‘We’re fighting for our community’s survival’: Why the Rockwell Charlton Riverside row matters

Rockwell Charlton Riverside scheme
Rockwell’s new blocks would sit behind the small houses which make up Atlas and Derrick Gardens

Controversial plans to build 10-storey blocks behind homes off Anchor & Hope Lane go to Greenwich Council’s main planning committee on Monday. Developer Rockwell plans to build 771 homes on land surrounding Atlas and Derrick Gardens – which, if approved, would be the first housing development in the Charlton Riverside regeneration scheme.

Council planning officers are backing the scheme – but residents of Atlas and Derrick Gardens say the plans ignore a recently-finished masterplan that cost £850,000 and took five years to prepare. A petition has been set up to demand the council sticks to its plan.

Derrick and Atlas Gardens Residents’ Association chair SELINA TALLETT says the people most affected by the scheme feel patronised and ignored – and Greenwich councillors need to defend their council’s own masterplan.

At the river end of Anchor and Hope Lane, you’ll find Atlas and Derrick Gardens. It’s a community of 74 homes, a few houses with the rest being small flats. Our community is a blend of social and private tenants as well as homeowners. I’m a resident of Derrick Gardens – I have only ever lived in the borough of Greenwich.

These homes are examples of model worker home properties and carry some historical significance, having been built by local shipping industrialist William H Cory for his employees and their families in 1908. Earlier this year, our homes were given conservation area status to reflect this history.

However, our community is now fighting for its survival.

As the only homes on the Charlton Riverside, we have peacefully lived for years with all industry around us – including what is now the VIP Trading Estate, which is behind Atlas and Derrick Gardens. But now the Mayor’s development plan identifies Charlton Riverside as an “opportunity area” for London.

To capitalise on this, Rockwell Property – on behalf of Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco – has bought the VIP Trading Estate and wants to build luxury “family homes” on the site.

These ‘”family homes” would feature a collection of tower blocks, with most of the 771 properties exceeding £500,000. After nearly two years of discussions, the “affordable” housing provision has climbed from the initial offer of 8% to 25%, whilst the density has reduced from 975 to 771 homes.

Derrick Gardens
Atlas and Derrick Gardens are now part of a conservation area

‘We would lose all natural light’

Rockwell’s proposed blocks of flats, with up to 10 storeys, would be just 18-20 metres behind our homes. We would completely lose all and any natural light.

Yet Greenwich Council’s planning officers deem this an “acceptable” trade-off to “kick-start development in the area”.

London needs new homes, but I and other Atlas and Derrick Gardens residents feel our quality of life should not be forfeited for financial gain and to meet local authority targets.

Especially where there is established planning guidance in place which says that homes built within this area should be of low height and low density, and complementary to the heritage of the area while not having a negatively impact on existing neighbourhoods.

Rockwell’s development has been designed without meeting key parts of local strategy, policy and the masterplan established specifically for the Charlton Riverside.

For me, it’s beyond disappointing that Greenwich Council’s hard work in establishing this local guidance is being ridden roughshod over by a need to meet targets and a desire not to upset developers.

The housing crisis has been a very easy loophole for developers to exploit: how many Londoners can afford luxury one/two-bedroom flats exceeding £500,000? Rockwell’s plans are disingenuous at best, mercenary and opportunistic at worst.

We need new homes which meet all layers of planning policy, not just the bits which are convenient or release the most profit for developers, regardless of the consequences for others. Which is why Greenwich Council needs to hold the line.

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
Away from Atlas and Derrick Gardens, this is what Rockwell is promising…

‘Don’t be scared of refusing Rockwell’

But nothing in this process has convinced us that housing Greenwich borough’s residents, especially the 17,000 on the waiting list, is actually a priority for either the developers or for the council.

Greenwich planning officers are scared of what will happen if Rockwell’s application is rejected: paying for an appeal and a date with the Planning Inspectorate.

