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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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
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
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.
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%.
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.)
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.)
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…
There are three public exhibitions this week from developer Rockwell, which is looking to kickstart the Charlton Riverside redevelopment by building on land off Anchor & Hope Lane.
An earlier exhibition, held in September, was pretty light in information – contrasting with off-stage grumbles that Rockwell was planning to build a large tower block (specific grumbles have placed the towers at anything between 23 and 27 storeys).
Now there’s a new exhibition of Final Proposals – that was quick, wasn’t it? It’s not in Charlton, it’s down at Greenwich Yacht Club on Wednesday 23rd November (4pm-8pm), Thursday 24th November (6.30pm-9pm) and Sunday 27th November (10am-4pm). There’s (not a lot) more at charltonconversations.com. (Update: Wednesday’s session has been cancelled.)
Rockwell is familiar with Greenwich Council, with founder Donal Mulryan behind the original version of the Enderby Wharf cruise terminal and flats development in east Greenwich.
Of course, London has a housing crisis and not much space, so one answer is to build up. Whether a spot overlooking Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens is the right place to do it is another question. There’s an honest debate to be had and this proposal is likely to face opposition. Hopefully those who challenge these plans will be as open and honest as they would wish the developers (and council) to be, rather than indulging in the sniping from the shadows that has characterised past planning rows in this area.
Yesterday’s Charlton Society annual general meeting saw Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford highlight the Charlton Riverside Masterplan as being crucial for the area’s future. But what’s actually in it? We asked SE London’s top planning blog, From The Murky Depths, to take a look at what’s proposed…
Back in 2012 Greenwich Council published four masterplans covering various areas of the borough – Woolwich, Eltham, Greenwich Peninsula and Charlton Riverside. These set out the scale and scope of Greenwich Borough’s development ambitions for each of the four areas.
In the council’s own words, they provide “development planning guidance that ensures strategic rather than ad-hoc development” and “will attract investment from both the public and private sectors”.
It envisages large-scale changes of use from industrial land to residential, and at least 3,500 new homes. This change would be centred to the east of Anchor and Hope Lane towards Woolwich and north of the A206 dual carriageway. In total, around 2/3rds of industrial land would be lost. Despite this, Greenwich claims that there would be no loss of employment:
“The redevelopment of Charlton Riverside and Greenwich Peninsula West will see a reduction in employment land and changing employment use. The employment land that is retained will be intensified and there will be no net loss of employment across the Borough.”
Even if true, this does prevent any future expansion of land to provide local employment. Greenwich’s solution seems to be to provide more industrial land to the east at Thamesmead’s White Hart Triangle site to cater for future growth. There’s a large number of viable businesses in the threatened area offering much local work, and the planned changes will be enormously disruptive. Have a look here for a very good overview of the range of businesses that would be affected.
As well as greater residential areas there are plans for a ‘creative quarter’ and an expanded Barrier Park, running from the Thames Barrier to Maryon Wilson Park. This would be twice the size and open up views of the Thames and the barrier.
The ‘creative, residential and historic’ section here is designed around the often-overlooked Second Floor art studios, which is the single largest site for artists studios in London and has a membership of over 410 artists, craft makers and designers.
The inclusion of residential here would cover areas such as the self storage facility facing the A206. It lacks detail on just how large the creative quarter could be. It is possible that it would be no larger than the existing site, with the rest to become residential.
The section marked ‘education’ to the east of the green strip is partly used for that purpose already. Windrush Primary School is based there in a Victorian building, with Royal Greenwich University Technical College next door.
A positive from land use changes here would be the large retail sheds housing PC World and others becoming housing.
With the need for housing at a premium in London, these sites waste valuable land in inner London with single-storey retail and large surface area car parks.
That small parade is some way from the rest of the retail in Charlton and located close to Charlton station. An ideal site for high density housing with commercial space at street level facing onto the road, bringing active frontages and life to the area.
Retail use would be consolidated around the area where superstores like Asda currently reside. This out-of-town retail area, in an inner London area, continues to grow.
