‘Stick to your masterplan’: Residents launch Charlton Riverside petition to Greenwich Council

Rockwell’s plans for Charlton Riverside. Local residents’ groups say that the application “drives a coach and horses” through Greenwich Council’s Charlton Riverside Masterplan

Residents worried about the future of Derrick and Atlas Gardens – the two streets at the riverfront end of Anchor & Hope Lane – have launched a petition asking Greenwich Council to enforce the terms of its own Charlton Riverside Masterplan.

Citing the £854,000 cost of developing masterplans for the area – a figure revealed through a Freedom of Information request submitted by the organisers – the petition highlights discrepancies between the masterplan’s objectives and Greenwich Council planning officers’ recommendation to approve the upcoming Rockwell housing development application:

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.

Councillors voted to defer making a decision on the application at a planning board meeting held just prior to the May council elections.

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.”

You can sign the petition here: change.org/p/danny-thorpe-enforce-the-charlton-riverside-masterplan.

Derrick & Atlas Gardens Residents’ Association has recently joined Twitter – you can follow it here: twitter.com/DagraSE7.

Read previous Charlton Champion coverage of the Rockwell planning application here.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.


Greenwich Council defers decision on 771 homes at Charlton Riverside

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
Rockwell’s plans for the residential garden areas

Greenwich councillors have decided to defer a decision on whether to approve controversial plans for 771 new homes on an industrial estate at Anchor & Hope Lane until after next month’s council elections.

Developer 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.

Planning offiers had recommended approval of the plans, which went before the council’s main planning committee this evening, on the grounds that it would kickstart other developments in the area.

But Charlton Together, an alliance of local groups, had called for the decision to be deferred so councillors could visit the site.

Greenwich West Labour councillor Mehboob Khan proposed the decision be deferred because he was “not comfortable taking this decision at this point in the municipal year” – a reference to the poll on 3 May.

A new planning committee will take a decision on the site after the election.

Council deputy leader Danny Thorpe was one of the councillors on the committee, despite having chaired “stakeholder forums” about the development. He backed the deferral, while planning vice-chair Ray Walker and Eltham North councillor Steve Offord were the only ones to abstain.

Anchor & Hope Lane development site
Part of the site as it is now, with low-rise Derrick and Atlas Gardens to the left

In total, 11 new buildings are planned, with space for retail and commercial use alongside Anchor & Hope Lane. 210 car parking spaces are planned.

Those were changed to the current proposals in January 2018 to fit more closely with the council’s Charlton Riverside Masterplan, and again in March to increase the level of “affordable” housing to 25% (17.7% for social rent, 7.2% at “intermediate”) – below the council’s target of 35%.

Charlton Together – which includes the Charlton Society, Charlton Central Residents’ Association, Derrick and Atlas Gardens Residents’ Association, SE7 Action Group, Charlton Parkside Community Hub and local churches, says Rockwell’s plans represent “a wholesale departure” from the council’s new masterplan for the riverside area.

Objectors say the buildings are too high and the development too dense – particularly when the masterplan says most buildings in the area should be between three and six storeys.

Greenwich MP Matt Pennycook had added his voice to the objections, writing to councillors on the planning board to emphasise that the proposal “falls short of the development proposal that is needed to ensure that the vision for Charlton Riverside as an exemplary urban district is realised”.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

Have your say on new Charlton riverside conservation areas

Derrick Gardens
Atlas and Derrick Gardens would become part of a conservation area under the new plans

There’s a week left if you want to comment on Greenwich Council plans to create new conservation areas by the riverside at Charlton.

Two new areas are planned – one to protect the housing at Atlas and Derrick Gardens, the Anchor & Hope pub, Vaizeys Wharf and the Corys barge works; the other to protect areas around the Thames Barrier such as the old Victoria pub, the former Siemens works, and surviving parts of the old Woolwich Royal Dockyard.

The council also wants to locally list several buildings in the area, from the 1985 East Greenwich fire station (“an example of late 20C public sector design”) to Stones Foundry and Windrush Primary School.

The former Clancy’s pub at the end of Warspite Road is also scheduled for listing, under its original name of the Lord Howick.

It follows the publication last year of Greenwich’s masterplan for the Charlton riverside area.

You can see the full proposals and have your say on the Greenwich Council website. All comments have to be in by Wednesday 17 January.

New development by Thames Barrier: Public exhibition at The Valley

Riverside development flyer

Developers behind plans for up to 500 new homes by the Thames Barrier at Charlton will be showing off their proposals at two public consultation events.

