Developer U+I has revealed it wants to demolish one of the remaining Siemens cable factory buildings on the Charlton riverside as part of a plan to build shops, offices and up to 520 homes.
The property giant, which recently completed the Deptford Market Yard development, has asked Greenwich Council if it needs to carry out an environmental assessment into the plans to develop land, which covers two streets in the Westminster Industrial Estate on the Charlton/Woolwich border: Bowater Road and Faraday Way.
Until 1968, this was home to the giant Siemens cable works, and many of the buildings remain in place. Several of them have recently been given local listing status by Greenwich Council, which has created a conservation area. U+I wants to demolish one of them, 37 Bowater Road, and keep the others.
Just as with the recent Flint Glass Wharf proposal, this is in an area where 10-storey blocks have been permitted (see map above).
‘One of London’s largest factories’
A heritage assessment of the area commissioned by Greenwich Council says: “The south side of Bowater Road represents a step change in the scale of the works development from about 1911.
“The first building to be constructed is a much larger L-shaped building of 5 storeys plus basement was built for making rubber coated copper wire cable. It adopts new structural technologies, made possible by new regulations granted in the London Building Act of 1909, and employs a reinforced concrete frame beneath a Fletton brick shell.
“The adoption of new technologies made it possible to include much larger steel framed windows externally and wider spans between support columns internally, creating a lighter and clearer working environment overall.
“The building was designed by Herbert and Helland, Siemens’ in-house architects. This was one of London’s largest factories when built and an early adopter of the new construction methods.
“The building has a matching extension of 1942, built at the height of the wartime production effort, after extensive bomb damage on the adjacent site must have placed extreme pressure on the works’ resources.” (You can read the rest in Chapters 3 and 4 here.)
The striking white building which runs along the north of the site, 18 Bowater Road, is proposed to be kept, although it is currently in poor condition. (See page 14 here for a map of the site.)
This is still a relatively early stage of the planning process, so no designs or details on “affordable” homes have yet been submitted.
Hot on the heels of the Rockwell saga, the second major development proposal for the Charlton Riverside has come forward, with plans for up to 500 homes at Flint Glass Wharf, next to the Thames Barrier.
Developer Komoto Group had originally suggested a 25-storey tower for the site at Herringham Road, 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.
Now the scheme – the first on the riverfront itself – has been reduced in size to blocks of between seven and 10 storeys. It has been designed by Farrells, the architecture practice working on Deptford’s Convoys Wharf development.
Phase one – two blocks close to the Barrier
Firstly, Komoto is applying for detailed planning permission for two blocks of seven and nine storeys containing eight studio flats (all private), 82 one-bedroom flats (ten at social rent, six at “intermediate”), 34 two-bedroom flats (two at social rent) and 22 three-bedroom homes nine at social rent, nine “intermediate”), as well as 482 square metres of flexible commercial and employment floorspace and 35 car parking spaces.
This is just 24.6% “affordable” housing – although if you count by rooms, which Komoto does, this rises to 31% “affordable” accommodation. Either way, this falls short of the 35% target for “affordable” housing – expect moves from Greenwich Council and City Hall to increase this.
Phase two – further away from the Barrier
It is also applying for outline permission for up to another 354 homes – with a similar mix of private and “affordable” – and up to 1,300 square metres of flexible commercial and employment floorspace, along with up to 153 parking spaces. The blocks here will be between seven and 10 storeys high.
If this phase gets approval, Komoto will return to Greenwich Council at a later date to complete the details.
The low-ish number of car parking spaces is pretty standard for new London developments – but is striking for an area that is currently isolated, separated from the rest of Charlton by dirty industries on streets battered by heavy lorries. And while residents may be able to wake up and see the Docklands Light Railway purring through the Royal Docks across the Thames, they will have no way of reaching it.
Komoto says a new bus service will be provided along Herringham Road – and also emphasises the relatively short cycle distance to North Greenwich tube, a more palatable option on two wheels – or even two feet – than trying to get to Charlton station.
