Metro Bank plans drive-through branch for Charlton – despite housing plans

Metro Bank design
The bank plans a glass-fronted building

Metro Bank is planning to open a drive-through branch in Charlton – on land designated by Greenwich Council for long-term housing development.

The bank has agreed to take over the McDonald’s branch on Bugsby’s Way, and plans to knock it down and build a new building with drive-through facilities, so customers can do their banking without the bother of having to leave their cars.

In its planning application to Greenwich Council, the bank – which already has a drive-through branch in Southall, west London – says planning law already allows it to use the existing McDonald’s building. However, this would be “a missed opportunity to significantly enhance the site”.

The Charlton Champion has contacted McDonald’s to find out the fate of its current outlet; however, the fast-food giant’s lease runs out in October 2021. This website also understands that Metro Bank has been interested in moving into Charlton for some time, and at one point was in talks about moving into the Sainsbury’s M&S development on Woolwich Road.

Now Metro, which has high street branches in Bexleyheath, Bromley and the City of London, has opted for a drive-through branch – a concept common in the US, but which failed to catch on when introduced as an experiment by British banks in the 1950s. One remained in Leicester until the late 1980s, closing shortly after a car crashed into its entrance gate.

As reported on From The Murky Depths, the bank’s plans do little to improve the miserable and intimidating pedestrian environment on Bugsby’s Way – and how Greenwich Council deals with this could be an indicator of just how serious it is about plans to transform the Charlton riverside from a collection of retail barns and industrial uses to a new, mixed-use neighbourhood with 7,500 new homes.

The Charlton Riverside masterplan, published in 2017, states that the Bugsby’s Way retail strip does not conform with the council’s “policy to promote Woolwich as a metropolitan town centre”.

It adds: “There is potential for some of the retail activity to remain, potentially embedded within new neighbourhood or local centres, but with a significant change to a mixed use form of development.”

However, as many of the retail barns have recently been built, the council does not envisage development starting on this part of the riverside until 2031.

Prudential, the insurance company, bought the whole Peninsular Park [sic] retail park – which sits between Asda and the Angerstein Wharf railway line and opened in the mid-1990s – in December 2016 for £38 million. Most of the leases run out next year or in 2021; the leases for the Smyths Toys and Tapi Carpet branches last until 2028.

Metro Bank, which rather optimistically refers to the area as “North Greenwich”, says it is aiming for a 25-year lease on the site – putting a spanner in any plans to rework the site for residential use until the mid-2040s. It says it will create 25 jobs with the proposal.

A letter from council officers submitted with the plans says: “The use of the building as a bank with drive-thru facilities will maintain the attraction of the retail park to customers and continue its economic contribution.”

In its transport statement, the bank claims most customers will use public transport or walk. The council’s transport officer raises no objection, saying there is an “abundance of parking available”.

To see further details, and to comment on the application, see reference 19/2781/F on Greenwich Council’s planning website. Comments need to be submitted by 30 September.


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Charlton Riverside: Rockwell challenges Khan’s refusal of 771-home scheme

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

The developer behind plans to build 771 homes off Anchor and Hope Lane has appealed to planning inspectors to overturn Sadiq Khan’s rejection of the scheme.

Rockwell’s proposals, the first to emerge on the Charlton Riverside development area, were bitterly opposed by residents in Atlas and Derrick Gardens who feared their homes would be overlooked by the 10-storey blocks planned for the site of a trading estate.

Greenwich Council’s main planning committee rejected the scheme in July 2018, with one councillor saying the scheme was “like Stalingrad”, despite the council’s own officers recommending they approve the scheme. Then the mayor of London overturned Greenwich’s decision a month later, “calling in” the proposal to decide himself. City Hall’s planning officers recommended he approve a slightly amended scheme, but the mayor made the surprise decision to reject the scheme himself after a hearing in January.

Now Rockwell is putting its scheme’s neighbours through a third round of the fight by appealling to the Planning Inspectorate, where an inspector will decide on the development after a detailed public hearing.

Once again, residents are being asked to submit comments on the scheme – visit the Planning Inspectorate’s website and enter case reference number 3233585.

Rockwell’s appeal is against Khan’s decision, not Greenwich Council’s. At the time, Khan said: “This is an underutilised, brownfield site in an opportunity area and very accessible. It is well-connected and in an area capable of accommodating growth. It is precisely the kind of site that we need to bring forward in order to create vibrant and active places, ensuring a compact and well-functioning city.

“However, I am clear that we must deliver good growth, not growth at any cost, where people have more of a say and don’t feel excluded from the process. I have listened carefully to the concerns of residents and considered the substantial amount of work done on the Charlton Riverside Masterplan. I consider that this is the wrong development for the site.”

Anchor and Hope Lane
Rockwell had hoped for approval for its development here

He urged Rockwell to “go back to the drawing board, in partnership with the community, the council and the GLA, to come up with a scheme that delivers on the strong ambitions we all share for the future of Charlton Riverside”.

But Rockwell have instead decided to challenge the decision. They may have been fortified by Greenwich’s Council’s approval of 10-storey blocks at Victoria Way – just outside the masterplan area – in January 2018 without any explanation to objectors, a decision that was later ratified by the mayor.

Rockwell’s scheme is one of five for the Charlton riverside, designated an “opportunity area” for redevelopment by City Hall. The other four are:

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

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Charlton Riverside: Stone Foundries site sold with 1,500 more homes planned

Stone Foundries, Charlton
Stone Foundries was founded in Deptford in the 1830s

One of Charlton’s longest-established industrial concerns, Stone Foundries, is to close after a developer bought its land for a development of up to 1,500 new homes.

The sale of the Stone site to Staines-based developer Montreaux marks a key turning point in the slow transformation of Charlton’s riverside from an industrial into a residential area.

Montreaux recently won approval to turn an old margarine factory in Southall, west London, into a high-density development of 2,000 homes; while more locally it has also bought the old Lamorbey swimming baths in Sidcup for a mixed-use development.

Stone’s sale marks the end of nearly 190 of years of business in the local area. In 1831, founder Josiah Stone set up a business in Deptford casting copper nails for the shipbuilding industry. Part of the business moved to Charlton in 1917, where it continued to make castings for ships, and still produces fittings for the aerospace industry. The Deptford works closed in 1969. The firm was bought and merged into UK-based parts maker Aeromet last year.

An Aeromet spokesperson told The Charlton Champion yesterday that it was in the process of moving the former Stone operations to its sites in Rochester and Sittingbourne, both in Kent.

At its height, Stone even had extensive sports fields stretching out onto the Woolwich Road, now the site of the Stone Lake retail park.

Stone has outlasted many of its industrial neighbours by decades – the huge United Glass Works on Anchor & Hope Lane closed in 1968, Johnsen & Jorgensen’s glass works shut in 1981.

One challenge for any developer will be that some of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Stone buildings – though unseen by most locals – are now locally listed, with the site covered by a conservation area. According to Greenwich Council’s heritage list: “The site qualifies on the grounds of historic interest mainly due to its high importance for the British Royal Navy during the C20, especially during WWI and WWII and as a notable site of employment heritage. The buildings described above are of architectural interest, especially the Offices, the Laboratory and Odeon Buildings, being substantially intact and evocative surviving examples of an engineering foundry that was of national and strategic importance. This suite of buildings is also notable for quality of materials and décor, given their construction date when so little was being built.”

The land sale means there are now five major redevelopment sites on the Charlton riverside, mostly adjacent to one another, and all at various stages in the planning process.

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

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