Charlton Sainsbury’s development – did the community get a raw deal from £1.5m planning cash?

The new superstore store complex looms over housing on Woolwich Road
The new superstore store complex looms over housing on Woolwich Road

The developer behind Sainsbury’s and M&S paid Greenwich Council nearly £1.5 million to help secure planning permission, the Charlton Champion can reveal. But none of this money has been spent in the Charlton area – and promised facilities at the development haven’t materialised.

The firm behind the Charlton Riverside Retail Park, LXP RP (Greenwich 3) Ltd, agreed to pay £1,484,927 to Greenwich Council in Section 106 payments. These are aimed at easing the impact of large construction projects on local communities.

But none of the money has been spent in Charlton – with a chunk of the money going to projects in Woolwich instead.

The Charlton Champion used the Freedom of Information Act to find out what LXB paid Greenwich Council – and how it is being spent.

Making a difference in [insert store name here]
Making a difference in [insert store name here]

So far, £170,685 has been spent. The first £150,000 has gone to “employment and training” – believed to be Greenwich Local Labour and Business, the council’s employment agency, which is largely funded by these payments. GLLaB is due to receive a further £284,613 from this project.

The remaining £20,685 has been spent on a “public safety” contribution – the council’s CCTV control room in Woolwich.

The other sums have been allocated, but not spent. Asked where they would be spent, the council merely said on “schemes within the Royal Borough of Greenwich”.

£303,120 has been earmarked for “town centre management”. This sum won’t be spent in Charlton – instead, it is likely to go to Woolwich, Eltham and/or Greenwich.

A huge motorway-size sign adds to street clutter at Charlton Church Lane
A huge motorway-size sign adds to street clutter at Charlton Church Lane

£209,202 has gone to “public realm” – effectively, making streets look nicer. Again, there’s no pledge to spend this money locally – despite the poor state of the area’s streets (worsened by the huge SUPERSTORE signs that have appeared in recent weeks). A further £217,307 has gone to “environmental health”.

Finally, £300,000 has gone to “bus service enhancements”. Again, it’s not clear quite where this money will be spent. There are currently no plans to enhance bus services in the Charlton area, while Transport for London rejected proposals to extend bus route 202 from Blackheath Standard to serve the new store.

There’s an additional £449,715 too – this is a community infrastructure levy, collected by boroughs on behalf of City Hall to help pay for Crossrail.

So far, so disappointing. But if local groups want to start lobbying for improvements to the area, there’s where the cash is.

It helps to get the small things right...
It helps to get the small things right…

Should residents have expected anything different?

Well, when the plan was first announced, developer LXB held several meetings with local people, who formed the Charlton Riverside Action Group.

Both CRAG’s prime movers have now moved out of the area, but other groups such as the Charlton Society and Charlton Central Residents’ Association also had a hand in these talks – designed to address fears that the complex would add to already-bad traffic congestion in the area..

It appears, though, that these talks they were largely for nothing. Those who took part in the talks believed they were getting…

The proposed exit would have been on long-disused railway land
The proposed exit would have been on long-disused railway land to the left of this photo

A new entrance to Charlton station: One of the proposals to encourage people to travel to the new complex by public transport included opening a new entrance to Charlton station at Troughton Road, nearer the western end of the Kent-bound platform. This plan, however, appears to have stalled.

Bus arrivals information in the store: Residents were told the store would feature boards showing bus times (you’ll see these in North Greenwich bus station and the new Greenwich University building in Stockwell Street). They never materialised. Meanwhile, a new bus stop on Bugsbys Way doesn’t even have a shelter.

Legible London signs installed by Lewisham Council on Blackheath
Legible London signs installed by Lewisham Council on Blackheath

Local signposts: Another plan was to make it easier to walk to the store by installing Legible London signposts in the local area – the black and yellow signs used in Blackheath Village and Woolwich Town Centre. This scheme could have been rolled out to make it easier for visitors to find Charlton House, Charlton Lido, Charlton Athletic and other attractions. Nothing has appeared.

Why does this matter? Well, Charlton’s riverside will soon undergo huge redevelopment – community groups are waiting for a new masterplan to be announced. If local people aren’t getting anything from current developments, what hope is there when the diggers start going in by the river?

It also matters because community groups believed they had a scheme that could have delivered tangible benefits for residents. Instead, those locals haven’t seen any of those benefits – and are suffering from rat-running as cars head down side roads to the new supermarket.