But Greenwich Council should not fear an appeal. Rockwell knew the local policies in place when it purchased the land.

It has already spent five years and £850,000 of existing residents’ money in developing a masterplan – not upholding this and not explaining in detail why planning officers are supporting Rockwell’s schemes calls for questions to be asked about whether public funds are being mismanaged. We support the petition urging councillors to stick to their masterplan.

We have been disappointed with the lack of honest engagement from the council – including some of the very councillors we elected – with an apparent inability to see the wider issues that approving this application will create and exacerbate.

Even though this proposal has loomed over us for two years, we only had a site visit a month ago, where it was clear that some who participated and would be deciding on the application did not even know our neighbourhood existed.

Rockwell render
…but residents say the new blocks would loom over their homes and deny them natural light

‘We demand better for Charlton Riverside’

Charlton Riverside is already an identified opportunity area – development does not need to be kickstarted by inappropriate schemes by hook or by crook. It needs to have the right start to set the tone for the rest of the area.

Many communities across London will be going through similar issues with development which is both inappropriate for their local community and does little to address the actual housing crisis.

Our planning system needs to change and we need to see Greenwich at the forefront, listening to and engaging with us, using the policies developed with taxpayers’ support to benefit its residents, not for the financial benefit of developers – especially when those developers are aided by consultation organisations employing former council leaders.

We hope that by raising awareness of our plight, we can urge both officers and councillors to reject this application, and demand better for our Charlton Riverside.

The residents’ petition on the Charlton Riverside Masterplan can be found at change.org.

Read previous Charlton Champion coverage of the Rockwell planning application here.

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Thames Path ‘missing link’ is launched – with council hoping to open it all night

Cyclists on the Thames Path missing link
Cyclists and walkers gathered on Wednesday for the opening of the Thames Path’s ‘missing link’

The “missing link” on the Thames Path between Charlton and Woolwich opened on Wednesday – with Greenwich Council pledging to finish the job by trying to open it 24 hours a day.

After 15 years of lobbying by Greenwich Cyclists, the £1.5m route from the Thames Barrier in Charlton to King Henry’s Wharf in Woolwich was officially launched by London cycling and walking commissioner Will Norman and Greenwich Council cabinet member Denise Scott-McDonald.

Scott-McDonald, the cabinet member for public realm, told guests that while the connection – which passes through an industrial estate – would “initially” open from 6am to 9pm seven days a week, “our ambition is for it to open 24 hours a day, for everyone”.

The link uses a ramp to pass from the Thames Barrier site into the Westminster Industrial Estate – the old Siemens factory, which dominated the area before closing in 1968 – before passing Thames-Side Studios and the Arts Cafe. A second ramp at the end of Warspite Road then takes walkers and cyclists above the riverside before rejoining the existing Thames Path at King Henry’s Wharf.

Closures by developers aside, the completion of the “missing link” now means near-uninterrupted access to the Thames right through Greenwich borough from Deptford to Thamesmead and beyond, as well as improving cycle access to both North Greenwich tube and the forthcoming Woolwich Crossrail station.

Will Norman, who wheeled a bike through the link as part of the opening ceremony, said: “This really sits at the heart of what the mayor and his team are trying to do: to enable more people to be more active, to get out of their cars and actually enjoy exploring the city and finding new spots. Far more people can access this and use it as part of their daily lives.”

New signage indicates that the link will eventually be joined to Quietway 14, a cycling route which currently runs from Blackfriars Road to Canada Water station.

A Greenwich Council spokesperson told The Charlton Champion that signs directing users to “Greenwich Peninsular” would be corrected.

While the new route will be welcomed, actually getting to the Thames Path can be a challenge for cyclists – particularly crossing the Woolwich Road, which has seen plans for a segregated cycle lane – Cycle Superhighway 4 – dropped. Cyclist Edgaras Cepura was recently killed at the Woolwich Road roundabout in east Greenwich – nine years after Adrianna Skrzypiec died on her bike at the same spot.