A barrier in front of the Barrier
Another notable feature is that the development will be walled off on one side from the Thames Barrier compound because of security concerns – residents won’t be able to peer into the operations centre at the end of Westmoor Street.
The developer says: “The barrier is considered to be at a high risk of attack from terrorism, therefore it is of particular importance that the proposed scheme does not overlook its operations in any way.
“To respond to this we are proposing a full height gabion art wall which provides a visual narrative of the geological development of this part of the river Thames. The art wall also doubles up as a visual screen that prevents overlooking of the compound and control centre from the development.”
Unlike the Rockwell scheme for 771 homes off Anchor & Hope Lane, the Flint Glass Wharf development has no immediate residential neighbours to annoy. And while Greenwich Council’s Charlton Riverside Masterplan envisages buildings of between three and six storeys, this particular site is deemed suitable for 10-storey blocks.
Khan’s decision may well weaken Greenwich councillors’ appetite for a fight over Flint Glass Wharf – particularly if Komoto includes more “affordable” housing. Whatever their decision, what happens here will be just as important for the future of the riverside.
For full details, go to planning.royalgreenwich.gov.uk and look for application 18/0732/F (the design and access statements are most useful). Thanks to Toby for the invaluable tip-off.
(Updated 13 September to clarify the number of storeys in the Charlton Riverside masterplan.)
Greenwich Council has spent £17,000 in the past two years on patching up the battered roads near the Thames Barrier, a report to councillors has revealed.
The poor state of the industrial area at Charlton Riverside has been highlighted by a petition to council leader Danny Thorpe, which complains of fly-tipping, dirt, pavement parking, potholed roads and speeding lorries.
But while the council proposes taking action on bad parking, fly-tipping, abandoned vehicles and road repairs, it is pinning its hopes on the redevelopment of the area to secure long-term improvements.
25 people signed the petition, which was handed to the council in July by Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy.
“[We are] disgusted with the poor conditions of the roads and pavements on Westmoor Street leading to New Lyndenburg Street and surrounding roads,” it says.
It complains of the pavement on Westmoor Street being blocked by parked and damaged cars, making them “totally unusable”, forcing pedestrians to walk in the road. “Can you imagine if somebody were to get killed because of this and Greenwich Council would be held responsible?”
“Multiple skip and rubble lorries carrying hazardous materials” create a “scary and dangerous environment” and “leave an enormous amount of dirt, rubble and mud”, it continues.
It also complains of poor driving and “multiple potholes”, demanding “sensible speed restrictions with penalties and fines issues for those who break the law”.
The council report notes “the roads in question are often subject to fly-tipping and other illegal activity and there is a history of complex associated issues in the area. It also adds the streets are inspected every three months and that 79 repairs have been carried out in the past two years, costing £17,000.
It also concedes that parking enforcement “has not been regular in the recent past”, with the situation compounded by some markings having been worn away, making them unenforceable.
But the council will not cut the speed limit to 20mph in the area as it “is industrial, not residential”, adding that enforcement is a matter for the police.
The report the council will send a letter to businesses, review parking controls in the area before starting to enforce them, and have a one-off dedicated clean-up of the area as soon as pavement parking is cleared. The council will also target abandoned vehicles for removal, warning businesses they cannot use the pavements, and clear illegal advertisements.
In the long term, there will also be a planning review to ensure the businesses are doing what they say they are doing and have the right licences.
But the report adds: “In the longer term as part of the Charlton Masterplan parcels of land in this area are identified for residential development. Whilst this is a long term plan, gradual improvement as a result of development will be secured.”
Out exploring the industrial land that is set to become Charlton Riverside (see the latest on that planning saga here) we took the opportunity to take some new photos of the decaying Victoria pub, which prompted a lot of questions on our Twitter and Facebook channels about its current status and future.
It’s in a poor state. With a reputation for having been a pub with a lean, it now appears to be falling backwards down the hill. Added to that, much of the back of the building is missing, and it’s clearly not been watertight for a long time.
Land Registry records show that the building is currently owned by a Jahangir Ghani, who bought it in July 2014 for £380,000. Unhelpfully, the owner’s address is given as the pub, though there’s clearly no one living there at the moment.
