Neighbours’ fury as Fairview Victoria Way development gets green light

40 Victoria Way design
The plan includes 10-storey blocks next to the railway line (image taken from the original application)

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.

40 Victoria Way application

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.

40 Victoria Way proposal
View up Victoria Way taken from the original application

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.

‘Unrealistic’ proposals

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.

40 Victoria Way scheme
View from Gurdon Road, taken from the original application

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.

‘Remote’ developer

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.

Victoria Way, February 2017

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)

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12 thoughts on “Neighbours’ fury as Fairview Victoria Way development gets green light

  1. Mary Mills (@maryorelse) January 10, 2018 / 14:13

    I was going to say this was inevitable given the earlier Fairthorn Road scheme – which I was always given to understand was a sort of loss leader for the whole site. Sorry that Roden likes it but residents fought and fought against it – and I took delegation after delegation to the Planning Board and Inspectorate hearings. The Planning Board turned that down – two, or was it three – times but it went through eventually because the Bristol based Planning Inspectorate effectively told the Council to agree it. I also understood from what i was told at the time that in doing this the Planning Inspectorate ignored some of its own rules – and Council officers told me they complained to the Town Planning Institute about it. I think – and my memory may be at fault – it went to two planning enquiries. The original site designation was for mixed use – including leisure and workshops. The Fairthorn Road decision put paid to that and gave every developer who wanted to build there a big green light.
    When we talk about local democracy and more say for people in planning their areas we never never hear that anything will be done to curb the Planning Inspectorate – only saying.

  2. DA lyons January 10, 2018 / 14:14

    What was the name of the former warehouse site?

  3. helenjakeways January 10, 2018 / 16:33

    I am completely baffled by the purpose and implementation of the planning and redevelopment consultations which RBG and developers have run over the last few years when considering new developments. These are very often poorly communicated and managed with very tight turn-around times and do not appear to result in either consistency or transparency of decision making processes or outcomes. Many people spend a lot of their own (unpaid) time meticulously preparing responses to these consultations as requested by those running them, and it appears to me to be unhelpful in the extreme when sessions such as that reported at this meeting take place.

    It is also unhelpful when the views of local councillors, some of whom work tirelessly to mitigate the effects of this wholly ineffective state of affairs, do not appear to be taken into consideration either.

    The perception created is that “stakeholder consultation” is largely a box ticking exercise to fulfil statutory requirements, with little genuine sense that when people put the effort in it is going to be worth their time.

    We all know we need to solve the housing problem in London, but alienating existing residents to ameliorate developers whose primary purpose is to generate profits for shareholders, and who have to be pushed to provide paltry levels of social and affordable housing, does nothing to help build harmonious community relationships.

    Perhaps RBG could run a consultation on how it should consult and engage with “stakeholders” so a basic level of consultation good practice and decision-making process, informed by the views of those stakeholders, can be established, communicated and consistently implemented?

    There is no point asking people what they think if you don’t want to hear what they have to say and can provide no adequate explanation for when their views are not used to inform plans and ideas which are directly going to impact on their lives. This is worse than not asking them in the first place.

  4. The Hebridean January 10, 2018 / 17:30

    The underlying issue here is the status of both the Core Strategy and the Charlton Riverside Masterplan. The Core Strategy specifies where tall buildings may be built in the borough, and for Charlton that is only in Riverside. In turn the Charlton Riverside Masterplan specifies a low-medium rise development, typically 3-6 storeys in Riverside, but says there may be opportunities for taller buildings (up to 10 storeys) closer to the proposed district centre and along major routes. It is quite clear that 10 storeys are the maximum permitted on Riverside and that 40 Victoria Way is not in the Riverside area and is not zoned for tall buildings. So what is going on here?

    The Core Strategy passed through several consultation phases and was submitted to the Secretary of State who appointed an independent Planning Inspector to carry out an Examination in Public. The Inspector’s task was to assess whether the plan was sound: that is “positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy”. The Core Strategy passed all these tests. The Riverside Masterplan has Supplementary Planning Document status and is a material planning consideration. Neither the Core Strategy nor the Riverside Masterplan was a back-of-a-fag-packet exercise.
    So is this decision about 40 Victoria Way informed entirely by the Mayor’s Plan? If so which version? There is a draft plan out for consultation (closing date 2 March) but that won’t be ratified until the Autumn. The report for the Planning Board mentioned “emerging plans” so are we getting anticipatory decisions here? (Wish I could anticipate my new tax allowance for 2018/19). Or is the Mayor’s new plan tacitly agreed already and the consultation exercise mere window-dressing?

    Come on councillors tell us the truth.

    As Councillor Brain is reported as saying, this sets a very dangerous precedent given all the future development mooted for the area. Is this effectively R.I P Charlton?

  5. Dr Jones January 10, 2018 / 22:30

    Really getting fed up with Labour voting through Charlton based planning decisions that seek to maximise profit for developers (and themselves) whilst showing no accountability to residents, or their own ‘master plan’.

  6. beckyh January 16, 2018 / 22:17

    They didn’t seem to listen to anyone opposing them which was really frustrating! And the housing company congratulating themselves at the end was horrible.

    Gurdon/Dupree etc are some of the oldest, most original roads in the area, it’s a shame they are not protecting them from overdevelopment which is happening all around…even the space behind the freight rail line is being cleaned up to be rented out, I have no idea what for, as I think they should be community allotments!

    I don’t have a car and I find the obsession with car parking and road ‘pinch point’ issues really annoying as they should be fighting for better transport to get people out of their cars, the air quality and general pavement experience for pedestrians in this area is so depressing. I’ve only lived here for a year, but it makes me want to move out of London!!

  7. Jim S January 17, 2018 / 19:47

    Since Aldi/Primark/Mothercare opened Bugsby Way has been rammed evert weekend. With these additional homes/cars on top of the extra traffic from Ikea when it opens the whole area will be gridlocked. Oh actually, I forgot….it’ll all be fine thanks to the bike parking Ikea will provide and all the Ikea customers using public transport to get their flat packed furniture home……..

  8. DiFi January 18, 2018 / 15:01

    I agree with everything that HelenJakeways has said. I have asked Cratus to explain why the feedback my neighbours and I gave on the initial plans for the development was not included in the Statement of Community Involvement. I’ve not had a reply, but I assume it was because Fairview had no desire to change their plans to take into account our concerns.

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