Komoto Group wants to build “affordable and family housing alongside new business, retail and community space” at Herringham Road, on land which is currently home to the Raceway go-kart track, Bunker 51 laser-tag centre, a church, and other firms. Komoto also promises “significant public realm improvement”.

Tall Ships, April 2017
Crowds watching April’s Tall Ships Regatta from in front of the development site

Earlier this year the firm submitted early proposals for a 25-storey tower and 570 homes – the new Charlton Riverside Masterplan, which was confirmed in the summer, envisages mostly low to medium-rise developments of up to 10 storeys, except where there is “adequate public transport”.

The consultation events are in the Keith Peacock Suite at The Valley on Thursday 14 September (4pm-8pm) and Saturday 16 September (10am-2pm) – enter through the main reception off Floyd Road.

For more information, call the project team on 020 3176 4161, or email info[at]herringhamroad.co.uk. A website has now been set up: herringhamroad.co.uk.

In December 2016, another developer, Rockwell, submitted plans to build towers of up to 28 storeys off Anchor and Hope Lane. No decision has yet been made on this scheme.

Developer eyes 25-storey tower at Thames Barrier on Charlton riverside

Tall Ships, April 2017
Crowds watching April’s Tall Ships Regatta from in front of the development site

A property developer has revealed plans for a 25-storey tower for land next to the Thames Barrier – flying in the face of Greenwich Council’s proposed new masterplan for the Charlton riverside.

Komoto Group Limited wants to redevelop the site to the west of the Barrier to provide 570 homes plus commercial and retail space and up to 500 car parking spaces.

The company owns the site, which is currently home to the Raceway go-kart track, Bunker 51 laser-tag centre, a church, and other firms. The land was formerly home to the Johnsen & Jorgensen glass works, which closed in 1981.

But the plans directly contradict Greenwich’s proposed new masterplan for the area, which envisages mostly low to medium-rise developments of up to 10 storeys. There is a get-out plan which would permit taller buildings if there is “adequate public transport”, which certainly does not apply here.

Furthermore, as From The Murky Depths points out, the area’s filthy, dusty, and still full of industry.

Herringham Road
The site’s neighbours on Herringham Road

However, the masterplan has not yet been legally adopted, so Komoto is clearly hoping to squeeze this through before then. The company is currently asking for a “scoping opinion” – an early opinion from the council’s planners on what the main issues with the development are likely to be.

Earlier this year, developer Rockwell applied to redevelop the old British Ropes site at Anchor & Hope Lane with a 28-storey tower – the council has not yet made a decision on this.

You can find the application on the council planning website as 17/1324/EIA or read the full scoping report here.

A ten-storey love song? Greenwich Council’s surprising plan for Charlton riverside

Victoria, Woolwich Road

The consultation into the Charlton Riverside masterplan closed last week. The big plan was to write something a few weeks back picking out a few interesting things from the three chunky documents that make up the masterplan. Then real life intervened.

But it’s still worth a canter through the masterplan – because if you plan to stick around in or near Charlton over the next decade or so, this will affect you.  It’s actually a thoughtful document with much going for it. Huge developments are now springing up on the Greenwich Peninsula, in Woolwich, and across the water at Silvertown, where residents of Royal Wharf will have a lovely view of the Anchor & Hope. Now it’s our turn.

The plan is for 5,000-7,500 new homes (50% family housing, 35% “affordable”), mostly low to medium rise (3-6 storeys) developments, 4,000 additional jobs, expanding the park at the Thames Barrier and linking it to Maryon Park, and downgrading Woolwich Road west of Anchor & Hope Lane. Activity will start first nearer the barrier – but this will be is a very long-term process.

There are three big documents – the Charlton Riverside Draft Masterplan itself, the Draft Employment and Heritage Study, and Draft Woolwich Road Highway and Public Realm Improvements. Everything here is based on what’s in those documents, with a few ideas thrown in for discussion.

Change of approach?

Herringham Road

The first point to note is that this is a slightly broader area than Charlton itself – it stretches to Horn Lane, at the edge of east Greenwich, to take in the wharves and freight railway line; but stopping just short of the extended Greenwich Millennium Village and proposed Ikea. To the west, it goes out to Warspite Road in Woolwich, while the heritage study goes further into the old Woolwich royal dockyard site.

The second point is that this marks a change in approach by Greenwich Council. And this isn’t just in recommending fairly low-rise development – up to ten storeys. Past masterplans have effectively been left to the market – the Greenwich Peninsula masterplan was essentially written by the lead developer, Knight Dragon; Berkeley Homes effectively controls the Woolwich waterfront east of the ferry.

