Controversial plans to build 771 homes at the end of Anchor & Hope Lane were rejected by Greenwich councillors last night after Squeeze singer Glenn Tilbrook joined neighbours objecting to the scheme.
Developer Rockwell had planned to build on the VIP industrial estate behind Atlas and Derrick Gardens, with five 10-storey blocks – with its website, seemingly assuming it would get the go-ahead, already branding it “the next riverside hotspot”.
But councillors agreed with neighbours who said Rockwell’s scheme went against the recently-adopted Charlton Riverside masterplan, which sets out a vision for lower-rise developments aimed at families in Charlton to sit in between the towers of Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich.
Planning chair Sarah Merrill (Labour, Shooters Hill) said: “This application in no way resembles the spirit of the Charlton Riverside masterplan, in terms of height, massing and design. It’s reminiscent of Stalingrad.”
All 11 councillors on Greenwich’s planning board voted to reject the scheme, to applause from the public.
Squeeze frontman Tilbrook – who lives in Charlton – told councillors that he had tried to engage with Rockwell because he owns a studio adjacent to the development site, which is used as a base for the band’s tours. He said he feared losing access to the studios.
“The replies I’ve had from them have not been sufficient,” he told councillors. “Access for me is important, Squeeze work from the studios, we rehearse there, we go in and out every weekend for festivals, sometimes late at night. This access is not guaranteed.”
Tilbrook added that he feared that noise from the construction work would make the studio unusable, then new residents would complain about noise coming from the studio.
“It feels like to Rockwell, I’m a bad smell they want to make go away. It feels like they want to drive a coach and horses through my life and my studio, and they want to drive a coach and horses through the Charlton masterplan.”
A representative from the industrial wharves on the peninsula said that new residents at the Royal Wharf development in Silvertown, across the Thames from the proposed Rockwell scheme, had already started complaining about noise from ships loading and unloading goods.
One resident, Joyce Sloman, said the area – “becoming the biggest shopping centre in south-east London” would be unable to cope with the traffic.
While Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy told the committee the council had to act “in the best interests of the community – not hedge funds in Guernsey” – a reference to the development firm backing the scheme, Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco. He said the council would “compromise itself” if it backed the scheme.
Rockwell representatives said the scheme offered a “fantastic opportunity to kick-start the regeneration of this area”, saying it “has the makings of a destination, a real place in its own right”. It claimed it would generate over 200 jobs.
But the firm – which has retained former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts’ company Cratus Communications as lobbyists – arguably overreached itself by drafting in a teacher who wanted to set up a nursery school on the site, claiming she could not find another suitable site.
Because of the length of the meeting – which also considered a major development in Abbey Wood and controversial plans to revoke the hazardous substances permission on the East Greenwich gasholder (both refused) – speakers were severely limited in time by chair Sarah Merrill, which angered residents, many of whom are still smarting from the way they were treated at the Fairview Victoria Way planning hearing in January.
But they had little to fear as councillors lined up to put the boot into the scheme – despite council officers having recommended they back it.
“We all want to see the area redeveloped and there is potential on the site, but this does not conform to the masterplan,” councillor Nigel Fletcher (Conservative, Eltham North) said. “Either we have a planning policy and we adhere to it, or we don’t.”
“I have a concern about how this has been allowed to proceed to this point through discussions with officers and recommended for approval. I almost feel sorry for the applicant being led to believe this is something we might support.”
Local MP Matt Pennycook said on Thursday morning that the decision was “a clear signal to developers that the community will not accept proposals that do not honour the vision set out in the 2017 Charlton Riverside masterplan”.
“I hope Rockwell now do what they should have done months ago: reconsider the height, massing and levels of affordable/family housing within the scheme and come back with a proposal that will ensure Charlton Riverside becomes the exemplary new urban district we all want it to be.”
The full planning discussion was captured by The Charlton Champion‘s sister website 853– the session starts two hours and five minutes in. Sound is weak in some points. You can also read tweets from the meeting.
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