A far more preferable long term aspiration would be a more traditional High Street-type shopping experience with high density housing above retail. In the short term, a move towards replacing large surface car parks with multi-storey to free up land would be ideal.
Another option is for sites like Asda to be rebuilt along the lines of Woolwich Tesco with basement parking (though this was altered at Woolwich to ground floor with the supermarket above, which explains a few of that building’s issues), the supermarket above and then housing above that – a far more efficient use of land. The planned Asda redevelopment over at the Isle of Dogs is along those lines.
Currently under construction in the area shown as retail are Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer. Here’s a photo taken a couple of weeks ago. There’s no housing, but at least it has the stores above car parking, which should provide a decent front to the street.
With areas east of the Thames Barrier planned for high density housing, this could strengthen the possibility of moving Woolwich Dockyard station a couple of hundred metres west to a point equidistant between Woolwich Arsenal and Charlton stations, where Morris Walk Estate is currently located.
A large amount of planned housing shown on the Charlton masterplan would be just north of the estate, which is also to be demolished and rebuilt with a greater number of dwellings. The site is completely level and seems to lack geographical impediments to building a new station site.
The existing Woolwich Dockyard station is in a deep cutting and cannot be easily extended to take the 12-carriage trains which are supposed to start running soon – it’s the only station on the line that hasn’t been extended. Rebuilding on the existing site would be very expensive, so a move to a site which can take a new station with long platforms and close to large-scale house building should be studied.
The masterplan shows a ‘riverside transit’ running through the middle of the site to meet Bugsy’s Way, where it presumably heads to North Greenwich tube station along the lines of the cancelled Greenwich Waterfront Transit. That scheme ended up as an over-engineered and over-priced project that was deservedly scrapped as it stood.
Unfortunately no revisions or alternative schemes have been proposed under the mayoralty of Boris Johnson over the last six years. Let’s hope that any resurrection does not look for solutions to problems that aren’t there and focuses on improving bottlenecks that do exist.
The Greater London Authority is backing Greenwich’s zoning plans, and agrees that ‘the intensification of residential uses in the Charlton Riverside Opportunity Area is in line with the London Plan which sets out the potential for a minimum of 3,500 new homes and 1,000 jobs in the area’.
However the Port of London Authority and GLA both highlighted the safeguarded nature of Riverside Wharf and the importance of wharves in general in consultations. Subsequently, Riverside Wharf is to be included on masterplan drawings though Greenwich has noted it as having potential for relocation in the future into the industrial area.
Two years after the masterplans were finalised, the borough-wide ‘Core Strategy’ was adopted in July 2014. It provides a long-term vision for development and contains detailed policies to guide development.
The council notes that ‘it is the key strategic planning document for Royal Greenwich and will be used to help shape development and determine planning applications’. The full 94MB strategy can be seen here.
The core strategy does not deviate much from the 2012 masterplan. It states –
“Creation of a new mixed use urban quarter at Charlton Riverside incorporating around 3,500 – 5,000 new homes by 2031, which will involve substantial release of under-used industrial land and intensification of employment on remaining land.”
“It is considered that the housing component in the area will commence around 2017 and could take up to 20 years to be completed. It is therefore anticipated that just over 70% of the new housing will be delivered in this area during the plan period, with the remainder coming post 2027/28. Development of the area is dependent on the provision of increased public transport infrastructure in the waterfront area.”
The first stage scheduled to be built is the educational zone where Holborn College is. This site could include a primary school. Stage 2 is far more widespread and includes a substantial amount of industrial land, as can be seen below. Phase 3 is the retail area, though as the potential layout seems to show a grid like layout on sites such as the as-yet unopened Sainsbury’s this seems fanciful and unlikely any time soon. I would imagine phase 4 would happen before that. See the stages below –
Finally, the next open day at Second Floor artists’ studios, on 16 November, is well worth visiting. Details are here. If future plans can maintain this site and utilise the clear potential it has, then that will be one of the biggest benefits to the local area.