A few weeks ago, this website asked if Charlton needed a regeneration plan. We now that thanks to this development – and others – there is money available, even if only to tidy up the public realm and put some signs up to direct people around. If community groups want to take this seriously, then they should be watching where the cash from these developments go – and making sure SE7 gets more than scraps.

Charlton Sainsbury’s: First look inside the brand new store

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

Some local blogs do the opening of new pop-up boutique vintage street food cat cafes. In Charlton, we get to do whacking great supermarkets.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

16 years ago, Jamie Oliver opened the “eco” Sainsbury’s at east Greenwich. That store closed without ceremony last night, and the supermarket giant has reopened a mile down the road, in a less impressive building.

Today’s opening didn’t have anyone off the telly there, but it did have new local MP Matt Pennycook and Greenwich Council’s regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe on hand for the inevitable photocall for weekly council rag Greenwich Time.

Maybe Danny Thorpe brought up the matter of the store flouting planning rules over its giant signs? Who knows. Doubt you’ll read any of that in Greenwich Time.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

With a brief apology for keeping us all waiting, the store opened to the public at the stroke of nine o’clock.

So what’s it like inside? Well, there’s a greater emphasis on homeware, electricals and clothing. And it’s a bit weird walking through a perfectly-stocked supermarket where nobody’s bought anything yet.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2014
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

In short, it looks like any other supermarket. What did you expect?

But it’ll be a rude shock for those used to the curved lines and natural daylight of the Greenwich store – likely to be flattened and replaced with an Ikea, although the Swedish furniture giant doesn’t have detailed planning permission yet.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

So, how will the new store do? It’ll certainly lose some custom in the short term – Transport for London has refused developer funds to help extend bus route 202 from Blackheath to the new store, and many Greenwich Millennium Village residents may decide it’s a schlep too far.

With the trends towards home delivery and smaller stores, it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out. A wider range of goods may encourage customers to stay longer. It’s worth noting this new store is not a 24-hour branch. And with the newish Sainsbury’s Local on Charlton Church Lane thriving, the chain is clearly hedging its bets.

How the new store fits in with its surroundings is an issue. I’m not sure it stands up to past promises made to local groups. Rat-running and traffic is likely to be a problem. Access isn’t particularly cycle-friendly. And the new pedestrian crossing – which appears to be in the wrong place – has been already been hit by a driver.

Charlton M&S, 24 June 2015

But the next part of the story comes in a couple of weeks – for M&S is opening on 9 July. It’s likely this retail complex will be both a benefit and a burden – just how much of each, we’ll see in the weeks and months to come.

Huge Charlton Sainsbury’s sign refused permission, huge Charlton Sainsbury’s sign appears anyway

Charlton Sainsbury's, 16 June 2015

A week to go until the new Charlton Sainsbury’s opens (9am on Wednesday 24 June, with M&S due to follow three weeks later), but there had been a set-back for the supermarket – Greenwich Council refused plans to stick a giant four-metre high illuminated logo on the store roof, along with a smaller sign by Bugsby’s Way and a totem facing Woolwich Road.

Council refusal letter

Except that this week… a giant four-metre high sign has appeared on the store roof, along with a smaller sign by Bugsby’s Way and a totem facing Woolwich Road.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 16 June 2014

Looks a bit like something’s dribbling out of the lettering…

No, we don’t know what’s happening either. Nor are we quite sure why the next door M&S also features a whacking great big sign (our best guess is it may not have needed permission as it’s partly below roof level). But we are trying to find out.

Greenwich Council's refusal

Of course, there are bigger issues with a whacking great big supermarket in a residential area – traffic, wasted space, and the building’s very existence when we desperately need new homes. But if the small things (such as a sign) can’t be fixed, what hope is there for the big things?

Thanks to Pete M for the tip-off.

4.20pm update: A very quick response from Greenwich Council, which says it has opened investigations into both the Sainsbury’s and M&S signage.

18 June update: Greenwich Council’s confirmed the M&S sign does have planning permission, given last December.

Sign of the times? New Sainsbury’s could be topped by giant logo

Sainsburys plan
Final work is taking place at Charlton’s new Sainsbury’s/ M&S complex, which will come to life in six weeks – the ‘old’ Greenwich Sainsbury’s set to close on Tuesday 23 June with its Charlton replacement opening its doors the following the day.

Charlton Sainsbury's

Some bits of work still need to be done, though – such as signage. If you’re expecting the new store to have subtle signs, think again – a giant four-metre high Sainsbury’s logo is due to be plonked on the roof of the store, according an application sent to Greenwich planners.

Sainsbury's recruitment ad

It’s a far cry from the more subtle sign that sits below the roof level of the Greenwich store – an image of which is still being used on recruitment ads for the new outlet.