But here, Greenwich is seeking to take a more active role in starting development. Whether this is an acknowledgement of recent mistakes or a reaction to a different set of circumstances, it doesn’t say, although part of it is about making sure the risk of flooding around the Thames Barrier – where the council is keen to get things started – is properly dealt with.

It’s not just here that Greenwich is seeking to flex its muscle – the scheme to build a cinema in Eltham High Street comes straight from the town hall, as does the plan to revelop the battered old Woolwich public market. But this is much bigger, and not all of it may come off as planned.

Indeed, there’s already a threat to the draft masterplan in the Rockwell plan for Anchor & Hope Lane – 28 storeys rather than ten. But there is a get-out clause – ““tall buildings may be appropriate so long as there is adequate public transport and consideration is given to existing historical assets and distinctive characteristic features”. Does this apply on Anchor & Hope Lane?

For Woolwich’s shops to live again, Charlton retail must die?

Stone Lake Retail Park

Retail barns in Charlton aren’t a new thing – the first to open was Makro, in March 1974. (Sainsbury’s got a foothold before that, opening its original depot up the road four years earlier.)

They’ve even begun to cannibalise themselves – the Greenwich Shopping Park and Sainsbury’s/M&S sit on the sites of 1980s retail/industrial units, as will the delayed Brocklebank Retail Park, due to open later this year.

None of it is safe under the masterplan – “the existing retail does not conform with [council] policy”, it says, even if these sites were only given permission a few years ago. Few councillors representing Greenwich’s strand of the Labour party will apologise for allowing development that they think will allow employment, even if it’s at the expense of the surrounding environment. But Greenwich’s planners must now be hoping Charlton has hit Peak Retail.

You don’t have to look too far to sense an ulterior motive – the long decline of Woolwich as a shopping area, for which one culprit is the retail barns in Charlton.  As long ago as the early 1980s, Greenwich objected to Asda coming here because it wanted to protect Woolwich, and as recently as  2011, Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy made the same complaints about the relocated Sainsbury’s store.

Greenwich councillors still hanker after Woolwich being designated a “metropolitan centre”, like Bromley or Stratford. Instead, it’s a “major centre”, along with Eltham, Lewisham, Catford, Canary Wharf and Bexleyheath. The GLA agrees Woolwich could be bumped up a league – which would delight councillors eager to get one over the old enemy in Bexley. One way to achieve that could be for some of that retail floorspace to leave Charlton and return to SE18.

In any event, the retail can adapt to survive – homes and offices can always be built on top of retail premises, just as Tesco did in Woolwich. In Hackney, the council is buying the area’s Tesco superstore to redevelop it while keeping space for the supermarket. Could a project like this come to Charlton?

Balancing employment, heritage and housing – an impossible ask?

Westmoor Street

Think you know Charlton’s riverside? Think again. I guarantee you will learn something new if you leaf through the heritage and employment study, which contains fascinating case studies of the businesses on our doorstep.

5,600 people are employed by the river and the plan is to keep it that way. But with many in manufacturing (18% of businesses) and vehicle repair (13%), how many of these can remain? The Blackwall Tunnel is seen as both a blessing and a curse by many firms – but with increased pressure on the road network, it’s hard to see how these can co-exist with mass homebuilding.

To the west, Angerstein and Murphy’s wharves are assumed to be staying in use – should the businesses close, the study suggests the railway line alignment leading to the yards is kept for possible passenger use.

The idea here seems to be to develop the artistic and creative uses that have developed around Thames-Side Studios. But with public transport access fairly poor, is this really a goer?

But there’s a strong emphasis on making more of the rich history of the Charlton riverside, possibly a reaction to the near-complete erasure of much of Greenwich Peninsula’s industrial heritage.

Buildings recommended for listing include somes of the old Siemens buildings (partly used by Thames-Side Studios) and the Corys boatyard – even though the council gave the firm permission to knock it down four years ago. It’s suggested the Victoria pub facade is retained and the site put to a new use. Interestingly, the surviving small shop on the north side of Woolwich Road – London & Kent Electrical, whose owner refused to move when the Sainsbury’s/M&S site was being developed – is also recommended for listing.

One thing missing from the heritage study is the area’s sporting links – a huge omission is the founding of Charlton Athletic at Siemens Meadow, in the heart of the area now up for redevelopment, in 1905. There is also no mention of the greyhound stadium which sat on Anchor & Hope Lane from 1928 to 1971.

