Charlton’s riverside masterplan: What’s it all about?

Yesterday’s Charlton Society annual general meeting saw Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford highlight the Charlton Riverside Masterplan as being crucial for the area’s future. But what’s actually in it? We asked SE London’s top planning blog, From The Murky Depths, to take a look at what’s proposed…

Back in 2012 Greenwich Council published four masterplans covering various areas of the borough – Woolwich, Eltham, Greenwich Peninsula and Charlton Riverside. These set out the scale and scope of Greenwich Borough’s development ambitions for each of the four areas.

In the council’s own words, they provide “development planning guidance that ensures strategic rather than ad-hoc development” and “will attract investment from both the public and private sectors”.

Charlton Masterplan

The masterplan for Charlton Riverside has been controversial.

It envisages large-scale changes of use from industrial land to residential, and at least 3,500 new homes. This change would be centred to the east of Anchor and Hope Lane towards Woolwich and north of the A206 dual carriageway. In total, around 2/3rds of industrial land would be lost. Despite this, Greenwich claims that there would be no loss of employment:

“The redevelopment of Charlton Riverside and Greenwich Peninsula West will see a reduction in employment land and changing employment use. The employment land that is retained will be intensified and there will be no net loss of employment across the Borough.”

Even if true, this does prevent any future expansion of land to provide local employment. Greenwich’s solution seems to be to provide more industrial land to the east at Thamesmead’s White Hart Triangle site to cater for future growth. There’s a large number of viable businesses in the threatened area offering much local work, and the planned changes will be enormously disruptive. Have a look here for a very good overview of the range of businesses that would be affected.

As well as greater residential areas there are plans for a ‘creative quarter’ and an expanded Barrier Park, running from the Thames Barrier to Maryon Wilson Park. This would be twice the size and open up views of the Thames and the barrier.

The ‘creative, residential and historic’ section here is designed around the often-overlooked Second Floor art studios, which is the single largest site for artists studios in London and has a membership of over 410 artists, craft makers and designers.

The inclusion of residential here would cover areas such as the self storage facility facing the A206. It lacks detail on just how large the creative quarter could be. It is possible that it would be no larger than the existing site, with the rest to become residential.

The section marked ‘education’ to the east of the green strip is partly used for that purpose already. Windrush Primary School is based there in a Victorian building, with Royal Greenwich University Technical College next door.

A positive from land use changes here would be the large retail sheds housing PC World and others becoming housing.

With the need for housing at a premium in London, these sites waste valuable land in inner London with single-storey retail and large surface area car parks.

Under-utilised land that would help housing shortage
Under-utilised land that would help housing shortage

That small parade is some way from the rest of the retail in Charlton and located close to Charlton station. An ideal site for high density housing with commercial space at street level facing onto the road, bringing active frontages and life to the area.

Retail use would be consolidated around the area where superstores like Asda currently reside. This out-of-town retail area, in an inner London area, continues to grow.

A far more preferable long term aspiration would be a more traditional High Street-type shopping experience with high density housing above retail. In the short term, a move towards replacing large surface car parks with multi-storey to free up land would be ideal.

Another option is for sites like Asda to be rebuilt along the lines of Woolwich Tesco with basement parking (though this was altered at Woolwich to ground floor with the supermarket above, which explains a few of that building’s issues), the supermarket above and then housing above that – a far more efficient use of land. The planned Asda redevelopment over at the Isle of Dogs is along those lines.

Currently under construction in the area shown as retail are Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer. Here’s a photo taken a couple of weeks ago. There’s no housing, but at least it has the stores above car parking, which should provide a decent front to the street.


With areas east of the Thames Barrier planned for high density housing, this could strengthen the possibility of moving Woolwich Dockyard station a couple of hundred metres west to a point equidistant between Woolwich Arsenal and Charlton stations, where Morris Walk Estate is currently located.

A large amount of planned housing shown on the Charlton masterplan would be just north of the estate, which is also to be demolished and rebuilt with a greater number of dwellings. The site is completely level and seems to lack geographical impediments to building a new station site.

Possible station site?
Possible station site?

The existing Woolwich Dockyard station is in a deep cutting and cannot be easily extended to take the 12-carriage trains which are supposed to start running soon – it’s the only station on the line that hasn’t been extended. Rebuilding on the existing site would be very expensive, so a move to a site which can take a new station with long platforms and close to large-scale house building should be studied.

The masterplan shows a ‘riverside transit’ running through the middle of the site to meet Bugsy’s Way, where it presumably heads to North Greenwich tube station along the lines of the cancelled Greenwich Waterfront Transit. That scheme ended up as an over-engineered and over-priced project that was deservedly scrapped as it stood.

Unfortunately no revisions or alternative schemes have been proposed under the mayoralty of Boris Johnson over the last six years. Let’s hope that any resurrection does not look for solutions to problems that aren’t there and focuses on improving bottlenecks that do exist.

The Greater London Authority is backing Greenwich’s zoning plans, and agrees that ‘the intensification of residential uses in the Charlton Riverside Opportunity Area is in line with the London Plan which sets out the potential for a minimum of 3,500 new homes and 1,000 jobs in the area’.

However the Port of London Authority and GLA both highlighted the safeguarded nature of Riverside Wharf and the importance of wharves in general in consultations. Subsequently, Riverside Wharf is to be included on masterplan drawings though Greenwich has noted it as having potential for relocation in the future into the industrial area.

Two years after the masterplans were finalised, the borough-wide ‘Core Strategy’ was adopted in July 2014. It provides a long-term vision for development and contains detailed policies to guide development.

The council notes that ‘it is the key strategic planning document for Royal Greenwich and will be used to help shape development and determine planning applications’. The full 94MB strategy can be seen here.

The core strategy does not deviate much from the 2012 masterplan. It states –

“Creation of a new mixed use urban quarter at Charlton Riverside incorporating around 3,500 – 5,000 new homes by 2031, which will involve substantial release of under-used industrial land and intensification of employment on remaining land.”

“It is considered that the housing component in the area will commence around 2017 and could take up to 20 years to be completed. It is therefore anticipated that just over 70% of the new housing will be delivered in this area during the plan period, with the remainder coming post 2027/28. Development of the area is dependent on the provision of increased public transport infrastructure in the waterfront area.”

The first stage scheduled to be built is the educational zone where Holborn College is. This site could include a primary school. Stage 2 is far more widespread and includes a substantial amount of industrial land, as can be seen below. Phase 3 is the retail area, though as the potential layout seems to show a grid like layout on sites such as the as-yet unopened Sainsbury’s this seems fanciful and unlikely any time soon. I would imagine phase 4 would happen before that. See the stages below –


Finally, the next open day at Second Floor artists’ studios, on 16 November, is well worth visiting. Details are here. If future plans can maintain this site and utilise the clear potential it has, then that will be one of the biggest benefits to the local area.