Will Norman told The Charlton Champion that the A206 from Greenwich to Woolwich had been identified as one of the top 25 in London that needed action to make it better for cyclists – but that work on the Greenwich one-way system would come before the rest of the route.

Will Norman
Will Norman takes his bike along the “missing link”

He said: “CS4 was separated out under the previous administration into chunks, and the section from Greenwich to Woolwich was downgraded as part of that decision.

“We recently have been looking at the Liveable Neighbourhood programme, and working with the borough to address concerns around the [Greenwich] gyratory and making that safe, which as you know has millions of people coming to visit the Unesco world heritage site.

“Then clearly the next section is to work with the borough on the next part of the route, with borough officers and politicans and coming up with the best way to tackle that.” (See more at our sister site 853.)

Thames Path missing link crowd
Cyclists and walkers gathered for the openeing ceremony (Photo: Charlotte Brooke)

Fixing the missing link was one of the ambitions of campaigner Barry Mason, the former co-ordinator of Greenwich Cyclists and neighbouring Southwark Cyclists, who died in 2011.

Mason was well-known for leading a “midsummer madness” ride on 21 June each year, which would start from the Cutty Sark at 2am and arrive at Primrose Hill to see the sun rise on the longest day of the year.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

‘Stick to your masterplan’: Residents launch Charlton Riverside petition to Greenwich Council

Rockwell’s plans for Charlton Riverside. Local residents’ groups say that the application “drives a coach and horses” through Greenwich Council’s Charlton Riverside Masterplan

Residents worried about the future of Derrick and Atlas Gardens – the two streets at the riverfront end of Anchor & Hope Lane – have launched a petition asking Greenwich Council to enforce the terms of its own Charlton Riverside Masterplan.

Citing the £854,000 cost of developing masterplans for the area – a figure revealed through a Freedom of Information request submitted by the organisers – the petition highlights discrepancies between the masterplan’s objectives and Greenwich Council planning officers’ recommendation to approve the upcoming Rockwell housing development application:

The Rockwell development application currently before the council drives a coach and horses through the carefully created masterplan in terms of building heights, levels of density/massing, and affordable housing. 

If the Rockwell development is approved by the planning board it will set a precedent for all future developers to ignore the masterplan in respect of further planning applications for the wider site. This will have a huge impact on the whole of Charlton.

For reasons that are hard to understand, the council’s own officers have recommended giving approval to the Rockwell development even through the application does not meet the vision or targets described in the masterplan which was commissioned by the council and approved by cabinet in November 2017.

The petitioners are unhappy about Rockwell’s plans for 771 new homes on an industrial estate which surrounds their homes. The scheme includes five 10-storey blocks.

Councillors voted to defer making a decision on the application at a planning board meeting held just prior to the May council elections.

One of the petition organisers, Helen Jakeways of community group Charlton Together, said: “It’s really vital for all of Charlton that Greenwich Council lives up to the vision and ambition of its own Charlton Riverside Masterplan.

“Not only would it be £850,000 of public money wasted if it didn’t, the knock on effect for all of Charlton would be awful if developers are allowed free rein on the Riverside plot. We’re asking everyone Charlton wide to sign the petition and support the Charlton Riverside Masterplan.”

You can sign the petition here: change.org/p/danny-thorpe-enforce-the-charlton-riverside-masterplan.

Derrick & Atlas Gardens Residents’ Association has recently joined Twitter – you can follow it here: twitter.com/DagraSE7.

Read previous Charlton Champion coverage of the Rockwell planning application here.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

Charlton and Woolwich’s Thames Path Missing Link finally due to open

Thames Path missing link
It’s coming… thanks to Paul Stollery for the photo

After years as a council pipedream, then a much-delayed period of planning and construction, the Thames Path’s “missing link” between the Thames Barrier in Charlton and King Henry’s Wharf in Woolwich will finally open next week.

