Rockwell’s Charlton Riverside development thrown out by minister

Rockwell revised scheme
Neighbours disputed Rockwell’s images of what the scheme would look like

Plans for 771 homes close to Anchor & Hope Lane have been thrown out by the communities secretary Robert Jenrick, 17 months after they were rejected by London mayor Sadiq Khan and nearly two years after Greenwich councillors first turned down the scheme.

The huge development was the first to come forward as part of plans to transform the Charlton riverside to provide up to 8,000 new homes. The scheme was fiercely opposed by residents of Atlas and Derrick Gardens, whose homes would have been in the shadow of the proposed blocks, as well as community groups, councillors and local MP Matt Pennycook.

Greenwich Council officers had originally recommended approving the 11-block development – but councillors threw it out, with Sarah Merrill, the chair of the planning committee, calling it “reminiscent of Stalingrad”. It was feared that Khan would approve it after “calling in” the scheme to decide himself. But after he rejected it, Rockwell appealed to planning inspectors, who held a public inquiry last October. Speakers at the inquiry included Pennycook, Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe and Glenn Tilbrook, the Squeeze singer, who owns a recording studio next to the site.

A report went to Jenrick, who agreed with the recommendations to throw out the scheme. The decision came on the same day as plans for a 27-storey block in Woolwich were also rejected.

The planned development would have been built here, behind Atlas and Derrick Gardens

The development “does not reflect the aims or vision” of the council’s masterplan for the Charlton Riverside, which was called a “considered and robust, and also to be a carefully crafted and well-informed document”, the rejection letter stated.

The rejection is a major victory for Greenwich Council’s plans to keep some level of control over the development of the Charlton Riverside, distinguishing it from Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich where developers have largely set the agenda – in particular, to keep buildings to a maximum of 10 storeys in height – and for tall blocks to be an exception – and to make the development less dense than its neighbours.

“The Peninsula, with its strong relationship to the high-rise development of Canary Wharf and increasingly metropolitan character, is, for example, very different to Charlton,” wrote inspector Mike Robins.

“Here the character to the south of Woolwich Road, including Charlton Hill [sic] and Charlton Village, is residential, comprising well-established communities in traditional or more modern, low-rise and family housing, becoming increasingly more open as you travel east.

“While the established industrial character of the Charlton Riverside must change, it strikes me that the aspiration of the SPD [masterplan] to enable regeneration that respects the character of Charlton, promote increased linkages between the existing residential areas and the new neighbourhoods and enhance the permeability of the site to allow access to the river and parklands, is entirely justified.”

The scheme would “materially alter the appreciation and experience of” Atlas and Derrick Gardens

High-rise developments across the area would “in my view, be likely to divide Charlton rather than achieve the integration sought, and extensive use of high-rise development would be unlikely to foster the community led, mixed-use character that was the concluding vision of the stakeholder engagement and consultation that informed the SPD”, he wrote.

In part of the proposed development, the buildings were written off as “oppressive” with warnings that they would block out sunlight. The development would also “materially alter the appreciation and experience of” Atlas and Derrick Gardens, two cul-de-sacs originally built for workers at the nearby Corys bargeworks.

“The offer of 771 units with a relatively high proportion of affordable housing could easily be considered as overwhelmingly beneficial. However, such an approach must consider the quality of the development proposed and the effect that it would have on the area both now and into the future,” he added.

“The proposal fails to take the opportunity to promote a high quality of design, particularly in relation to scale and massing, that responds to its location and establishes a benchmark that accords with the design aspirations and guidance set out in the SPD.”

Greenwich and Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook called the verdict “the right outcome, a victory for the local community and a clear signal to developers to honour the vision set out in the 2017 Charlton Riverside masterplan”.

Len Duvall, the London Assembly member for Greenwich and Lewisham, said: “This decision comes a huge relief for local people and is a testament to the campaigning efforts of community groups, such as Charlton Together, who have vigorously opposed the scheme.

“Rockwell’s plans defy the framework laid by the Charlton Riverside Masterplan, with the excessive height of the tower blocks threatening to loom over neighbouring residents. The scheme also fails to deliver sufficient affordable housing on a site where it could be maximised.

“The council and the mayor have been right to reject these plans. Urban development needs to work for the whole community and should not come at any cost.”

Rockwell can seek a judicial review of the decision, or it can go back to the drawing board and submit a revised version of the scheme.

Six other schemes for Charlton Riverside have been announced since Rockwell first submitted its plans – none have yet been approved.


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