Greenwich borough archive to stay as Anchor and Hope Lane land sold for school

Google image of Anchorage Point
Anchorage Point is to be sold to a government property agency (image: Google)

Plans to sell industrial land on Anchor and Hope Lane for a new primary school were approved by Greenwich councillors last night – but the borough’s archives will not be affected by the move, they were told.

The Anchorage Point industrial estate is to be sold to a government agency so it can be used as a school by the Harris academy trust. Councils are not allowed to set up new schools of their own so have to go along with government plans for academies.

Greenwich council’s cabinet last night heard opposition from an Anchorage Point business owner and a local councillor, but voted through the plans after hearing that not selling the land could saddle the council with a £30-40 million bill to build a new school elsewhere.

Plans submitted to the cabinet appeared to show that the borough archive – which moved out of its old base in Woolwich three years ago to make way for the Woolwich Works creative district – would also have to move. But Jeremy Smalley, the council’s assistant director of regeneration and property, said that the trust would be able to stay, although its site may eventually be needed for a new road.

“The Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust are unaffected by this decision,” he said. “They would be affected in the longer term should we find the money to implement the road improvement, and the discussion with the trust is about what and where they need to be not just in terms of the archive, but in exhibition and research space.”

The plans will see existing businesses relocated to new sites, but Richard Cunningham, the owner of Morgan Richards Garage, which is based on the industrial estate, said his business had already been forced to move from Woolwich to Brocklebank Road in Charlton, then to Anchorage Point when Brocklebank Road was sold for use as a retail park.

“Each time, it’s involved great personal expense and great effort to keep a customer base we value,” he said, adding that Anchorage Point offered good facilities and was full of long-term tenants.

Moving the businesses “would result in a definite loss of jobs during the worst trading period due to the Covid-19 pandemic”, he added, suggesting a site further along the riverside would be better for a school.

“The site is essential for a lot of businesses, close to the Blackwall Tunnel, M25 and A2,” he said.

Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy said the plan to sell the site was “in direct contradiction” with the council’s aims to keep the Charlton riverside as a location for employment.

“This particular school will be in the middle of a building site with all the health impacts that will bring,” he said, adding that the school would come too early for housing on Charlton Riverside and Morris Walk, with the risk that it would be already full when the new residents moved in.

Local resident Helen Brown said the plans “came as a shock” and that the businesses only found out just before Christmas.

“Economic development and jobs are really important to the council, and that’s one of the reasons that’s a really difficult decision,” Smalley said.

“If the council doesn’t accept the offer, then the council will have to find a site for a school, and will be left with a bill of £30-40 million to find the land and build a new school – and under the law it has to transfer it to an academy.”

Addressing Cunningham, he said: “We’re going to do our damnedest to relocate you close to where you are now, in purpose-built units. We won’t necessarily be able to do that to everybody, but we really want to and we’ve been clear about the need to work with business and find alternative premises.”

“The DfE and [its agency] Located are putting the council under pressure to make this decision, otherwise the money will be withdrawn by March, and the council will then be left with having to find £30 million – £40 million to make the school provision a reality.

Sarah Merrill, the cabinet member for regeneration, said the council was committed to a “holistic regeneration” on the riverside rather than “allowing piecemeal developments ad hoc”, and said she had met residents on site last month.

“We are working with the community and [resisdents’ group] Charlton Together at every single stage,” she said.

The new school could open as early as summer 2022 – before any housing on the riverside is complete, and Matt Morrow, the cabinet member for children’s services Matt Morrow said it was important to get the facility in place early so new residents did not have to send their children long distances to school.


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Primary school could be built on Anchor and Hope Lane industrial estate

Google image of Anchorage Point
This site could host a new primary school (image: Google)

A 630-pupil primary school could be built on an industrial estate at the end of Anchor and Hope Lane – and could open as soon as September next year.

Councillors on Greenwich Council’s cabinet are due to rubber-stamp a decision next week to sell the Anchorage Point industrial estate so it can be used as a free school for the Harris academy trust.

A report to councillors says a new school is needed to meet demand in the north-west of the borough, with the Charlton riverside area due to see thousands of new homes in the coming years. The site is next door to where developer Rockwell had a 771-home scheme rejected by a planning inspector last year.

Councils are banned from building new schools themselves, and Harris Federation had permission granted by the government in 2017 to build a free school in the borough. Greenwich plans to transfer the Anchorage Point site to the new school.

“It is proposed that Harris Primary Free School will open on a phased basis with 90 places in the reception year in September 2022 (subject to a site being secured and planning permission being granted) but will eventually have 630 pupils in the reception year through to Year 6. There is also the potential for the school to offer early years education provision,” papers for next Wednesday’s cabinet meeting state.

The industrial estate opened in 1999 to accommodate businesses that were displaced when council land on the Greenwich Peninsula was taken over as part of the project to bring the Millennium Dome to the area. Tenants include Tavern Snacks, which makes crisps and nuts for the pub industry. The council says it will offer tenants new sites in the borough – a process which could start the long shift of much of Charlton’s industry to sites in the Plumstead and Thamesmead area.

Another tenant is Greenwich’s borough archive – facing its second eviction as little as three years after being turfed out of the Royal Arsenal in 2018 for the Woolwich Works creative district project. When the possibility of the site being disposed of emerged before Christmas, The Charlton Champion contacted the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust to find out its plans; it received no response.

Provision for a new road cutting through part of the site will be included in any deal to sell the land.

Councillors will decide whether to go ahead with the sale at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.


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Rockwell Charlton Riverside development: Consultation sessions to be held on 2 and 3 March

Rockwell Charlton scheme
The new proposals see brick-based buildings with a maximum height of 10 storeys

Hot on the heels of Greenwich Council telling developer Rockwell to consult properly on its plans to build 771 homes on land off Anchor and Hope Lane, it has announced two events to take place at The Valley early next month.

Rockwell, which is acting for Channel Islands-based Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco Ltd, plans to redevelop the industrial estate behind and next to Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens, including building five 10-storey blocks.

Plans for a 28-storey glass tower were blocked, while the developer only wants to provide 5% “affordable” housing on the site, compared with 15% for the previous plans. However, it says it will be discussing a “growth scenario” to provide more “affordable” housing with Greenwich Council.

Local residents’ groups have been angry at the lack of consultation on the revised plans, which are dramatically different from the original scheme for the site.

Now a public exhibition will be held at the Millennium Suite in The Valley between 3-7pm on Friday 2 March, and 10am-2pm on Saturday 3 March.

A flyer distributed by Rockwell says “key members of the project team will be on hand to answer any questions”.

Not much to say: The Charlton Conversations website

It also directs residents to charltonconversations.com for more information, but that website is just showing a holding page suggesting visitors go to the council website.

You can wade through all the planning documents and comment by searching for reference 16/4008/F at Greenwich Council’s planning pages. You can also read part one and part two of the lengthy design and access statement, which outlines the proposals.