Rockwell Charlton Riverside development: Consultation sessions to be held on 2 and 3 March

Rockwell Charlton scheme
The new proposals see brick-based buildings with a maximum height of 10 storeys

Hot on the heels of Greenwich Council telling developer Rockwell to consult properly on its plans to build 771 homes on land off Anchor and Hope Lane, it has announced two events to take place at The Valley early next month.

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.

Plans for a 28-storey glass tower were blocked, while the developer only wants to provide 5% “affordable” housing on the site, compared with 15% for the previous plans. However, it says it will be discussing a “growth scenario” to provide more “affordable” housing with Greenwich Council.

Local residents’ groups have been angry at the lack of consultation on the revised plans, which are dramatically different from the original scheme for the site.

Now a public exhibition will be held at the Millennium Suite in The Valley between 3-7pm on Friday 2 March, and 10am-2pm on Saturday 3 March.

A flyer distributed by Rockwell says “key members of the project team will be on hand to answer any questions”.

Not much to say: The Charlton Conversations website

It also directs residents to charltonconversations.com for more information, but that website is just showing a holding page suggesting visitors go to the council website.

You can wade through all the planning documents and comment by searching for reference 16/4008/F at Greenwich Council’s planning pages. You can also read part one and part two of the lengthy design and access statement, which outlines the proposals.

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Developer Rockwell told to consult community about new Charlton Riverside plan

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
What Rockwell says the development’s residential garden areas will look like

The developer hoping to build the first major housing development on the Charlton Riverside has been told it needs to properly consult the local community before Greenwich Council will decide on its plans.

Rockwell, which is acting for Channel Islands-based Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco Ltd, plans to build 771 homes on land behind and next to Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens, including five 10-storey blocks.

But local residents’ groups complained that Rockwell had not consulted them properly on the project – which has changed dramatically from the developer’s original plan to build glass towers on the site.

Now they have been told by Greenwich Council that Rockwell has been advised to, and has promised to, consult residents on its proposals.

Led by the Derrick and Atlas Gardens Residents Association, a loose coalition of local organisations has now formed around the proposals, including the Charlton Society, Charlton Central Residents Association and others – with the shock of the Fairview Victoria Way planning decision prompting many to keep a close eye on the Rockwell scheme.

Charlton Society planning chair Roden Richardson said working together and using social media was proving to be effective.

“Any number of people are now contacted simultaneously and instantaneously to distribute a given message,” he said.

“In the case of the latest application that meant all our fellow community stakeholder members and councillors, leading council staff, the Greater London Authority and, of course, our MP, all virtually at the touch of a button. If we handle this kind of thing wisely, it might begin to help a bit to make community and council more like constructive partners than frustrated strangers.”

In total, 11 new buildings are planned for the site, with space for retail and commercial use alongside Anchor & Hope Lane. 210 car parking spaces are planned. But the developer only wants to provide 5% “affordable” housing on the site, although its application says it is in talks with Greenwich Council about a “growth scenario”.

Cratus Communications, the lobbying company which has former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts as its deputy chairman, involved in the project. Former Greenwich chief executive Mary Ney is listed on the Cratus website as an “associate”, while one-time Greenwich Labour borough organiser Michael Stanworth heads up the company’s London lobbying operation.

Anger grows over Rockwell Charlton Riverside development as residents plan response

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
What Rockwell says the development’s residential garden areas will look like

Residents of streets next to the planned Rockwell development off Anchor and Hope Lane are holding an open meeting to help people respond to the proposals, as anger grows over the lack of consultation over the new plans.

The developer plans to build 771 homes on land behind and next to Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens, including five 10-storey blocks. The scheme, submitted in the name of Channel Islands-based Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco Ltd, is the first major residential plan to go forward on the Charlton Riverside.

In total, 11 new buildings are planned, with space for retail and commercial use alongside Anchor & Hope Lane. 210 car parking spaces are planned. But the developer only wants to provide 5% “affordable” housing on the site, although its application says it is in talks with Greenwich Council about a “growth scenario”.

It has also emerged that Cratus Communications, the lobbying company which has former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts as its deputy chairman, is now involved in the project. Former Greenwich chief executive Mary Ney is listed on the Cratus website as an “associate”, while one-time Greenwich Labour borough organiser Michael Stanworth heads up the company’s London lobbying operation.

The workshop, which has been organised by Derrick and Atlas Gardens Residents Association, will be held at Greenwich Yacht Club on Sunday 4 February from 3pm to 5pm. All with concerns about the scheme are welcome, not just residents of those two streets.

Rockwell Charlton scheme
The new proposals see brick-based buildings with a maximum height of 10 storeys

The association has already written to Greenwich Council chief executive Debbie Warren, in a letter supported by other local groups including the Charlton Society and Charlton Central Residents Association, to ask that the scheme be deferred because no public consultation has taken place on the revised plans.

You can wade through all the planning documents and comment by searching for reference 16/4008/F at Greenwich Council’s planning pages. Comments need to be with the council by Wednesday 6 February.

