Coopers Yard: Charlton Riverside transformation in limbo after councillors reject more homes

Eastmoor Street
The Aitch development site as it is now, viewed from Eastmoor Sreet

Greenwich councillors dealt a blow to their own town hall’s plans to redevelop the Charlton Riverside after they rejectinga second housing scheme for a site near the Thames Barrier.

The developer Aitch Group had hoped to build 188 homes land behind the derelict Victoria pub, between Eastmoor Street and Westmoor Street, along with shops, workspace and a new green space. But Labour and Conservative councillors objected to the height of the development on Coopers Yard, which had been recommended for approval by their own planning officers.

A three-year-old masterplan for the Charlton Riverside – which both Greenwich Council and City Hall have long earmarked for thousands of new homes – suggests a maximum height of ten storeys for buildings, with guidelines of three to five storeys in that particular area.

But Aitch wanted to build up to nine storeys – insisting that the masterplan provided guidance, not strict rules – enraging local lobby groups, including the Charlton Society and the Charlton Central Residents Association, who believe this breaks the terms of a masterplan they were closely involved in writing.

The situation is complicated by the Environment Agency objecting to ground-floor housing close to the Thames Barrier because of the risk of flooding – an objection which calls parts of the masterplan into question.

Aitch Charlton render
Aitch wants to build 188 homes close to the Thames Barrier

Labour and Conservative councillors sided with the lobby groups for the second time in three weeks, rejecting Aitch’s plans – leaving Aitch to decide whether to appeal to a planning inspector or try to rework the proposal with council officers.

Three weeks ago, in a separate decision on a site next door which currently includes a bed warehouse, councillors rejected 67 affordable-rent homes from the housing association Optivo that would have been available to the 23,000 people on the council’s housing waiting list.

Tuesday’s vote saw the rejection of another 40 homes for London Affordable Rent that would have been included in the Aitch development along with 10 shared-ownership homes, making 30 per cent “affordable” housing.

The two refusals now plunge the Labour council into a high-stakes gamble on the future of its own masterplan – successful appeals from Aitch or Optivo would take much of the decision-making out of the hands of local officials and could result in less money being spent on local infrastructure to support the new developments and their neighbours.

With other developers waiting to present their plans for the riverside to councillors – some much bigger than Aitch’s scheme, like the Faraday Works project on the old Siemens factory site, the decision is a significant setback for the Charlton riverside’s transformation into a new neighbourhood.

The meeting was split into two parts because of Covid-19 restrictions – Woolwich Town Hall’s only meeting space fitted with cameras is its cramped council chamber – with the first meeting two weeks ago seeing planning chair Stephen Brain clash with local lobby groups.

Tuesday night saw Aitch’s associate planning director, Luke Cadman, tell councillors that the scheme would be of a “human scale and very much in contrast to Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich town centre”, adding that there would be a net increase in jobs and that existing businesses would be given help leaving. Feedback from residents had resulted in changes to the scheme including a reduction in height, he said.

Referring to his company’s own proposals, Optivo’s scheme and others in the pipeline, he warned: “These proposals, many developed over years of discussion, could result in 5,000 new homes and 1,500 jobs. By not supporting [your] officers’ recommendation tonight, and reiterating an absolute test of heights and density, this potentially jeopardises the delivery of the [masterplan] vision, and thousands of new homes and jobs.”

Failing to permit development could see “pressure for housing development shift to other more sensitive parts of the borough”, he added.

Pointing out that Greenwich Council itself is the largest landowner on the riverside, with its he said that refusal would have “far-reaching ramifications for the council and its redevelopment aspirations, and for the ability to deliver new homes and jobs”.

Eastmoor Street Optivo render
Optivo’s plans for Eastmoor Street, with the Aitch scheme in white next door to it. Both plans have been rejected

Challenged on this by Abbey Wood Labour councillor Clive Mardner, Cadman said: “There are a lot of developers that are seeking planning approvals to deliver on the [masterplan] vision – I’ll just leave it there. It’s not really what anyone wants to see.”

Mardner – who chairs the council’s housing scrutiny panel, so may have been expected to know the answer already – also asked who would be eligible for the London Affordable Rent homes, which charge half market rates and are for people on the council’s waiting list. The rent level is an initiative of Labour mayor Sadiq Khan.

Optivo’s site as it is now with the Aitch site to the right. Both proposals have been rejected. The cash and carry warehouse to the left is not part of any scheme

Charlton councillor Gary Dillon said he was “disappointed that height and density is not important to the project”.

“If every developer walks into this room and says the same thing, we’re going to get 20,000 dwellings in an area earmarked for 8,000, and that throws the transport and infrastructure out,” he said. “Every part of the [masterplan] has been calculated. To dismiss it is pretty disappointing.”

Cadman insisted that Aitch had not ignored the masterplan, saying that there was more to it than height and density, and that the scheme fitted Sadiq Khan’s London planning policy. “When you weigh it all up, on balance, as your officers have done… we’ve done a huge amount to meet its aspirations and we haven’t just ignored the height, the heights and density have all been a consideration in what we’ve done.”