It’s all about the infrastructure

East London Transit by Julian Walker
The Greenwich Waterfront Transit was scrapped,
but its East London sister service survives in Dagenham and Ilford (Photo from Julian Walker via Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The weakest part of the masterplan is – as ever – the infrastructure part. There are positive parts – reworking Bugsbys Way to make it less of a barrier desperately needs doing now, and it’s good to see it get a mention. (Interestingly, Barking & Dagenham is planning to bury the A13 for a stretch to encourage redevelopment – would this be a goer in Charlton or the peninsula, or just it just hide a problem?)

The plan sees a new road being driven through from Anchor & Hope Lane towards Woolwich Road to serve the new developments – but this would not be an alternative to Woolwich Road, which seems peculiar when one of the wishes of the masterplan is to see part of the A206 downgraded so it only serves local traffic. Instead, it would be used by a revived Greenwich Waterfront Transit, the segregated bus scheme axed by Boris Johnson in 2008.

But with North Greenwich station due to come under increasing pressure – and the Greenwich Peninsula itself to get more crowded – expecting or encouraging people to commute via there may be an unrealistic ask. It’s hard to know quite what the answer is, though, without getting a crayon out and drawing a line that will cost billions.

There are more fundamental flaws than this – there’s nothing about linking the riverside to north of the river beyond suggesting a riverboat pier; a study by architect Terry Farrell last year proposed a low, lifting bridge for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists for roughly Anchor & Hope Lane – that doesn’t feature. Nor is there anything about relocating Woolwich Dockyard station, which would enable the platforms to be lengthened and for it to better serve the regeneration area.

Woolwich Road wonders

Woolwich Road

There are big dreams for Woolwich Road. “The aim is to create a high quality and attractive urban boulevard shared by pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles with improved connectivity between the riverside area and the existing community of Charlton.”

But improvements to Woolwich Road are – in the short term at least – being stymied by the mayor’s office: Sadiq Khan’s TfL budget cuts mean the planned Cycle Superhighway 4, due to run to Woolwich, will only go as far as Greenwich town centre by 2020. Greenwich was hoping to use this to fix some of the A206’s lethal junctions at east Greenwich and Anchor & Hope Lane; we’ll now have to wait.

There are two set-piece ideas suggested: one is to replace long-standing plans for a “green bridge” across Woolwich Road at Maryon Park with a “green crossing”. This would be cheaper and would calm the traffic on Woolwich Road down, providing a safer way for children at nearby schools to cross the road.

The other looks at the bus terminal outside Charlton station, originally constructed in 1999 for Millennium Dome buses. The report suggests it could return to being green space or find some other use – but this glosses over the fact that it’s still used by short-running buses and rail replacement services. It would also kibosh local lobby group Transport for Charlton’s desire to have the 472 loop around here to serve Charlton station.

So what happens next?

Now the consultation is over, Greenwich Council will amend the masterplan to incorporate anything which comes up that it agrees with, then it’ll become a part of the local planning framework, and it’ll be used to guide development in the area over the coming years. We’ve been talking about the riverside for years, but it finally looks like things are about to happen down there.

These are always difficult processes – a masterplan requires you to think big, but local councils only have so much power. And even though Charlton Riverside is on City Hall’s radar, will a skint Transport for London be able to deliver the improvements needed to help it flourish?

We’ll have to see what happens with the Rockwell Anchor & Hope Lane plan – if that gets through, the plan for Charlton Riverside may end up being just that, a plan, as developers make hay. It may not seem that way when you wander down by the river, but the next year or so is going to be be crucial in terms of deciding what will happen down there.

Rockwell’s Anchor & Hope Lane tower: What’s happening?

Rockwell's plans include a 28-storey tower close to Charlton station
Rockwell’s plans include a 28-storey tower close to Charlton station

A little while back, while alerting people to a meeting about the new masterplan for the Charlton riverside, we touched on plans for a 28-storey tower block on Anchor & Hope Lane, along with other big blocks behind Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens. What we didn’t know is that a planning application had already gone in. We’re grateful to those who took the time to let us know – here’s an update on what’s happening.

What is planned? According to planning application 16/4008/F (search via here), developer Rockwell wants to put up nine buildings ranging from 2 to 28 storeys on the site of the VIP Trading Estate and Industrial Estate – the old British Ropes site off Anchor and Hope Lane, providing 975 homes with retail, community and leisure facilities. “Affordable” housing is set at just 13%.

