The amended scheme, created after discussions with Khan’s officers at City Hall, sees two storeys lopped off a block that overlooked homes in Derrick Gardens, meaning the historic cottages of Atlas and Derrick Gardens will now have a four-storey block behind them.
Another block, to the south of Atlas Gardens, has also had two storeys removed, cutting it down to five. Other blocks around the site have been increased in height to compensate.
Rockwell’s new scheme is unlikely to satisfy critics, who say the developer’s plans go against the recently-adopted Charlton Riverside masterplan, which sets out a vision for lower-rise developments aimed at families in Charlton to sit in between the towers of Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich.
All 11 councillors on Greenwich’s planning board rejected the scheme, with chair Sarah Merrill declaring: “This application in no way resembles the spirit of the Charlton Riverside masterplan, in terms of height, massing and design. It’s reminiscent of Stalingrad.”
But Rockwell – which has retained former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts’ company Cratus Communications as lobbyists – insisted it was “fantastic opportunity to kick-start the regeneration of this area”.
Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has told the developers behind controversial plans to build 771 homes off Anchor & Hope Lane that they should respect the masterplan developed for Charlton Riverside – and build more affordable housing.
Pennycook spoke out days after London mayor Sadiq Khan blocked Greenwich Council’s refusal of the scheme by developer Rockwell to build five 10-storey blocks and other buildings on land surrounding Atlas and Derrick Gardens.
The mayor, who has designated Charlton Riverside an “opportunity area” for development, will now decide whether or not the plan goes ahead.
Khan’s decision came with criticism of Greenwich Council for not allowing enough “affordable” housing in recent years – Rockwell’s scheme would have 32.4% “affordable” housing.
Local businesses have also voiced fears that they will have to move or close, saying the new development’s residents will not want them as neighbours.
Pennycook said on his Facebook page that Rockwell needed to be making the blocks smaller and providing more “affordable’ homes.
He wrote: “I fully understand the pressure the Mayor is under to build more homes in London as the market falters, I’m deeply disappointed that City Hall have chosen not to back Greenwich Council and stand behind the local community’s very strong objections to the proposed scheme.
“I will of course look carefully at any modifications that the Mayor is able to secure over the coming weeks/months and I trust that there will be extensive consultation with local residents and community groups as well as with the developer.
“However, City Hall must appreciate that there is a very strong feeling locally that we not compromise on the vision set out in the 2017 Charlton Riverside masterplan.
“That is why it’s crucial that development across the entire Charlton Riverside opportunity area, including any modified proposals from Rockwell, respect the vision of an exemplary urban district set out in that masterplan document.
“For Rockwell’s site that means not only a higher level of affordable housing, and a modified dwelling mix, but also reductions in the proposed height of buildings. If that requires reductions in the total number of units then, in my view, that’s what needs to happen.”
While the Charlton Riverside masterplan does not rule out 10-storey blocks, it says they should be an exception, preferring to see buildings of between three and six storeys.
Khan’s letter to Greenwich Council announcing he was taking over the planning process said the Rockwell scheme “has potential to make an important contribution to housing and affordable housing supply”.
Pennycook’s intervention was greeted with scepticism by journalist Paul Wellman, who tracks London’s developers for Estates Gazette. “Want more affordable housing? Generally the compromise is more private and greater heights. The below scenario is hugely unachievable,” he tweeted.
Want more affordable housing? Generally the compromise is more private and greater heights. The below scenario is hugely unachievable. https://t.co/m9U40BcKhh
Hounslow had refused a scheme with 421 homes, including 40% “affordable”, citing the possible effect on nearby Kew Gardens. But Khan approved a revised scheme with 50% “affordable” housing and 441 homes.
Khan said: “This scheme shows how we can unlock the potential of an underused site to build more of the genuinely affordable homes Londoners so urgently need. I’m clear that to fix the capital’s housing crisis Government must play its part, but we can make a difference now by ensuring developments include more genuinely affordable housing.
“I am committed to using the full strength of my planning powers to get London building more affordable homes.
“This is another important step as we work towards my long-term strategic goal for 50 per cent of housing in all new developments across the city to be social rented and other genuinely affordable homes for Londoners.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan has blocked Greenwich Council’s refusal to allow a developer to build 771 homes at the end of Anchor & Hope Lane, meaning he will now decide whether or not it will go ahead, rather than local councillors.
All 11 councillors on Greenwich’s planning board voted to reject the scheme, the first to come forward at Charlton Riverside – designated an “opportunity area” by the mayor.
But Khan has now opted to take over deciding what happens with the scheme himself – the first time a Greenwich Council planning decision has been called in by City Hall.
In a letter sent to Greenwich Council and seen by this website, Khan says that the proposal will have a “significant impact on the implementation of the London Plan and the draft London Plan” – the mayoral blueprint for planning across the capital.
The news will anger local residents who have battled against the proposals – particularly those who live in Atlas and Derrick Gardens, who say the Rockwell development will loom over their homes and deny them natural light. Local industries have also voiced concerns about whether they will be able to continue in business with a large residential development on their doorstep, and Squeeze singer Glenn Tilbrook has complained that his recording studio would be put in jeopardy by the plans.
