Rockwell’s Charlton Riverside development thrown out by minister

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

Plans for 771 homes close to Anchor & Hope Lane have been thrown out by the communities secretary Robert Jenrick, 17 months after they were rejected by London mayor Sadiq Khan and nearly two years after Greenwich councillors first turned down the scheme.

The huge development was the first to come forward as part of plans to transform the Charlton riverside to provide up to 8,000 new homes. The scheme was fiercely opposed by residents of Atlas and Derrick Gardens, whose homes would have been in the shadow of the proposed blocks, as well as community groups, councillors and local MP Matt Pennycook.

Greenwich Council officers had originally recommended approving the 11-block development – but councillors threw it out, with Sarah Merrill, the chair of the planning committee, calling it “reminiscent of Stalingrad”. It was feared that Khan would approve it after “calling in” the scheme to decide himself. But after he rejected it, Rockwell appealed to planning inspectors, who held a public inquiry last October. Speakers at the inquiry included Pennycook, Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe and Glenn Tilbrook, the Squeeze singer, who owns a recording studio next to the site.

A report went to Jenrick, who agreed with the recommendations to throw out the scheme. The decision came on the same day as plans for a 27-storey block in Woolwich were also rejected.

The planned development would have been built here, behind Atlas and Derrick Gardens

The development “does not reflect the aims or vision” of the council’s masterplan for the Charlton Riverside, which was called a “considered and robust, and also to be a carefully crafted and well-informed document”, the rejection letter stated.

The rejection is a major victory for Greenwich Council’s plans to keep some level of control over the development of the Charlton Riverside, distinguishing it from Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich where developers have largely set the agenda – in particular, to keep buildings to a maximum of 10 storeys in height – and for tall blocks to be an exception – and to make the development less dense than its neighbours.

“The Peninsula, with its strong relationship to the high-rise development of Canary Wharf and increasingly metropolitan character, is, for example, very different to Charlton,” wrote inspector Mike Robins.

“Here the character to the south of Woolwich Road, including Charlton Hill [sic] and Charlton Village, is residential, comprising well-established communities in traditional or more modern, low-rise and family housing, becoming increasingly more open as you travel east.

“While the established industrial character of the Charlton Riverside must change, it strikes me that the aspiration of the SPD [masterplan] to enable regeneration that respects the character of Charlton, promote increased linkages between the existing residential areas and the new neighbourhoods and enhance the permeability of the site to allow access to the river and parklands, is entirely justified.”

The scheme would “materially alter the appreciation and experience of” Atlas and Derrick Gardens

High-rise developments across the area would “in my view, be likely to divide Charlton rather than achieve the integration sought, and extensive use of high-rise development would be unlikely to foster the community led, mixed-use character that was the concluding vision of the stakeholder engagement and consultation that informed the SPD”, he wrote.

In part of the proposed development, the buildings were written off as “oppressive” with warnings that they would block out sunlight. The development would also “materially alter the appreciation and experience of” Atlas and Derrick Gardens, two cul-de-sacs originally built for workers at the nearby Corys bargeworks.

“The offer of 771 units with a relatively high proportion of affordable housing could easily be considered as overwhelmingly beneficial. However, such an approach must consider the quality of the development proposed and the effect that it would have on the area both now and into the future,” he added.

“The proposal fails to take the opportunity to promote a high quality of design, particularly in relation to scale and massing, that responds to its location and establishes a benchmark that accords with the design aspirations and guidance set out in the SPD.”

Greenwich and Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook called the verdict “the right outcome, a victory for the local community and a clear signal to developers to honour the vision set out in the 2017 Charlton Riverside masterplan”.

Len Duvall, the London Assembly member for Greenwich and Lewisham, said: “This decision comes a huge relief for local people and is a testament to the campaigning efforts of community groups, such as Charlton Together, who have vigorously opposed the scheme.

“Rockwell’s plans defy the framework laid by the Charlton Riverside Masterplan, with the excessive height of the tower blocks threatening to loom over neighbouring residents. The scheme also fails to deliver sufficient affordable housing on a site where it could be maximised.

“The council and the mayor have been right to reject these plans. Urban development needs to work for the whole community and should not come at any cost.”

Rockwell can seek a judicial review of the decision, or it can go back to the drawing board and submit a revised version of the scheme.

Six other schemes for Charlton Riverside have been announced since Rockwell first submitted its plans – none have yet been approved.


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Charlton Riverside: 230 homes in 10-storey blocks planned for Eastmoor Street

Aitch scheme render
Aitch’s plans, looking south: Barrier Gardens is to the left, with the Beaumont Beds (Optivo Homes) site behind and Mirfield Street at the front

Developer Aitch Group has launched a consultation into plans for 230 new homes between Eastmoor Street and Westmoor Street on the Charlton Riverside.

With the coronavirus lockdown, it has launched a virtual exhibition of its plans, which would see 10-storey blocks built on a plot behind the current Beaumont Beds warehouse and to the west of Barrier Gardens.

It is the latest in a number of proposals for the riverside, all at varying stages in the planning process. None have yet been approved, never mind built, making imagining what these developments will be like somewhat tricky. While Aitch says 35 per cent of the homes would be “affordable”, this would be a mix of “affordable rent” and the much less affordable shared ownership. 30 car parking spaces are planned. More details can be found at www.eastmoorstreet.co.uk.

In January, the housing association Optivo Homes held a very short-notice consultation about a development on the Beaumont Beds site.

