, Eltham South), Clive Mardner (Labour, Abbey Wood), Danny Thorpe (Labour, Shooters Hill – council deputy leader and regeneration cabinet member), Sarah Merrill (Labour, Shooters Hill), Norman Adams (Labour, Kidbrooke with Hornfair), Steve Offord (Labour, Abbey Wood).
(Ray Walker (Labour, Eltham West – vice-chair) indicated he had voted for the development but did not count himself in the total.)
Vote against: Geoff Brighty (Conservative, Blackheath Westcombe)