Greenwich Council cabinet member Denise Scott-McDonald and City Hall walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman will open a link between the two sections of path on Wednesday 20 June at 3.30pm. (Want to go? Sign up here, and thanks to Greenwich Council for letting us know.)

Missing Link invite

The pathway – which includes a ramp from the Thames Barrier site into the adjacent industrial estate, and an elevated path at Warspite Road on the Woolwich side – will end years of aggravation for walkers and cyclists who have had to divert onto the unpleasant Woolwich Road when travelling along the Thames.

It also removes one of the few significant blockages of south-east London’s stretch of Thames Path – including an almost-interrupted riverside pathway (save for one or two blocks) through Greenwich borough from Deptford Green to Thamesmead – and makes it easier for people to cycle from riverside parts of Woolwich and Thamesmead to North Greenwich station.

However, signs on the route indicate it will only be available from 6am to 9pm. Signs also eventually indicate it will be added to Quietway 14, a cycling route from Blackfriars Road to Canada Water station.

Although someone may need to change the spelling mistake on the signs before it opens…

While the route will be welcomed by cyclists, last week saw a “die-in” at Woolwich Town Hall protesting after three riders were killed in separate collisions in Greenwich and Deptford, including two on the A206 through Greenwich, one at the notorious Woolwich Road roundabout.

Organisers demanded the reinstatement of the full Cycle Superhighway 4 scheme between London Bridge and Woolwich, which was shortened to run between Tower Bridge and Deptford Creek Bridge by mayor Sadiq Khan.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

Sing the Baby Blues with the Big Red Bus Club on Fridays

Baby Blues flyer

Annie’s been in touch to sing us a song…

You may already be aware that the British Journal of Psychiatry published a report on the benefits of singing in reducing the impact of post-natal depression.

We’ve picked up the baton. Our mums have designed the service that they want to tackle postnatal isolation and loneliness.

Together we take a positive whole family approach to good mental health. The Baby Blues Choir brings together a parent- led stay and play, post-natal peer help & support and of course free choir lessons.

One in eight mums live with post-natal depression and many more live with isolation and loneliness.

The Big Red Bus Club is a charitable family wellbeing centre, free to use and run by local people and families.

If you fancy singing your heart out, join the Big Red Bus Club each Friday from 10am to noon during term times.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

Charlton hustings: Councillors acted ‘appallingly’ over Victoria Way scheme, ex-planning officer says

Victoria Way, February 2017
The Victoria Way site last year. Demolition teams have now moved in.

A former Greenwich Council planning officer who is standing for election in Charlton this week says councillors acted “appallingly” when they decided to back a controversial development in Victoria Way without explaining why.

The eight-strong planning committee faced jeers from the public after after endorsing the Fairview New Homes proposals for a former warehouse site, which include two 10-storey blocks and 144 car parking spaces, as well as a nursery and office space.

Neighbours had called the plans “overbearing” and had voiced concerns about traffic congestion and the lack of facilities for residents. Others criticised a lack of consultation with residents about the scheme.

In the meeting overseen by vice-chair Ray Walker (Labour, Eltham West), councillors Mark Elliott (Conservative, Eltham South), Clive Mardner (Labour, Abbey Wood), Danny Thorpe (Labour, Shooters Hill – council deputy leader and regeneration cabinet member), Sarah Merrill (Labour, Shooters Hill), Norman Adams (Labour, Kidbrooke with Hornfair), Steve Offord (Labour, Abbey Wood) backed the scheme without discussig 125 objections from residents, three written objections from local councillors in Peninsula and Charlton wards and concerns raised by Transport for London and the Greater London Authority about the high level of car parking spaces.

Only Thorpe attempted to offer any explanation when it came to vote on the scheme. Conservative Geoff Brighty (Blackheath Westcombe) voted against it.

At the Charlton ward hustings on Saturday, Green candidate Clare Loops – a former planning policy manager for Greenwich who is standing in Thursday’s council election – condemned the way the councillors acted.

