Metro Bank plans drive-through branch for Charlton – despite housing plans

Metro Bank design
The bank plans a glass-fronted building

Metro Bank is planning to open a drive-through branch in Charlton – on land designated by Greenwich Council for long-term housing development.

The bank has agreed to take over the McDonald’s branch on Bugsby’s Way, and plans to knock it down and build a new building with drive-through facilities, so customers can do their banking without the bother of having to leave their cars.

In its planning application to Greenwich Council, the bank – which already has a drive-through branch in Southall, west London – says planning law already allows it to use the existing McDonald’s building. However, this would be “a missed opportunity to significantly enhance the site”.

The Charlton Champion has contacted McDonald’s to find out the fate of its current outlet; however, the fast-food giant’s lease runs out in October 2021. This website also understands that Metro Bank has been interested in moving into Charlton for some time, and at one point was in talks about moving into the Sainsbury’s M&S development on Woolwich Road.

Now Metro, which has high street branches in Bexleyheath, Bromley and the City of London, has opted for a drive-through branch – a concept common in the US, but which failed to catch on when introduced as an experiment by British banks in the 1950s. One remained in Leicester until the late 1980s, closing shortly after a car crashed into its entrance gate.

As reported on From The Murky Depths, the bank’s plans do little to improve the miserable and intimidating pedestrian environment on Bugsby’s Way – and how Greenwich Council deals with this could be an indicator of just how serious it is about plans to transform the Charlton riverside from a collection of retail barns and industrial uses to a new, mixed-use neighbourhood with 7,500 new homes.

The Charlton Riverside masterplan, published in 2017, states that the Bugsby’s Way retail strip does not conform with the council’s “policy to promote Woolwich as a metropolitan town centre”.

It adds: “There is potential for some of the retail activity to remain, potentially embedded within new neighbourhood or local centres, but with a significant change to a mixed use form of development.”

However, as many of the retail barns have recently been built, the council does not envisage development starting on this part of the riverside until 2031.

Prudential, the insurance company, bought the whole Peninsular Park [sic] retail park – which sits between Asda and the Angerstein Wharf railway line and opened in the mid-1990s – in December 2016 for £38 million. Most of the leases run out next year or in 2021; the leases for the Smyths Toys and Tapi Carpet branches last until 2028.

Metro Bank, which rather optimistically refers to the area as “North Greenwich”, says it is aiming for a 25-year lease on the site – putting a spanner in any plans to rework the site for residential use until the mid-2040s. It says it will create 25 jobs with the proposal.

A letter from council officers submitted with the plans says: “The use of the building as a bank with drive-thru facilities will maintain the attraction of the retail park to customers and continue its economic contribution.”

In its transport statement, the bank claims most customers will use public transport or walk. The council’s transport officer raises no objection, saying there is an “abundance of parking available”.

To see further details, and to comment on the application, see reference 19/2781/F on Greenwich Council’s planning website. Comments need to be submitted by 30 September.


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