What is Rockwell? Rockwell was founded by Donal Mulryan, whose previous company, West Properties, secured the original planning permission for the cruise liner terminal development at Enderby Wharf in Greenwich back in January 2011.

Planning notice
A planning notice outside the Anchor and Hope pub

How come I didn’t hear about this earlier? Good question. There had been two consultation sessions, one in September, and one on 24 and 27 November, billed as Charlton Conversations. However, that second consultation didn’t take long to digest, because Rockwell put in a planning application on 5 December. It was published by Greenwich Council in mid-January, but Rockwell doesn’t seem to have alerted people on its database to respond, and no amenity groups or residents’ associations kicked up a public fuss. Nor did the nine ward councillors who represent areas within a few hundred yards of the site, although we know a lot happened behind the scenes.

One factor which complicates matters for those of us who choose to look at this kind of stuff in our spare time is that Greenwich Council no longer publishes many of its planning applications in a newspaper, making them harder to seek out. (When Greenwich Time closed, only notices about conservation areas moved to the Mercury, whose print edition is rarely seen but a digital version can be found online.)

When word did get out – here’s the From The Murky Depths piece on it – the deadline for comments (last Wednesday) was fast approaching.

It’s a classic example of how checks and balances can fail, because it’s so easy for these things to pass completely under the radar, particularly now there is no effective local press and we’re all scrabbling to do this in our spare time. (You can tip us off on our open thread if you get a heads-up before anyone else about an issue like this.)

Rockwell model
Plans show blocks looming over Atlas and Derrick Gardens (left and centre) and the tower block overlooking Anchor & Hope Lane and the Makro car park (nice)

No public campaign against it – this must be fine and dandy then?
Nope. Basically, this drives a coach and horses through the 2012 Charlton Riverside masterplan, which cites the area shouldn’t have buildings of more than five stories. I’m grateful to the Charlton Society for passing on its objection letter, which brands it a “completely inappropriate use of the site while setting a fundamentally misleading precedent for Charlton Riverside as a whole”.

While building a tower close to Charlton station makes sense (in theory, whether the transport network can cope is another matter), what’s planned looks ugly. And the other blocks loom over Atlas and Derrick Gardens, the two cul-de-sacs off Anchor & Hope Lane.

But isn’t there a new masterplan? Yes. It’s out this week. And it sticks two fingers up at that, too. The new masterplan allows buildings of up to ten storeys, not 28.

What does Greenwich Council think? It had been pretty widely assumed that this was fine by the council. Recent highly controversial planning decisions in Greenwich and Woolwich together with the imminent redrawing of the masterplan suggested to some that this was going to be another done deal. This actually wasn’t the case.

We know (and thanks to commenter The Hebridean for mentioning this to us) that Greenwich Council suggested that Rockwell might like to hold off with its plans until the new masterplan was ready to go. This was confirmed at last week’s public meeting into the new masterplan. Rockwell ignored the council, and claims the (original) masterplan is “not deliverable” because of the complex land ownership on the site, a criticism that would surely apply to the new one.

We’ll deal with the masterplan in detail another time, but reading between the lines, it looks as if Greenwich wants a lot more control over what goes on at Charlton Riverside than it has had at Greenwich Peninsula or in Woolwich. There’s talk of compulsorily purchasing land, a tactic it’s using to revamp the town centres in Eltham and Woolwich. With this strategy, you don’t want a developer barging in and calling the shots. And yet this is what Rockwell is doing, even calling the development Charlton Riverside Phase 1.

So what happens next? Objections by councillors mean this is all set go to the council’s main planning committee, the planning board. If the planning board objects, Rockwell can resubmit something new or appeal to planning inspectors.

One potential spanner in the works is London mayor Sadiq Khan, who can call in planning applications if he thinks he can do better, as his predecessor Boris Johnson did to Lewisham Council over Convoys Wharf in Deptford. Khan has already acted on two rejected applications, a tower block in Tottenham and another development in Wealdstone, in an attempt to secure more affordable housing. This doesn’t feel as likely with Khan, but you never know.

In any case, this will probably rumble on for ages. So watch this space.

And the new masterplan? Coming this week. Details were revealed at a meeting last week, and it actually looks like a very carefully thought-through piece of work – those used to holding their head in their hands at Greenwich Council development plans may be in for a nice surprise. Again, watch this space…

Anything else? Plans for 350 homes and an 11-storey block at the foot of Victoria Way have also come to light. From The Murky Depths has more. And just outside SE7, plans for a 20-storey tower to loom over the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park have returned.