“Just looking at the way the committee is structured at the moment, they should be discussing the points raised, and that is appalling that it didn’t happen,” Loops – who now works for neighbouring Bexley – said.

But incumbent Labour councillor Gary Parker said: “What you have to remember is that the Planning Board is not whipped, and it wasn’t just Labour candidates that voted for it. They get the papers in advance and they get officers’ recommendations, and there was a recommendation in favour of it.

“I do think we should listen to residents a lot more, but the complexities of planning law make that very difficult.”

‘Charlton has no representation on planning committee’

It is normal convention in a Greenwich planning meeting for councillors to discuss the application – no explanation has been given as to why they didn’t on the Fairview Victoria Way case.

Parker agreed with Loops that the council needed to bring some applications to planning committees at earlier stages to obtain residents’ input.

Fellow Labour candidate Gary Dillon said that the Charlton area had no representation on the Planning Board, which is the council’s main planning commitee, “I hope that changes after the next election,” he said.

But Lib Dem candidate Ian Gerrard responded: “Parties decide who serves on committees – if Charlton isn’t being represented, that’s down to Labour.”

Women’s Equality Party candidate Pamela Ritchie also attended the hustings, along with one of the three Conservative candidates, Macharia Gakuru, and a second Lib Dem candidate, Charlie Rome. Linda Perks – the Labour candidate condemned by a judge for rule-breaking in a union election – did not attend.

Planning issues dominated the hustings, with concerns raised about the fate of the Charlton Riverside masterplan in the light of the planning application by Rockwell for 771 new homes on an industrial estate at Anchor & Hope Lane including five 10-storey blocks.

“All residents of Charlton could be affected by this,” Ritchie said, adding: “We’ve already seen the segregation in Woolwich between the new-builds and the town of Woolwich.”

“I don’t like calling it Charlton Riverside,” Loops said. “The best way to integrate it would be to call it ‘Charlton’.”

Parker said the council was consulting via the Charlton Stakeholder Forum, which he called “a public forum”. “I’ve been at some of them, I haven’t seen any of the opposition there.”

(The Charlton Champion has never been invited or asked to publicise its meetings. Furthermore, this website understands that at the last meeting, representatives of developer Rockwell outnumbered all other attendees.)

He also pointed to the council’s Better Together meetings and public planning meetings – such as the one which discussed Victoria Way where councillors ignored residents.

Loops said it was “worrying” that council officers had recommended the Rockwell development even though it was contrary to the masterplan. “What’s the point in having a plan if you’re not going to follow it?,” Lib Dem Rome said.

There was also criticism of both council leader Denise Hyland and deputy leader Danny Thorpe sitting on the Planning Board – Greenwich is the only council in London where the leader sits on its main planning committee. Gary Parker said a leader or deputy leader on the planning board “leaves you open to potentially being compromised, blurring the distinction between the [council’s] planning function and being a member of the executive”. “If I was in that position, I wouldn’t be on it, but that is for them to decide.”

On Sunday, a resident at the hustings for Woolwich Riverside ward – which covers some of the eastern side of Charlton – also brought up former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts’ role as deputy chairman of Cratus Communications, which has acted for the developers of both the Fairview Victoria Way and Rockwell Charlton Riverside schemes. “I suppose ex-leaders of councils have to earn a living,” Labour councillor John Fahy said.

Ideas for Charlton’s future

Back at the Charlton ward hustings, candidates were also asked how they would improve Charlton Village and Charlton Church Lane. Conservative Macharia Gakuru said he would change Charlton Church Lane into a one-way street, while Lib Dem Gerrard suggested the council could temporarily lower business rates.

Loops said: “We need to make sure footfall in the Village is all of us using it. We could be changing some of the A5 uses – hot food takeaways – into more of a cafe culture, to provide more places to hang out. And slow down the traffic – 20mph is much better.”