Dillon sits on the committee of the Charlton Society, one of the groups that objected. He declared at the start of the meeting that he was a society member and had not taken part in its discussions on the proposals.

Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy, whose ward includes the development site, repeated a question his two Labour colleagues had put to Cadman, asking if Aitch had “had any regard for the masterplan” when drawing up its proposals, accusing the company of ignoring residents’ views.

“I’ve answered that a few times, the masterplan required a few things,” Cadman said, pointing out that the plan also allowed for a new road and green space which were set out in the plans. He added that the company had spent two years consulting local people and had recently made changes as a result of local lobby groups’ feedback.

Conservative Nigel Fletcher said that it was clear that the masterplan had divided the riverside into plots, and the maximum for that plot was five storeys.

Simon Camp, from Alan Camp Architects, said that the masterplan did not take into account the risk of flooding and that homes had to be above a certain height. “The town houses in the masterplan are impossible due to the constraints,” he said.

“We’ve taken that on by maximising the commercial and maker spaces, and the community facilities, we’ve expanded the green link [open space] – so we’ve taken into account other aspirations in the [masterplan] and then we’ve looked at the height.”

The masterplan showing lower-height buildings around Eastmoor Street, the white gap to the east. (Click to enlarge)

When it came to the decision, Mardner said that the masterplan was “not just a policy, but a Greenwich policy” and that it had been endorsed by the planning inspector who threw out plans for 10-storey blocks in a much larger scheme off Anchor & Hope Lane last year. Refusal was straightforward, he said, and the masterplan was “sacrosanct”.

Aitch render
A view from the Barrier vets’ clinic. Red lines represent storeys lopped off the scheme after lobby groups’ objections

Fahy complained that the riverside, where land ownership is split, was “being developed piecemeal” and that the planning board had a duty to ensure that developments there reflected the area’s heritage.

Allowing the Aitch scheme would allow other developers to build tall buildings, he said, adding: “If that’s the case, we might as well chuck the masterplan in the bin and allow developers to carry on regardless. The applicants were well aware of the requirements to meet the masterplan. It’s not something you pluck out of the air – it’s a legal document and we have to have some principles that guide us in our decision making.

“They say they got the green light from our officers – I find that hard to believe.”

The report before councillors contained an endorsement of the plan from council officers.

Fletcher said he did not believe it was a straightforward refusal, but said the developer had not justified why it wanted to build higher than suggested in the masterplan.

“We see this masterplan as being very important. We think it’s important, the heights and density are important,” he said. “We have a different reading of [the masterplan] than the applicant and it should be something we are prepared to defend.”

Aitch render
A view of the Aitch scheme looking east from Penhall Road

But planning chair Stephen Brain spoke up for the proposal, criticising “emotive terms” made by local lobby groups at the last meeting. He said it was possible to be flexible with the masterplan “if a balance is achieved across the area”.

“It has 30 per cent ‘affordable’ homes, which we need for Londoners, it has designated play space – there’s very little in the area. I do know the area – I’ve had my car serviced down there for 32 years, I’ve walked around that site a lot,” he said.

“One speaker said that children could cause noise – it’s what children do. It provides green space, and retail – the area desperately needs retail, the only thing you can buy down there is a burger from a dodgy van and you wouldn’t be wise to do such a thing.

“It’s an area where people work but don’t live. You can see from all the Range Rovers down there – they drive down there and go back to Kent in the evening.”

Referencing the Environment Agency’s objection to ground floor homes, Brain referred to last week’s flood disaster in western Germany, which left scores dead, saying it had brought the issue into “sharp relief”.

“One of the main German newspapers said all of the people living on habitable spaces on the ground floor were dead. That’s why the Environment Agency makes these guidelines, it’s in a flood plain and the heights may have to be higher.”

Brain mocked the notion put forward by one of the local lobby groups, who spoke of “protecting Charlton from the river to the slopes and into the village – they didn’t say how far it went, does it go beyond the village to Charlton [sic], or to Bexley? I couldn’t understand that at all.”

“I can’t see what turning this application would do for the area. It’s an area that is industrially blighted and I can’t see many bungalows being built down there.”

But the vote was lost and the plans rejected on grounds of height and massing – leaving the immediate future of the Charlton riverside up in the air, and possibly out of the hands of local people.

This story also appears on our sister site 853.


PLEASE SUPPORT THE CHARLTON CHAMPION

We tell the SE7 stories you won’t read elsewhere. And we’ll do the others better than anyone else. We can’t do it without your help.
– Please tell us about your news and events
– Become a monthly supporter at presspatron.com/charltonchampion
– Donate to our running costs at paypal.me/charltonchampion

Herringham Quarter: Plans for 1,300 Charlton Riverside homes go to council

Is this the future of the Charlton Riverside?

Hyde housing association has formally submitted its plans to build nearly 1,300 new homes on the Charlton riverside, making it the third major scheme to enter the planning process.

It has put in a detailed planning application to Greenwich Council to build 762 homes on two plots either side of Herringham Road, close to the Thames Barrier, with blocks of up to 10 storeys. It is calling the site Herringham Quarter.

