Rockwell rises again: Sadiq Khan rejects Greenwich Council’s refusal of Charlton Riverside scheme

Rockwell render
Residents said the new blocks would loom over their homes and deny them natural light

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.

Developer Rockwell had planned to build on the VIP industrial estate behind Atlas and Derrick Gardens, with five 10-storey blocks, but its plans were thrown out by Greenwich Council’s planning board last month, with chair Sarah Merrill calling the proposal “reminiscent of Stalingrad”.

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.

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
Rockwell says its new scheme will look like this

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.

City Hall has said that Khan’s draft London Plan aims to “get more affordable homes built, especially in areas served by strong infrastructure”.

Rockwell’s plans are for 32.4% of the units to be “affordable” housing – an increase inserted at the last minute. Of those, 162 would be for London Affordable Rent – roughly £150/week for a one-bedroom flat – and aimed at those on low incomes, with the remaining available for shared ownership.

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.

Khan’s call-in follows his backing of plans for the Silvertown Tunnel and expansion of London City Airport, the cancellation of extra trains for the Jubilee Line, the shelving of plans for Cycle Superhighway 4 to run through the area and planned cuts to bus services.

It will also annoy Greenwich Labour councillors, who will be expected to campaign for Khan in 2020’s election – and who are well aware that the infrastructure in the area is anything but strong.

But City Hall watchers have not been surprised. The possibility of a call-in was first mooted just days after the planning meeting in an article by Estates Gazette journalist Paul Wellman, followed by another one by former Guardian London writer Dave Hill, who is close to Khan’s team.

Derrick Gardens
The development site runs around Atlas and Derrick Gardens, built as workers’ cottages for the Cory boatyard

The Charlton Champion understands a second scheme rejected by Greenwich councillors – for 272 homes near Abbey Wood station – has also been called in for the mayor to decide himself.

What is a call-in?

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.

Five years ago, Boris Johnson took over the decision-making for Convoys Wharf in Deptford from Lewisham Council after an appeal from the developer. Johnson approved outline plans for three towers of 26, 32 and 40 storeys but a detailed scheme has only recently emerged.

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.

The mayor said he blocked it because it was on Green Belt land, even though the site is used for a waste transfer station and car parking. The club withdrew its plans and is hoping a new scheme, also backed by Bromley, will get approval from the mayor.

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

Khan’s call-in adds another twist to the tale of the Rockwell proposals, which first emerged in 2016 with proposals for a 28-storey tower and 975 homes at the south end of the site close to Charlton station, with just 13% “affordable”.

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.

But pressure from residents – who pointed out that the plans still did not fit the new masterplan for the riverside – led to councillors on the planning board deferring the scheme in April until after the following month’s council election.

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.”


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Rockwell’s ‘Stalingrad’ Charlton Riverside development rejected by Greenwich councillors

Rockwell Charlton Riverside website
Rockwell has already started promoting the scheme

Controversial plans to build 771 homes at the end of Anchor & Hope Lane were rejected by Greenwich councillors last night after Squeeze singer Glenn Tilbrook joined neighbours objecting to the scheme.

Developer Rockwell had planned to build on the VIP industrial estate behind Atlas and Derrick Gardens, with five 10-storey blocks – with its website, seemingly assuming it would get the go-ahead, already branding it “the next riverside hotspot”.

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.”

A representative from the industrial wharves on the peninsula said that new residents at the Royal Wharf development in Silvertown, across the Thames from the proposed Rockwell scheme, had already started complaining about noise from ships loading and unloading goods.

One resident, Joyce Sloman, said the area – “becoming the biggest shopping centre in south-east London” would be unable to cope with the traffic.

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.

Because of the length of the meeting – which also considered a major development in Abbey Wood and controversial plans to revoke the hazardous substances permission on the East Greenwich gasholder (both refused) – speakers were severely limited in time by chair Sarah Merrill, which angered residents, many of whom are still smarting from the way they were treated at the Fairview Victoria Way planning hearing in January.

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.”

Rockwell render
Residents said the new blocks would loom over their homes and deny them natural light

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.”

Monday’s meeting also saw refuse to withdraw permission to store hazardous substances at the Greenwich gasholder site, and a 17-storey tower block at Abbey Wood turned down.

The full planning discussion was captured by The Charlton Champion‘s sister website 853the session starts two hours and five minutes in. Sound is weak in some points. You can also read tweets from the meeting.

See past stories about the Rockwell scheme.

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‘We’re fighting for our community’s survival’: Why the Rockwell Charlton Riverside row matters

Rockwell Charlton Riverside scheme
Rockwell’s new blocks would sit behind the small houses which make up Atlas and Derrick Gardens

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.

Council planning officers are backing the scheme – but residents of Atlas and Derrick Gardens say the plans ignore a recently-finished masterplan that cost £850,000 and took five years to prepare. A petition has been set up to demand the council sticks to its plan.

Derrick and Atlas Gardens Residents’ Association chair SELINA TALLETT says the people most affected by the scheme feel patronised and ignored – and Greenwich councillors need to defend their council’s own masterplan.

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.

As the only homes on the Charlton Riverside, we have peacefully lived for years with all industry around us – including what is now the VIP Trading Estate, which is behind Atlas and Derrick Gardens. But now the Mayor’s development plan identifies Charlton Riverside as an “opportunity area” for London.

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.

Derrick Gardens
Atlas and Derrick Gardens are now part of a conservation area

‘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.

Yet Greenwich Council’s planning officers deem this an “acceptable” trade-off to “kick-start development in the area”.

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.

Rockwell’s development has been designed without meeting key parts of local strategy, policy and the masterplan established specifically for the Charlton Riverside.

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.

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
Away from Atlas and Derrick Gardens, this is what Rockwell is promising…

‘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.

Rockwell render
…but residents say the new blocks would loom over their homes and deny them natural light

‘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

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

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Rockwell returns: Controversial Charlton Riverside scheme to be heard on 9 July

Rockwell’s plans for Charlton Riverside

Plans to redevelop the VIP Trading Estate by developer Rockwell are to go before Greenwich Council’s Planning Board on Monday 9th July, the original hearing in April being deferred until after the local elections held in May. The plans have caused controversy over the height and density of the proposed housing, plus the level of affordable and social housing to be included in the scheme – the latest plans are for 25% of the housing to be ‘affordable’, of which 71% will be social housing.

A petition raised by local residents asking Greenwich Council to enforce the terms of its own Charlton Riverside Masterplan – citing the £850,000 cost of developing the plan – had over 400 signatories at the time of writing.

From The Murky Depths has taken a look at the outline plans for the £4.9 million of Section 106 payments – money paid to the council which is meant to be spent in the local area – due to come from the development.

At least two local councillors have tweeted their intention to oppose the plans:


Also due to be heard at the same planning board meeting is a request for Revocation of Hazardous Substances Consent for East Greenwich gasholder, one of the steps necessary to allow demolition of the historic structure. Labour councillors recently voted down a motion opposing demolition of the gasholder.

Also on the Greenwich Peninsula, councillors will also discuss plans for a temporary 4,400-capacity concert and conference venue to be built at the north end of Tunnel Avenue.

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

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‘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:

Derrick & Atlas Gardens Residents’ Association has recently joined Twitter – you can follow it here:

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.