Worries over the Rockwell development come as wider concerns are being raised about Greenwich Council’s planning procedures and consultation policies in the Charlton area, with the numerous local groups now starting to work more closely together on scrutinising schemes.

Residents’ groups are seeking explanations as to why no councillor explained why they backed the controversial Fairview Victoria Way development at a meeting last month – a departure from usual practice at planning meetings – along with issues to do with the consultation, which was also run by Cratus Communications.

Rockwell returns: 771 homes planned for Charlton Riverside – but just 5% are ‘affordable’

Rockwell Charlton scheme
The new proposals see brick-based buildings with a maximum height of 10 storeys (click the image to enlarge it)

Developers behind the first major plans to build new housing at Charlton Riverside have submitted new proposals for 771 homes to be built off Anchor and Hope Lane.

As reported here last month, Rockwell has dropped plans to build a 28-storey glass tower as part of its proposals, and has now submitted a plan which includes five 10-storey blocks, three of which would be on Anchor & Hope Lane itself, close to Charlton station.

The other two would be set back behind Atlas Gardens and a cluster of smaller blocks.

But the viability assessment submitted with the proposal reveals that the developer only wants to provide 5% “affordable” housing on the site, compared with 15% for the previous plans. However, it says it will be discussing a “growth scenario” to provide more “affordable” housing with Greenwich Council over the next month.

Rockwell’s earlier scheme went against several principles of Greenwich Council’s masterplan for the Charlton Riverside, which set guidelines suggesting that tall buildings should be no taller than 10 storeys, and outlined a desire to see a new road driven through towards the Thames Barrier area.

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
Rockwell’s description of the changes it has made
Rockwell Charlton Riverside planning
What towers?

But this scheme, which was first revealed by council deputy leader Danny Thorpe at a “stakeholders’ forum” last month, now appears to tick the boxes the council demands – at least as far as design and planning goes.

Residents now have less than three weeks to comment on the proposals.

In total, 11 new buildings are planned, with space for retail and commercial use alongside Anchor & Hope Lane. 210 car parking spaces are planned.

As well as the change in height and materials, the scheme also sees its central green space replaced with a series of smaller residential garden areas as well as a “play street”.

Rockwell Charlton Riverside scheme
A plan of the proposals, together with Atlas and Derrick Gardens

Rockwell, which is acting for the applicant, Channel Islands-based Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco Ltd, also says its revised proposals will allow more light through to properties at Atlas and Derrick Gardens, who feared being overshadowed by the original development.

The application makes much of public consultations held by Rockwell, although there has been very little consultation since the original scheme was submitted 12 months ago, save for a council-approved “stakeholder” group. An email sent by The Charlton Champion last month seeking more information about the plans went unanswered.

You can wade through all the planning documents and comment by searching for reference 16/4008/F at Greenwich Council’s planning pages. You can also read part one and part two of the lengthy design and access statement, which outlines the proposals. Comments need to be in by 6 February.

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
What Rockwell says the residential garden areas will look like

After last week’s experience with the Fairview New Homes development at Victoria Way, The Charlton Champion would not be surprised if this development went before a planning committee very quickly indeed.

But the extremely low level of “affordable” housing could yet prove a major sticking point – especially with council elections due in May.

The viability assessment says that Rockwell is aiming for an 18% profit on the scheme. “If we were valuing a more established site with planning permission we would adopt a profit margin of 17.50% on sale,” it says. “This is an untested site in an untested area and developers would require a higher profit margin to reflect the risks going forward.”

In addition to this scheme, developer U+I is in the early planning stages for 370 homes at the Westminster Industrial Estate, by the Thames Barrier, while another developer wants to restore the nearby Victoria pub and build housing behind it.

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.

Developer eyes 25-storey tower at Thames Barrier on Charlton riverside

Tall Ships, April 2017
Crowds watching April’s Tall Ships Regatta from in front of the development site

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.

Furthermore, as From The Murky Depths points out, the area’s filthy, dusty, and still full of industry.

Herringham Road
The site’s neighbours on Herringham Road

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.

Earlier this year, developer Rockwell applied to redevelop the old British Ropes site at Anchor & Hope Lane with a 28-storey tower – the council has not yet made a decision on this.

You can find the application on the council planning website as 17/1324/EIA or read the full scoping report here.

A ten-storey love song? Greenwich Council’s surprising plan for Charlton riverside

Victoria, Woolwich Road

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.

There are three big documents – the Charlton Riverside Draft Masterplan itself, the Draft Employment and Heritage Study, and Draft Woolwich Road Highway and Public Realm Improvements. Everything here is based on what’s in those documents, with a few ideas thrown in for discussion.

Change of approach?

Herringham Road

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.

It’s not just here that Greenwich is seeking to flex its muscle – the scheme to build a cinema in Eltham High Street comes straight from the town hall, as does the plan to revelop the battered old Woolwich public market. But this is much bigger, and not all of it may come off as planned.

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?

Stone Lake Retail Park

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?

Westmoor Street

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

East London Transit by Julian Walker
The Greenwich Waterfront Transit was scrapped,
but its East London sister service survives in Dagenham and Ilford (Photo from Julian Walker via Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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

Woolwich Road

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.