One set of blocks would replace Maybank Wharf, the current Westminster Waste recycling yard. Of the 524 flats planned for the riverside site, 21.5% would be for shared ownership, 21% would be for London Affordable Rent, a form of social rent.

Phase 1 is where 762 homes are planned. Phases 2 and 3 are not expected until after 2024

The other set of blocks, to the south, would offer 238 flats, all for London Affordable Rent. It says it plans to take vacant possession of both sites in March. Retail and workshops are also in the plans along with open spaces and a new flood defence wall.

Hyde also plans to build 530 homes on two adjoining sites closer to the Thames Barrier. However, it has only asked for outline permission for these sites; it does not expect to take possession of the land until 2024. One set of blocks would be of 203 flats for private sale, the other would be of 285 flats with 9% London Affordable Rent and 48% shared ownership.

Don’t ask why some people are dressed for summer and others winter…

Access to the new homes, however, could be a challenge for the first residents – with the sole route in and out of the site being via the industrial yards of Eastmoor Street. Hyde says it has agreed with Transport for London for a bus route to serve the site – but oddly, it would be an extension of the 301 route to Woolwich, rather than a route to North Greenwich or Charlton station. While this would be cheap to provide, it would be lumbering residents with the cost of commuting from zone 4 even though they would be living in zone 3.

The riverside development will also have to contend with Riverside Wharf – the Tarmac yard – as a neighbour. As at Greenwich Millennium Village, one block will be built to shield the development from the industrial use.

Much of what is in the planned development has already been trailed at public exhibitions. But the application submitted to Greenwich Council does provide some very useful context as to the wider Charlton Riverside project and its neighbour at Greenwich Peninsula.

Who owns what and what’s planned on the riverside – note the amount of land owned by Greenwich Council

The other four schemes, from west to east, are:

Want to see what the riverside could look like in a decade?

Hyde’s map of future riverside developments (click to expand)

You can find the full planning documents – and send your thoughts to the council – on its planning website (reference 19/3456/F). If you read nothing else, have a look at the first volume of its transport and access statement, which is where we’ve lifted the images from.


PLEASE SUPPORT THE CHARLTON CHAMPION

We tell the SE7 stories you won’t read elsewhere. We can’t do it without your help.
– Please tell us about your news and events
NEW! Become a monthly supporter at presspatron.com/charltonchampion
Advertise your business with us from just £9.80/per week

‘Rockwell’s Charlton Riverside development threatens our area – sign our petition’

Rockwell revised scheme
Neighbours have disputed Rockwell’s images of what the scheme would look like

Next month, there will be a public inquiry into plans for 771 new homes off Anchor & Hope Lane. The developer, Rockwell, is appealing against the Mayor of London’s rejection of the scheme; that followed an earlier decision by Greenwich Council to throw out the proposals. Community groups fear the scheme will get the Charlton Riverside redevelopment off to a bad start and want you to sign their petition. ANDREW DONKIN of Charlton Together, which represents groups including the Charlton Society and Charlton Central Residents’ Association, explains why.

If you care about the future of Charlton, I’d like to ask you to sign this petition calling on the Planning Inspectorate to dismiss an appeal by property developer Rockwell for its overcrowded and poorly-designed scheme on Charlton Riverside. The appeal is next month and Charlton Together urgently needs your help and signature now.

Regular readers of The Charlton Champion will recall how Rockwell’s application has already been refused by both the Mayor of London and Greenwich Council. It was refused because the plans submitted would result in the over development of the site and would fail to adhere to the vision and objectives for the redevelopment of the area set out in the Charlton Riverside Masterplan, adopted by the Council in 2017 as planning guidance for the area.

The well-received Charlton Riverside masterplan was developed over a period of five years, with the full involvement of the local community, at a cost of £854,000 using the council’s (eg, the public’s) money. The Rockwell development appeal currently before the Planning Inspectorate drives a coach and horses through the carefully created Masterplan in terms of building heights, levels of density/massing, and affordable housing.

Roden Richardson, the vice-chair of the Charlton Society, said: “If the Rockwell development appeal is allowed by the Planning Inspectorate 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 and beyond it across southeast London.”

Helen Jakeways, from Charlton Together, added: “It would set a dangerous precedent if this appeal is allowed at this density. There are many other developers waiting in the background to see what happens. All of their proposals for new housing are well over the density required for their plots in the Masterplan and the London Plan. There are no agreements currently in place for local infrastructure, which includes, roads, school places, doctor surgery places and public transport. This will affect everyone living and working in the SE7 area and all the areas around it.”

If you’re reading this and you care about Charlton, please sign the new petition. Numbers really will count when it is presented to the Planning Inspectorate in mid-November.

You can sign the petition at change.org.


PLEASE SUPPORT THE CHARLTON CHAMPION

We tell the SE7 stories you won’t read elsewhere. We can’t do it without your help.
Please tell us about your news and events
NEW! Become a monthly supporter at presspatron.com/charltonchampion
Advertise your business with us from just £9.80/per week