Controversial ‘compact flats’ plan for The Heights recommended for approval

Pocket Living render
The flats would overlook The Valley

Update: A decision on this was postponed so councillors could visit the site.

Controversial plans for 48 “pocket homes” on The Heights will go before Greenwich councillors next week – with planning officers recommending they allow the development on an estate car park.

Developer Pocket Living plans to build 45 one-bedroom flats and 3 two-bedroom flats on the contaminated plot overlooking The Valley. It plans to sell them all for 80 per cent of market value to people earning under £71,000 within the borough of Greenwich – meaning they tick the official definition of “affordable”, if not the dictionary definition.

The company specialises in “compact flats” – its one-bedroom flats are little bigger than a studio flat. After six months, Pocket will be allowed to market them across London at limits set by City Hall, which has been giving funding to the company under both the Johnson and Khan mayoralties. Former Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford is among its directors.

As well as the funding it has received from City Hall over the years, Pocket is asking to be excused from paying the Community Infrastructure Levy – a charge on property developers which is reinvested in local facilities.

Two linked blocks of four and five storeys are planned for the site, with two car parking spaces for residents – 21 spaces for existing residents will be retained and relocated. The blocks will be next to the two-storey homes of The Heights estate.

The Heights
The whole site is used as a car park at present

Greenwich Council initially planned to sell land at three sites to Pocket, but plans to build off Lewisham Road and Kidbrooke Park Road were dropped after a revolt among Labour councillors. Of 41 Labour councillors in post at the time, 12 attended a protest meeting at Charlton House. More recently, the council planned to sell green space on Tunnel Avenue, east Greenwich, to the company.

However, despite the controversy surrounding the Heights development, only three objections were received by the council. Four people wrote in favour.

Documents submitted as part of the planning application indicate that no community groups in Charlton were consulted by Pocket, who instead contacted the East Greenwich Residents Association and Greenwich Society, which do not cover the area.

The Charlton Society has lambasted the scheme. It said: “The proposal would harm and block views across London. The land stability issues are unresolved and the ground is unstable.

“The massing does not respect the local context. Worse, in our view: it actively insults it. The proposal is best regarded as a case of over-development, given its context.”
It added that the land should be used for green space instead.

The Heights development
The blocks would sit behind two-storey homes on The Heights

Transport for London has objected to the scheme, saying there are too many car parking spaces as the existing facilities are underused.

However, Greenwich’s planning officers say they are happy with the decontamination plans and the stability of the site. Officers quote a report from Pocket which says: “The homes will meet an affordability gap by providing options for those who would not be able to afford a Shared Ownership / Private Sale home.

“It is noted that based on previous schemes, Pocket Living have detailed that typical purchasers are likely to be 50% key workers, 69% earning less than £46,000 and had rented within the private sector for 8 years prior to buying.”

The officers add: “The design quality of the proposal is of an appropriate standard that works well with the existing building as well as the wider character, form and scale of the surrounding area and the visual amenity of the street scene.

“The impacts of the proposed development upon the amenity of neighbouring occupants have been assessed and have been found to be acceptable.

“Overall, the proposal is considered to be an acceptable redevelopment of an underutilised site.”

Councillors will discuss the development at the planning board meeting next Tuesday.


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