Greenwich Council has threatened the developer behind 330 new homes off Victoria Way with an unlimited fine after neighbours complained work was taking place outside permitted hours.
Fairview, whose controversial development was approved by councillors a year ago, is only allowed to carry out work between 8am and 6pm on weekdays and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays, but neighbours complained to the council about work taking place outside these hours.
A Section 60 notice was served on Fairview last month warning it that it would face a fine if work continued outside permitted hours.
Greenwich’s cabinet member for community safety, Jackie Smith, told The Charlton Champion: “The council served, Fairview, the building contractor working on 40 Victoria Way, Charlton, with a Section 60 notice in December 2018, following complaints from residents that it had been working outside of the hours permitted by its planning consent.
“The notice restricts the times that noisy works can be carried out. The council is in contact with Fairview to encourage it to take all reasonable steps to limit the impact on surrounding residents but if it is found to have contravened its notice the council has the power to take legal action.
“Concerned residents can report unreasonable or out of hours, noisy work from a construction site to the council by calling 020 8921 8921. We log all calls as this enables us to both assess the extent and pattern of activity and provides supporting evidence should enforcement action be necessary.”
The eight-strong planning committee were barracked after endorsing the Fairview New Homes proposals, which include two 10-storey blocks and 144 car parking spaces, as well as a nursery and office space.
Councillors on the planning board voted by six to one to back the scheme, with one not voting. The vote was greeted with cries of “shame!” and “you shouldn’t be our councillors”.
Planners had recommended the scheme for approval, despite 125 objections from residents, three written objections from local councillors in Peninsula and Charlton wards and concerns raised by Transport for London and the Greater London Authority about the high level of car parking spaces.
Neighbours had called the plans “overbearing” and had voiced concerns about traffic congestion and the lack of facilities for residents. Others criticised a lack of consultation with residents about the scheme, with the Charlton Society’s Roden Richardson suggesting it was part of a wider “failure of democracy”.
“The perspectives of council officers and residents differ so much we wonder if the officers are on the same planet,” he said.
However, there were 10 submissions supporting the scheme, some citing its provision of 35% “affordable” housing – two-thirds which would be for social rent, with the remainder for shared ownership.
Unusually for such a meeting, councillors did not give their reasons for voting ahead of the vote, although council deputy leader Danny Thorpe said he was “mindful” of concerns residents had raised, and asked for Section 106 funds from the development to go into local transport.
Charlton Central Residents Association chair Jodie Coughlan said the plans were “unrealistic” and would affect the quality of life for people living in the area. “If you act in haste, you will repent in leisure,” she added.
Peninsula ward councillor Stephen Brain said approving the scheme, which sits outside the area zoned for tall buildings, would set “a dangerous precedent”. He also said concerns about congestion had already led the London Fire Brigade to ask for a yellow box junction to be installed outside East Greenwich fire station because engines were having trouble accessing the road.
There were also concerns raised about the scheme only having one point of access for vehicles, on Victoria Way. One resident said Victoria Way and Eastcombe Avenue had already effectively become “arterial roads” and that any development would cause “irreversible damage”. There were sniggers from the public gallery when a representative from Fairview said pedestrian-only access from Dupree Road would “help people move around the area more easily”.
Residents walking through the site would have the benefit of play areas “away from the traffic of Victoria Way”, the rep added.
Another pointed to the frequent conflict between drivers on the pinch point at the Victoria Way railway bridge, recently narrowed by the council so it can only be accessed by one vehicle at a time. Cllr Thorpe suggested Section 106 money could go to a scheme to ameliorate this problem.
Others raised the heights of the buildings – including two 10-storey blocks, one 9-storey block and three 8-storey blocks – while one resident of Gurdon Road said the incline of the hill would mean her own home would be overshadowed by a three-storey block.
The Charlton Society’s Roden Richardson praised the neighbouring, lower-rise development at Fairthorn Road, on the other half of the warehouse site, and asked why the Fairthorn scheme could not be like that.
A claim that Fairview had held “a number of local meetings” was met with disbelief from the public – CCRA’s Jodie Coughlan branded the developer “remote” while one resident said “bullying tactics” had been used. The consultation for the scheme had been handled by Cratus Communications, whose deputy chairman is former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts.
After the vote, one resident tried to quiz a council officer on the heights of the building while another asked councillors if any lived in the area. None responded. The one councillor on the planning board who does live in the area, planning chair Mark James – whose home is very close to the site – was not on the panel. Council leader Denise Hyland was also not present.
The Fairview scheme will now have to be ratified by City Hall, which may give disgruntled residents a glimmer of hope that the mayor’s office will demand changes.
Later in the meeting, a plan to extend Queen Elizabeth Hospital was unanimously approved by councillors, despite concerns about car parking raised by Kidbrooke with Hornfair councillor Norman Adams. Danny Thorpe said he would ask health cabinet member David Gardner to raise the issue with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.
Votes for: Mark Elliott (Conservative, Eltham South), Clive Mardner (Labour, Abbey Wood), Danny Thorpe (Labour, Shooters Hill – council deputy leader and regeneration cabinet member), Sarah Merrill (Labour, Shooters Hill), Norman Adams (Labour, Kidbrooke with Hornfair), Steve Offord (Labour, Abbey Wood).
(Ray Walker (Labour, Eltham West – vice-chair) indicated he had voted for the development but did not count himself in the total.)
Peninsula ward councillor Stephen Brain and Charlton’s Allan MacCarthy and Gary Parker have raised concerns about the proposal, along with the Greenwich Conservation Group, the Charlton Society, and 125 individuals.
10 members of the public supported the application, some citing the 35% “affordable” housing provision – 23.3% social rent, 11.7% “intermediate”/shared ownership.
Brain calls the development “out of scale” and complains about loss of light – concerns echoed by residents in Dupree Road and Gurdon Road – while MacCarthy says it is “too large”, “out of keeping with the principally Victorian and other later housing of the area” and will worsen existing congestion, posing particular risks to pupils at Fossdene School.
The Charlton Society has branded it a “monolithic, totally alien imposition” that is “devoid of human scale or any sense of enclosure”, suggesting the smaller next door development as a template to start from.
Transport for London wants to see most of the parking spaces removed from the scheme, which sits between both Westcombe Park and Charlton stations, while the Greater London Authority has also raised concerns about the high level of car parking spaces.
The level of opposition from councillors marks this out as a particularly sensitive application within Greenwich Council’s ruling Labour group.
Worth watching will be whether council leader Denise Hyland and deputy leader Danny Thorpe take their places on the planning committee – Greenwich is rare among London boroughs in having the council leader directly involved in these decisions – and whether the relatively high number of homes for social rent have helped seal the deal.