Charlton Sainsbury’s development – did the community get a raw deal from £1.5m planning cash?

The new superstore store complex looms over housing on Woolwich Road
The new superstore store complex looms over housing on Woolwich Road

The developer behind Sainsbury’s and M&S paid Greenwich Council nearly £1.5 million to help secure planning permission, the Charlton Champion can reveal. But none of this money has been spent in the Charlton area – and promised facilities at the development haven’t materialised.

The firm behind the Charlton Riverside Retail Park, LXP RP (Greenwich 3) Ltd, agreed to pay £1,484,927 to Greenwich Council in Section 106 payments. These are aimed at easing the impact of large construction projects on local communities.

But none of the money has been spent in Charlton – with a chunk of the money going to projects in Woolwich instead.

The Charlton Champion used the Freedom of Information Act to find out what LXB paid Greenwich Council – and how it is being spent.

Making a difference in [insert store name here]
Making a difference in [insert store name here]

So far, £170,685 has been spent. The first £150,000 has gone to “employment and training” – believed to be Greenwich Local Labour and Business, the council’s employment agency, which is largely funded by these payments. GLLaB is due to receive a further £284,613 from this project.

The remaining £20,685 has been spent on a “public safety” contribution – the council’s CCTV control room in Woolwich.

The other sums have been allocated, but not spent. Asked where they would be spent, the council merely said on “schemes within the Royal Borough of Greenwich”.

£303,120 has been earmarked for “town centre management”. This sum won’t be spent in Charlton – instead, it is likely to go to Woolwich, Eltham and/or Greenwich.

A huge motorway-size sign adds to street clutter at Charlton Church Lane
A huge motorway-size sign adds to street clutter at Charlton Church Lane

£209,202 has gone to “public realm” – effectively, making streets look nicer. Again, there’s no pledge to spend this money locally – despite the poor state of the area’s streets (worsened by the huge SUPERSTORE signs that have appeared in recent weeks). A further £217,307 has gone to “environmental health”.

Finally, £300,000 has gone to “bus service enhancements”. Again, it’s not clear quite where this money will be spent. There are currently no plans to enhance bus services in the Charlton area, while Transport for London rejected proposals to extend bus route 202 from Blackheath Standard to serve the new store.

There’s an additional £449,715 too – this is a community infrastructure levy, collected by boroughs on behalf of City Hall to help pay for Crossrail.

So far, so disappointing. But if local groups want to start lobbying for improvements to the area, there’s where the cash is.

It helps to get the small things right...
It helps to get the small things right…

Should residents have expected anything different?

Well, when the plan was first announced, developer LXB held several meetings with local people, who formed the Charlton Riverside Action Group.

Both CRAG’s prime movers have now moved out of the area, but other groups such as the Charlton Society and Charlton Central Residents’ Association also had a hand in these talks – designed to address fears that the complex would add to already-bad traffic congestion in the area..

It appears, though, that these talks they were largely for nothing. Those who took part in the talks believed they were getting…

The proposed exit would have been on long-disused railway land
The proposed exit would have been on long-disused railway land to the left of this photo

A new entrance to Charlton station: One of the proposals to encourage people to travel to the new complex by public transport included opening a new entrance to Charlton station at Troughton Road, nearer the western end of the Kent-bound platform. This plan, however, appears to have stalled.

Bus arrivals information in the store: Residents were told the store would feature boards showing bus times (you’ll see these in North Greenwich bus station and the new Greenwich University building in Stockwell Street). They never materialised. Meanwhile, a new bus stop on Bugsbys Way doesn’t even have a shelter.

Legible London signs installed by Lewisham Council on Blackheath
Legible London signs installed by Lewisham Council on Blackheath

Local signposts: Another plan was to make it easier to walk to the store by installing Legible London signposts in the local area – the black and yellow signs used in Blackheath Village and Woolwich Town Centre. This scheme could have been rolled out to make it easier for visitors to find Charlton House, Charlton Lido, Charlton Athletic and other attractions. Nothing has appeared.

Why does this matter? Well, Charlton’s riverside will soon undergo huge redevelopment – community groups are waiting for a new masterplan to be announced. If local people aren’t getting anything from current developments, what hope is there when the diggers start going in by the river?

It also matters because community groups believed they had a scheme that could have delivered tangible benefits for residents. Instead, those locals haven’t seen any of those benefits – and are suffering from rat-running as cars head down side roads to the new supermarket.

A few weeks ago, this website asked if Charlton needed a regeneration plan. We now that thanks to this development – and others – there is money available, even if only to tidy up the public realm and put some signs up to direct people around. If community groups want to take this seriously, then they should be watching where the cash from these developments go – and making sure SE7 gets more than scraps.