Parker said: “We need to look at more pop-up shops and a range of other short-term measures to support businesses and people who want to get into business. I think the council could be more flexible about this.” Ritchie complained about the state of the pavements on Charlton Church Lane and suggested parking in that street could be moved.

All candidates also spoke out against the current plans for the proposed Enderby Wharf cruise liner terminal in east Greenwich, which will allow ships using it to use their own highly polluting engines rather than energy from the National Grid.

All 51 seats in Greenwich borough are up for election on Thursday – see candidates, manifestos and more hustings coverage over on 853. Of the councillors that passed the Fairview Victoria Way scheme, all are up for re-election in their various wards except Mark Elliott and Ray Walker; while Steve Offord was deselected in Abbey Wood and is now contesting Eltham North.

Video from selected parts of Saturday’s Charlton hustings – including opening and closing statements – can be seen on YouTube.

The Charlton Champion sent a questionnaire to candidates…

Charlton ward candidates (three are elected): Gary Dillon (Labour), Macharia Gakuru (Conservative), Ian Gerrard (Liberal Democrat), Rebecca Ireland (Liberal Democrat), Catherine Latham (Conservative), Clare Loops (Green), Maya Mann (Conservative), Gary Parker (Labour), Linda Perks (Labour), Pamela Ritchie (Women’s Equality Party), Charlie Rome (Liberal Democrat). Polls are open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday 3 May.

  • The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.
  • Bad sports – tell Decathlon its new store is in Charlton, not Greenwich

    Charlton Decathlon
    We could have been writing about Decathlon’s opening day offers instead

    Europe’s top sports store, Decathlon, is preparing to open a new store in Charlton next month. But it doesn’t want to shout about it.

    If you’re a keen runner or cyclist, or have ever picked up football training gear, you’ll probably know about the chain, whose only other outlet in south-east London is in Rotherhithe.

    It sells quality sports equipment at low prices. You might have seen its Btwin bikes around the place, or its Kipsta training gear. (And you can buy Ritter Sports at the checkout too.)

    Now the French-based chain is preparing to move into the former Next store in the Bugsby’s Way retail parks.

    Which is great news for Charlton. But it would be even better if Decathlon could actually admit that its store is in Charlton.

    Yes, it’s that same old story. Decathlon is currently billing the store as being in “Greenwich”. Not with an SE7 postcode, buster.

    Sign our petition and tell Decathlon to call its store “Charlton”.

    Homesense Charlton

    We’re used to second-rate retail shed chains and other imposters claiming to be in the posher place down the road. Which is why you won’t read about Homesense on this site.

    There’s even “Starbucks Greenwich” on Woolwich Road, two miles down the road from the actual Starbucks Greenwich.

    But we thought better of Decathlon.

    Please sign our petition, and tell Decathlon they can do better than this.

    Decathlon website
    Maybe the Portsmouth one’s actually in Southampton

    Charlton means sport, after all. From Charlton Athletic to the muddy pitches of Charlton Park, Charlton Lido to the skate park and cricket hub, Hornfair Park’s BMX hub to Charlton Park rugby club, there are few names in south London with a bigger sporting tradition.

    And loads of people who will buy football, swimming, skating, biking, rugby and cricket gear because they identify with Charlton. Think of the marketing opportunities for Decathlon.

    Greenwich, meanwhile, means the same old tourist stuff. Outside SE10, it’s an empty boast.

    Shame, really, because other stores are proud to be in Charlton. Asda has never pretended to be anywhere else in over 30 years. Its newer neighbour Sainsbury’s proudly boasts of being in Charlton Riverside. And look at Primark’s store boss when he opened for business last year

    It’s a small thing, but one that grates. And when we asked Decathlon why it was naming its new store “Greenwich”, it didn’t respond. So let’s do something about it.

    Please sign our petition, and let Decathlon’s management know that we’re proud to be in Charlton – and they should be too.

    We’ve done this before – heading off a plan to rename Charlton Lido as “Royal Greenwich Lido” in 2013. Let’s do it again.

  • The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.