London mayors have the power to “call in” major developments after councils have made a decision, but it rarely happens. While it has never happened to Greenwich Council, two past developments on its borders have been called in.
A call-in effectively means the planning process starts again, with the mayor’s officers taking over and a public hearing taking place at City Hall.
More recently, Khan overturned Bromley Council’s approval of a new stadium for London’s oldest football club, Cray Wanderers, who play in the eighth tier of English football, and two four-storey blocks of flats at Flamingo Park, off the Sidcup by-pass.
Negotiations with Greenwich Council finally produced a revised plan by the end of 2017, cutting the maximum height down to 10 storeys with 25% “affordable”. In July 2018 this was increased to 35% “affordable” when judged by number of rooms, or 32.4% when assessed by the number of units.
5pm update: Greenwich Council regeneration cabinet member Sizwe James says: “I am disappointed that the Mayor of London has called in the Eynsham Drive and Charlton Riverside planning applications, both of which were rejected by our Planning Board last month. This means that the Mayor of London, and not the local councillors elected by the people of Greenwich, will decide on these applications.
“At the Planning Board, local residents spoke passionately about the issues they had with the proposed developments. The committee members listened to the residents and shared their concerns about the height of the buildings, the lack of homes for families, and the affordability of those homes.
“After the planning applications were rejected, we hoped that the developers would come back to us with a new application that provided much needed affordable housing for families, in developments of an appropriate size and scale for Abbey Wood and Charlton.
“Whilst I respect the rights of the Mayor of London to call in these planning applications, and understand the pressure he is under to get more homes built, we very much hope he will address the concerns of residents in the process.
“I would urge him not to simply wave the applications through, but include us in discussions with the developers to secure a greater proportion of well designed, affordable family homes.
“We also need to learn from the mistakes made in the 60s and 70s and create proper neighbourhoods, with walkable streets, places to work and spaces for children to play and socialise.
“I hope that we can work together with the developers and the Mayor of London to do this.”
But councillors agreed with neighbours who said Rockwell’s scheme went against the recently-adopted Charlton Riverside masterplan, which sets out a vision for lower-rise developments aimed at families in Charlton to sit in between the towers of Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich.
Planning chair Sarah Merrill (Labour, Shooters Hill) said: “This application in no way resembles the spirit of the Charlton Riverside masterplan, in terms of height, massing and design. It’s reminiscent of Stalingrad.”
All 11 councillors on Greenwich’s planning board voted to reject the scheme, to applause from the public.
Squeeze frontman Tilbrook – who lives in Charlton – told councillors that he had tried to engage with Rockwell because he owns a studio adjacent to the development site, which is used as a base for the band’s tours. He said he feared losing access to the studios.
“The replies I’ve had from them have not been sufficient,” he told councillors. “Access for me is important, Squeeze work from the studios, we rehearse there, we go in and out every weekend for festivals, sometimes late at night. This access is not guaranteed.”
Tilbrook added that he feared that noise from the construction work would make the studio unusable, then new residents would complain about noise coming from the studio.
“It feels like to Rockwell, I’m a bad smell they want to make go away. It feels like they want to drive a coach and horses through my life and my studio, and they want to drive a coach and horses through the Charlton masterplan.”
While Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy told the committee the council had to act “in the best interests of the community – not hedge funds in Guernsey” – a reference to the development firm backing the scheme, Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco. He said the council would “compromise itself” if it backed the scheme.
Rockwell representatives said the scheme offered a “fantastic opportunity to kick-start the regeneration of this area”, saying it “has the makings of a destination, a real place in its own right”. It claimed it would generate over 200 jobs.
But the firm – which has retained former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts’ company Cratus Communications as lobbyists – arguably overreached itself by drafting in a teacher who wanted to set up a nursery school on the site, claiming she could not find another suitable site.
But they had little to fear as councillors lined up to put the boot into the scheme – despite council officers having recommended they back it.
“We all want to see the area redeveloped and there is potential on the site, but this does not conform to the masterplan,” councillor Nigel Fletcher (Conservative, Eltham North) said. “Either we have a planning policy and we adhere to it, or we don’t.”
“I have a concern about how this has been allowed to proceed to this point through discussions with officers and recommended for approval. I almost feel sorry for the applicant being led to believe this is something we might support.”
Local MP Matt Pennycook said on Thursday morning that the decision was “a clear signal to developers that the community will not accept proposals that do not honour the vision set out in the 2017 Charlton Riverside masterplan”.
“I hope Rockwell now do what they should have done months ago: reconsider the height, massing and levels of affordable/family housing within the scheme and come back with a proposal that will ensure Charlton Riverside becomes the exemplary new urban district we all want it to be.”