If you’ve any strong views on the signs, be sure to let Greenwich planners know – head to the council’s planning website and search for reference 15/0835/A – comments need to be in by 26 May, which is leaving the timescales rather tight…

Greenwich Council backs Charlton Sainsbury’s/ M&S scheme


It’s been a long while coming, but councillors finally voted last night to back plans to to move Greenwich’s Sainsbury’s to Gallions Road, Charlton, in a new site along with an M&S and other shops.

Greenwich Council’s planning board voted 8-1 in favour of the application, despite concerns about traffic congestion and air pollition on Woolwich Road.

As well as the two superstores, the scheme will provide 850 jobs as well as a “high street” frontage of other stoes in front of the Rose of Denmark pub.

One councillor, Steve Offord, was heckled by members of the public for saying it was “inevitable” that the council would have to accept drivers entering the complex from Woolwich Road. Local campaigners had argued that customers should have to use Bugsbys Way, to tak traffic off the A206.

Council leader Chris Roberts suggested a compromise solution, where a fund of money from the developer should be set aside for traffic improvements after the store had opened, to calm fears of rat-running on Victoria Way and other streets. He also backed calls for a second entrance to Charlton station on Troughton Road, although this is subject to a separate process.

The only dissenting councillor was Kidbrooke with Hornfair Labour representative Hayley Fletcher, who acknowledged the scheme had great promise but was full of “missed opportunities” to promote sustainable transport on the Woolwich Road, dubbing the air quality statistics in the area “frightening”.

(Other councillors referred to the bad air quality on Woolwich Road, despite Greenwich Council’s Labour group voting to launch a campaign to build a third Blackwall Tunnel to add more traffic to the A102 – see petition against it.)

Most speakers were in favour of the development, but many were sharply critical of the lack of measures to control traffic. Developer LXB said it had offered Transport for London money to extend bus route 202 from Blackheath Standard to the store, to compensate people who would usually take the 108 service to the Greenwich store, but TfL insisted the bus network was fine as it is.

Chris Roberts suggested the council should take a tough line with TfL on the issue, adding that existing route 129 was only created thanks to a planning application put in for the Millennium Dome.

To see short summaries of what was said during the meeting, see this Storify round-up. The new store is likely to open in 2015.

Application in for new Charlton Sainsbury’s and M&S

View of Sainsbury's from Gallions Road

Detailed plans were released this week for the proposed Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer stores, set to be located within Charlton’s retail park.

These images form part of developer LXB‘s application to Greenwich Council. A planning board will then decide whether to approve or reject these plans – likely to be some time in June.

View of M&S and coffee shop from Woolwich Road

There’s several elements to this application including an impact assessment on retail in much of south-east London. A thorough report by consultants WYG states that:

“The enhancement of the retail facilities at Bugsby’s Way will not affect Woolwich’s status as a Major Centre, nor its prospects of being re-designated as a Metropolitan centre in the long term.”

Their reasoning behind this are the new developments in Woolwich, such as the Tesco, that WYS believes will regenerate the SE18 area, keeping shoppers from getting into their cars or straying onto a bus and travelling over to Charlton.

Another talking point recently has been the downgrade of the western end of Woolwich Road (from Charlton station to the flyover) and how these new developments will impact on the near 24,000 vehicles that use the road on an average weekday.

An equally in-depth report by transport specialists Vectos makes no mention of this, however. It references the draft supplementary planning document that appeared in January. But doesn’t take into account the changes made for the finalised version that states clearly a wish to downgrade the road.

This website understands the developer LXB have been told by TfL and the council’s highways department that alterations to plans won’t be considered until the road has actually been downgraded.

Meaning, the proposed reshaping of Woolwich Road for deliveries and customer access (including current work being undertaken for the Travelodge) don’t take this downgrade into account.

This agreed Charlton Riverside Masterplan also calls for an upgrade to Charlton station which would surely mean a re-think on the junction next to it.

Would it be outrageous for me to suggest that a coherent plan for Woolwich Road, using a bit of foresight, might save a lot of time, money and upheaval in the future?

Two different diagrams highlighting proposed changes to Woolwich Road

The old retail barns that currently occupy this site lay dormant, aside from the odd illegal rave. Wickes is the last store still operating and is believed to be moving into its new home next to Matalan in the next two weeks.

If approved by the council’s planning board the new Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer would be looking to open before the end of 2014.

Members of the public can comment on these proposals and view all the documents by visiting Greenwich Council’s planning website.