The building is included in Greenwich Council’slist of Buildings of Local Architectural or Historic Interest – the ‘local list’: “Late Victorian public house with Edwardian tiled façade by Truman’s Brewery. Despite fire-damaged interiors the fine tiled façade of 1910 survives with several splendid features including the large spread eagle which holds up the corner above the name ‘The Victoria’ and Truman’s trademark eagle on the Eastmoor Street façade. Significant townscape value being the only remaining building marking former historic crossroads of Eastmoor Street 107 of 132 Woolwich Road which gives a sense of the now lost, formerly intimate streetscape of the area. Qualifies due to architectural interest as an evocative and sole-surviving example and environmental significance as a characterful, time-honoured local feature. Forms part of the Thames Barrier and Bowater Road Conservation Area” . It is important to note that a local listing does not offer the same protection as a national listing in planning terms; find out more about listed buildings in Greenwich here.
Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has told the developers behind controversial plans to build 771 homes off Anchor & Hope Lane that they should respect the masterplan developed for Charlton Riverside – and build more affordable housing.
Pennycook spoke out days after London mayor Sadiq Khan blocked Greenwich Council’s refusal of the scheme by developer Rockwell to build five 10-storey blocks and other buildings on land surrounding Atlas and Derrick Gardens.
The mayor, who has designated Charlton Riverside an “opportunity area” for development, will now decide whether or not the plan goes ahead.
Khan’s decision came with criticism of Greenwich Council for not allowing enough “affordable” housing in recent years – Rockwell’s scheme would have 32.4% “affordable” housing.
Local businesses have also voiced fears that they will have to move or close, saying the new development’s residents will not want them as neighbours.
Pennycook said on his Facebook page that Rockwell needed to be making the blocks smaller and providing more “affordable’ homes.
He wrote: “I fully understand the pressure the Mayor is under to build more homes in London as the market falters, I’m deeply disappointed that City Hall have chosen not to back Greenwich Council and stand behind the local community’s very strong objections to the proposed scheme.
“I will of course look carefully at any modifications that the Mayor is able to secure over the coming weeks/months and I trust that there will be extensive consultation with local residents and community groups as well as with the developer.
“However, City Hall must appreciate that there is a very strong feeling locally that we not compromise on the vision set out in the 2017 Charlton Riverside masterplan.
“That is why it’s crucial that development across the entire Charlton Riverside opportunity area, including any modified proposals from Rockwell, respect the vision of an exemplary urban district set out in that masterplan document.
“For Rockwell’s site that means not only a higher level of affordable housing, and a modified dwelling mix, but also reductions in the proposed height of buildings. If that requires reductions in the total number of units then, in my view, that’s what needs to happen.”
While the Charlton Riverside masterplan does not rule out 10-storey blocks, it says they should be an exception, preferring to see buildings of between three and six storeys.
Khan’s letter to Greenwich Council announcing he was taking over the planning process said the Rockwell scheme “has potential to make an important contribution to housing and affordable housing supply”.
Pennycook’s intervention was greeted with scepticism by journalist Paul Wellman, who tracks London’s developers for Estates Gazette. “Want more affordable housing? Generally the compromise is more private and greater heights. The below scenario is hugely unachievable,” he tweeted.
Want more affordable housing? Generally the compromise is more private and greater heights. The below scenario is hugely unachievable. https://t.co/m9U40BcKhh
Hounslow had refused a scheme with 421 homes, including 40% “affordable”, citing the possible effect on nearby Kew Gardens. But Khan approved a revised scheme with 50% “affordable” housing and 441 homes.
Khan said: “This scheme shows how we can unlock the potential of an underused site to build more of the genuinely affordable homes Londoners so urgently need. I’m clear that to fix the capital’s housing crisis Government must play its part, but we can make a difference now by ensuring developments include more genuinely affordable housing.
“I am committed to using the full strength of my planning powers to get London building more affordable homes.
“This is another important step as we work towards my long-term strategic goal for 50 per cent of housing in all new developments across the city to be social rented and other genuinely affordable homes for Londoners.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”