Elsewhere on the riverside, five major schemes are still in the works:


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A walk along the Charlton riverside – discover the secrets of the foreshore

The Anchor and Hope pub and foreshore

If you’re looking to take a local stroll over the next few days, you could do it along the Charlton riverside – before it changes forever. Greenwich University landscape architecture student MEREDITH WILL takes us for a walk from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Thames Barrier.

Charlton Riverside is a unique area within London, and it is about to change dramatically. While Charlton residents will probably be aware of the local master plan and large-scale development proposals, the history of the riverfront in Charlton is less well known, and in need of celebrating.

An easterly amble down the two-mile stretch of the Thames Path from Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park to the Thames Barrier provides a fascinating mix of active industry and remnants of the past along the river.

At the ecology park, you can step back in time to experience the river as it was before the 1800s. The wetland habitats have been reconstructed to emulate the environment that although now almost forgotten, once covered the entire Charlton Riverside area. There you can see the kinds of water birds and insects that would have been common before industry took hold. Now a watery urban oasis, visitors can search for snipes, reed warblers, swifts and the many butterflies and dragonflies that thrive in the wildflower meadow.

Following along the Thames Path, around the Greenwich Yacht Club, you come towards Angerstein and Murphy’s Wharves. Angersteim was the first wharf to be developed to the east of Greenwich, opening up the area for all future industry.

Looking back up the Thames from Riverside Wharf

It was built in the 1850s by John Angerstein, originally born in Russia to a Germany family, who later settled in Greenwich. Angerstein, like many others at the time, made his fortune in the slave trade, profiteering off the trading of enslaved people in Grenada. Angerstein’s extensive art collection became the basis of The National Gallery. Over time the wharf has been involved in dredging, metal works, glassworks, and aggregates industries.

For the last 30 years both Angerstein and Murphy’s wharves have been home to Day Group Ltd, loading and unloading sea-dredged aggregates and supplying material for London’s ever-expanding construction projects. The works are unmissable as you pass by; the many conveyer belts, corrugated irons shacks and mountains of tarmac are like walking onto the set of Mad Max.

A barge being repaired at Cory Environmental

Murphy’s Wharf – originally known as Christie’s Wharf – was built alongside Angerstein in the 1920s for the import and treatment of timber. It was famous for having a concrete pier, instead of the older wooden structures lined along the banks and for the quick unloading time of the dockers who worked there. The pier and cranes remain largely as they were built, but now stand unused and mossy – monuments to the workers and their industry. For the keen eye, the train track linking these wharves to the rail network can still be seen from the line between Charlton and Westcombe Park.

Beyond this lies Cory’s Barge Works. Now Cory Environmental, the company still operates on site, building, maintaining and repairing barges that take domestic waste out of central London. This is probably the only continually-operating boat repair company that has been working on the same site since 1873. Some of the timber sheds may be even older than Cory’s.

Durham Wharf from the Anchor & Hope beer garden

Further downstream is Durham Wharf, built in the early 1900s, which once transferred coal and sand into the city along the narrow gauge railway line which can be seen across the yard. Cory’s last used it in the 1970s and since then it has remained untouched.

Next you’ll reach the jewel in the crown, one of London’s best public houses, and a welcome sight for many a sailor, the Anchor and Hope pub, where the community of workmen have been served since Tudor times. The current building was built in 1898, and is a very popular stop-off point for people attempting to cover the whole Thames Path. A winkle shack is just next door if you fancy a salty snack.

The remains of Castle’s shipbreaking works

If you’ve timed your journey with the low tide, brave the mud and explore the foreshore by going down the steps by the pub. You’ll be rewarded with one of the most important maritime archaeological sites in the country – the remnants of huge Victorian battle ships which were broken up on the foreshore for parts. People have been able to identify what these timbers were used for and which ships they came from. The most famous of these ships was the HMS Duke of Wellington, a first-rate triple-decker flagship, powered by both sail and steam.

Down on the foreshore

A short distance away is the youngest wharf along this stretch, Maybank Wharf, occupied by Westminster Waste. Built in 1966 for transporting paper from it nearby factory, it is no longer in use but is in near-perfect condition. A development from Hyde Housing is set to replace the current buildings with flats and a public park on the jetty.

The Maybank jetty

Next you will come across Riverside Wharf, a striking yellow and red structure which stretches over the Thames Path. This Tarmac plant, as well as Angerstein and Murphy’s wharves, is safeguarded, meaning it has been given special protection by the Mayor of London to prevent their redevelopment.

The final wharf along this walk is the Flint Glass Jetty and Thames Wharf, erected in 1920 by Johnsen and Jorgensen, Swedish cod liver and polar bear traders, for their glass works business. The factory was one of the world’s leading glass works, importing bottles to be made into thermometers and other glass equipment.

Riverside Wharf at high tide

Although just short of two miles long, this amble along Charlton Riverside allows walkers to traverse across 200 years of history, from misty marshland through waves of 19th and 20th century industry and into the next chapter of redevelopment. While the developments will inevitably change the industrial character of this area, there’s hope that Charlton’s unique history will not be lost or forgotten. The redevelopment offers an opportunity to re-engage with this history and ensure its legacy is respected.

A group of students from the University of Greenwich are conducting a project on Charlton and the Thames. If you have any stories relating to the Charlton foreshore, industry past or present or anecdotes and memories, please get in touch with us at CharltonForeshoreStories[at]gmail.com.


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