Controversial plans to build 10-storey blocks behind homes off Anchor & Hope Lane go to Greenwich Council’s main planning committee on Monday. Developer Rockwell plans to build 771 homes on land surrounding Atlas and Derrick Gardens – which, if approved, would be the first housing development in the Charlton Riverside regeneration scheme.
At the river end of Anchor and Hope Lane, you’ll find Atlas and Derrick Gardens. It’s a community of 74 homes, a few houses with the rest being small flats. Our community is a blend of social and private tenants as well as homeowners. I’m a resident of Derrick Gardens – I have only ever lived in the borough of Greenwich.
These homes are examples of model worker home properties and carry some historical significance, having been built by local shipping industrialist William H Cory for his employees and their families in 1908. Earlier this year, our homes were given conservation area status to reflect this history.
However, our community is now fighting for its survival.
To capitalise on this, Rockwell Property – on behalf of Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco – has bought the VIP Trading Estate and wants to build luxury “family homes” on the site.
These ‘”family homes” would feature a collection of tower blocks, with most of the 771 properties exceeding £500,000. After nearly two years of discussions, the “affordable” housing provision has climbed from the initial offer of 8% to 25%, whilst the density has reduced from 975 to 771 homes.
‘We would lose all natural light’
Rockwell’s proposed blocks of flats, with up to 10 storeys, would be just 18-20 metres behind our homes. We would completely lose all and any natural light.
London needs new homes, but I and other Atlas and Derrick Gardens residents feel our quality of life should not be forfeited for financial gain and to meet local authority targets.
Especially where there is established planning guidance in place which says that homes built within this area should be of low height and low density, and complementary to the heritage of the area while not having a negatively impact on existing neighbourhoods.
For me, it’s beyond disappointing that Greenwich Council’s hard work in establishing this local guidance is being ridden roughshod over by a need to meet targets and a desire not to upset developers.
The housing crisis has been a very easy loophole for developers to exploit: how many Londoners can afford luxury one/two-bedroom flats exceeding £500,000? Rockwell’s plans are disingenuous at best, mercenary and opportunistic at worst.
We need new homes which meet all layers of planning policy, not just the bits which are convenient or release the most profit for developers, regardless of the consequences for others. Which is why Greenwich Council needs to hold the line.
‘Don’t be scared of refusing Rockwell’
But nothing in this process has convinced us that housing Greenwich borough’s residents, especially the 17,000 on the waiting list, is actually a priority for either the developers or for the council.
Greenwich planning officers are scared of what will happen if Rockwell’s application is rejected: paying for an appeal and a date with the Planning Inspectorate.
But Greenwich Council should not fear an appeal. Rockwell knew the local policies in place when it purchased the land.
It has already spent five years and £850,000 of existing residents’ money in developing a masterplan – not upholding this and not explaining in detail why planning officers are supporting Rockwell’s schemes calls for questions to be asked about whether public funds are being mismanaged. We support the petition urging councillors to stick to their masterplan.
We have been disappointed with the lack of honest engagement from the council – including some of the very councillors we elected – with an apparent inability to see the wider issues that approving this application will create and exacerbate.
Even though this proposal has loomed over us for two years, we only had a site visit a month ago, where it was clear that some who participated and would be deciding on the application did not even know our neighbourhood existed.
‘We demand better for Charlton Riverside’
Charlton Riverside is already an identified opportunity area – development does not need to be kickstarted by inappropriate schemes by hook or by crook. It needs to have the right start to set the tone for the rest of the area.
Many communities across London will be going through similar issues with development which is both inappropriate for their local community and does little to address the actual housing crisis.
Our planning system needs to change and we need to see Greenwich at the forefront, listening to and engaging with us, using the policies developed with taxpayers’ support to benefit its residents, not for the financial benefit of developers – especially when those developers are aided by consultation organisations employing former council leaders.
We hope that by raising awareness of our plight, we can urge both officers and councillors to reject this application, and demand better for our Charlton Riverside.
The residents’ petition on the Charlton Riverside Masterplan can be found at change.org.
The Rockwell development application currently before the council drives a coach and horses through the carefully created masterplan in terms of building heights, levels of density/massing, and affordable housing.
If the Rockwell development is approved by the planning board it will set a precedent for all future developers to ignore the masterplan in respect of further planning applications for the wider site. This will have a huge impact on the whole of Charlton.
For reasons that are hard to understand, the council’s own officers have recommended giving approval to the Rockwell development even through the application does not meet the vision or targets described in the masterplan which was commissioned by the council and approved by cabinet in November 2017.
The petitioners are unhappy about Rockwell’s plans for 771 new homes on an industrial estate which surrounds their homes. The scheme includes five 10-storey blocks.
One of the petition organisers, Helen Jakeways of community group Charlton Together, said: “It’s really vital for all of Charlton that Greenwich Council lives up to the vision and ambition of its own Charlton Riverside Masterplan.
“Not only would it be £850,000 of public money wasted if it didn’t, the knock on effect for all of Charlton would be awful if developers are allowed free rein on the Riverside plot. We’re asking everyone Charlton wide to sign the petition and support the Charlton Riverside Masterplan.”