Residents snubbed as Rockwell Charlton Riverside application gets rushed through planning

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
What Rockwell says the development’s residential garden areas will look like

Plans to build 771 new homes on an industrial estate at Anchor & Hope Lane are to be considered by Greenwich councillors next week – despite residents’ appeals for the decision to be delayed because it does not fit in with the council’s vision for Charlton Riverside.

Developer Rockwell, which is acting for Channel Islands-based Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco Ltd, plans to redevelop the industrial estate behind and next to Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens, including building five 10-storey blocks.

The plans will be considered by Greenwich Council’s main planning committee on Tuesday 17 April, with planning officers recommending approval – even though Charlton Together, an alliance of local groups, appealed to the council to take the decision after 3 May’s council election.

Holding planning meetings during the pre-election period is unusual for Greenwich, but happens elsewhere, with neighbouring Lewisham rejecting a 34-storey tower next to Lewisham station last week.

Early plans were, submitted in December 2016, included a 28-storey glass tower. Those were changed to the current proposals in January 2018 to fit more closely with the council’s Charlton Riverside Masterplan, and again in March to increase the level of “affordable” housing to 25% (17.7% for social rent, 7.2% at “intermediate”) – below the council’s target of 35%. Plans were revised again last week to alter the road layout.

In total, 11 new buildings are planned, with space for retail and commercial use alongside Anchor & Hope Lane. 210 car parking spaces are planned.

Charlton Together – which includes the Charlton Society, Charlton Central Residents’ Association, Derrick and Atlas Gardens Residents’ Association, SE7 Action Group, Charlton Parkside Community Hub and local churches, says the plans represent “a wholesale departure from that masterplan”.

‘Like the Greenwich Peninsula’

It says in a letter sent to councillors, local MP Matt Pennycook and London Assembly member Len Duvall: “It will create a precedent that undermines the development of the Council’s fundamental vision for the whole area. So we are extremely concerned, that if this first application is agreed, like the development of the Greenwich peninsula, this will affect the character of the whole borough for decades to come. And we also note that this was a masterplan developed over 5 years, with two major public consultations, produced at considerable expense, with external expertise and advisory costs borne by the Council.

“We are shocked to see how far this application departs from the agreed [Charlton Riverside] SPD vision. We are disappointed at the huge discrepancy that remains between the human scale, low to medium rise vision of the masterplan and the predominantly high-rise, monolithic proposal from Rockwell. We are also dismayed at the very low levels of affordable and family housing. The wide deviation remains not just in terms of height, but also in terms of density, design and affordability.

“It is unfortunate that a more detailed infrastructure plan is not available, to inform decisions relating to the Rockwell site. We cannot see how this scheme can be approved in its current form without further clarity from the Council on infrastructure, including further details for the main east-west route, which would have to be changed as a result.

“We are concerned about how far this application has got in the planning process, to even be considered in its current format, for decision at a formal planning meeting. We are aware that an original application at the end of 2016 included a 28 storey tower. We consider that to have been a somewhat disingenuous application, intended to show ‘progress’ by the developer between then and now. Similarly, despite lengthy discussions with the Council, we note that recent amendments to address height issues have made little impact and have only served to increase the out-of-scale nature of the proposal.”

The group has a detailed 22-page breakdown of how the application breaks the Charlton Riverside Masterplan, as well as a six-page summary.

Rockwell Charlton Riverside scheme
A plan of the proposals, together with Atlas and Derrick Gardens

‘Development is needed to kickstart regeneration’

Council officers say: “Whilst the overall density is above that recommended in the London Plan and the plot densities are higher than those recommended in the [Charlton Riverside] SPD it is considered that higher densities can be supported in this location in order to bring forward the redevelopment of the site and the regeneration of the area. Furthermore, density is just one factor to be considered in the assessment of an application and regard should be had to factors such as design, local character and impacts upon amenity.”

Furthermore, council officers say the amount of “affordable” housing would mean the development would secure a profit of 17.2% – less than the developer’s target of 18%. It recommends reviewing the scheme to see if there is room for more “affordable” housing if the scheme generates more profit.

Network Rail says it has concerns about local rail stations’ ability to cope with the demand from the development – a matter not addressed in the officers’ report.

Cratus Communications, the lobbying company which has former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts as its deputy chairman, involved in the Rockwell project. Former Greenwich chief executive Mary Ney is listed on the Cratus website as an “associate”, while one-time Greenwich Labour borough organiser Michael Stanworth heads up the company’s London lobbying operation.

The planning committee features – uniquely for a London borough – council leader Denise Hyland and her deputy Danny Thorpe, who is also the council’s cabinet member for regeneration.

Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy said he would be seeking a deferral of the proposals for a site visit.

Also on the agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting is a new plan to demolish and rebuild the Kings Arms pub in Woolwich – which was attacked by Irish republican terrorists in 1974 – and a proposal to add another two storeys to a stalled hotel project next to the Blackwall Tunnel approach at Tunnel Avenue, east Greenwich.

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