Neighbours’ fury as Fairview Victoria Way development gets green light

40 Victoria Way design
The plan includes 10-storey blocks next to the railway line (image taken from the original application)

Greenwich Council’s planning board faced jeers last night after backing plans to build 330 new homes on the site of a warehouse at the foot of Victoria Way.

The eight-strong planning committee were barracked after endorsing the Fairview New Homes proposals, which include two 10-storey blocks and 144 car parking spaces, as well as a nursery and office space.

Councillors on the planning board voted by six to one to back the scheme, with one not voting. The vote was greeted with cries of “shame!” and “you shouldn’t be our councillors”.

Planners had recommended the scheme for approval, despite 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.

40 Victoria Way application

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, with the Charlton Society’s Roden Richardson suggesting it was part of a wider “failure of democracy”.

“The perspectives of council officers and residents differ so much we wonder if the officers are on the same planet,” he said.

40 Victoria Way proposal
View up Victoria Way taken from the original application

However, there were 10 submissions supporting the scheme, some citing its provision of 35% “affordable” housing – two-thirds which would be for social rent, with the remainder for shared ownership.

Unusually for such a meeting, councillors did not give their reasons for voting ahead of the vote, although council deputy leader Danny Thorpe said he was “mindful” of concerns residents had raised, and asked for Section 106 funds from the development to go into local transport.

‘Unrealistic’ proposals

Charlton Central Residents Association chair Jodie Coughlan said the plans were “unrealistic” and would affect the quality of life for people living in the area. “If you act in haste, you will repent in leisure,” she added.

Peninsula ward councillor Stephen Brain said approving the scheme, which sits outside the area zoned for tall buildings, would set “a dangerous precedent”. He also said concerns about congestion had already led the London Fire Brigade to ask for a yellow box junction to be installed outside East Greenwich fire station because engines were having trouble accessing the road.

There were also concerns raised about the scheme only having one point of access for vehicles, on Victoria Way. One resident said Victoria Way and Eastcombe Avenue had already effectively become “arterial roads” and that any development would cause “irreversible damage”. There were sniggers from the public gallery when a representative from Fairview said pedestrian-only access from Dupree Road would “help people move around the area more easily”.

Residents walking through the site would have the benefit of play areas “away from the traffic of Victoria Way”, the rep added.

Another pointed to the frequent conflict between drivers on the pinch point at the Victoria Way railway bridge, recently narrowed by the council so it can only be accessed by one vehicle at a time. Cllr Thorpe suggested Section 106 money could go to a scheme to ameliorate this problem.

40 Victoria Way scheme
View from Gurdon Road, taken from the original application

Others raised the heights of the buildings – including two 10-storey blocks, one 9-storey block and three 8-storey blocks – while one resident of Gurdon Road said the incline of the hill would mean her own home would be overshadowed by a three-storey block.

The Charlton Society’s Roden Richardson praised the neighbouring, lower-rise development at Fairthorn Road, on the other half of the warehouse site, and asked why the Fairthorn scheme could not be like that.

‘Remote’ developer

A claim that Fairview had held “a number of local meetings” was met with disbelief from the public – CCRA’s Jodie Coughlan branded the developer “remote” while one resident said “bullying tactics” had been used. The consultation for the scheme had been handled by Cratus Communications, whose deputy chairman is former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts.

After the vote, one resident tried to quiz a council officer on the heights of the building while another asked councillors if any lived in the area. None responded. The one councillor on the planning board who does live in the area, planning chair Mark James – whose home is very close to the site – was not on the panel. Council leader Denise Hyland was also not present.

Victoria Way, February 2017

The decision appears to contradict an earlier refusal for a nine-storey building on the site of Valley House on Woolwich Road, which was thrown out in 2015 because of the size and density of the development. A seven-storey scheme was later approved.

And a much more modest development close to Eltham station was thrown out by the same committee last September because of a lack of car parking spaces.

The Fairview scheme will now have to be ratified by City Hall, which may give disgruntled residents a glimmer of hope that the mayor’s office will demand changes.

Later in the meeting, a plan to extend Queen Elizabeth Hospital was unanimously approved by councillors, despite concerns about car parking raised by Kidbrooke with Hornfair councillor Norman Adams. Danny Thorpe said he would ask health cabinet member David Gardner to raise the issue with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.

Votes for: Ray Walker (Labour, Eltham West – vice-chair), 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).

Vote against: Geoff Brighty (Conservative, Blackheath Westcombe)

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Councillors oppose Fairview’s 10-storey Victoria Way development

40 Victoria Way design
The plan includes 10-storey blocks next to the railway line (image taken from the original application)

Three local councillors have submitted objections to developer Fairview’s plans to build 330 new homes and 144 car parking spaces on a warehouse site off Victoria Way.

Greenwich Council’s main planning committee will meet to decide on the application on Tuesday 9 January, but the plans – which feature two 10-storey blocks, one 9-storey block and three 8-storey blocks – have attracted local opposition due to their height and design.

Peninsula ward councillor Stephen Brain and Charlton’s Allan MacCarthy and Gary Parker have raised concerns about the proposal, along with the Greenwich Conservation Group, the Charlton Society, and 125 individuals.

10 members of the public supported the application, some citing the 35% “affordable” housing provision – 23.3% social rent, 11.7% “intermediate”/shared ownership.

Brain calls the development “out of scale” and complains about loss of light – concerns echoed by residents in Dupree Road and Gurdon Road – while MacCarthy says it is “too large”, “out of keeping with the principally Victorian and other later housing of the area” and will worsen existing congestion, posing particular risks to pupils at Fossdene School.

40 Victoria Way proposal
View up Victoria Way taken from the original application

The Charlton Society has branded it a “monolithic, totally alien imposition” that is “devoid of human scale or any sense of enclosure”, suggesting the smaller next door development as a template to start from.

Transport for London wants to see most of the parking spaces removed from the scheme, which sits between both Westcombe Park and Charlton stations, while the Greater London Authority has also raised concerns about the high level of car parking spaces.

40 Victoria Way application

The level of opposition from councillors marks this out as a particularly sensitive application within Greenwich Council’s ruling Labour group.

Worth watching will be whether council leader Denise Hyland and deputy leader Danny Thorpe take their places on the planning committee – Greenwich is rare among London boroughs in having the council leader directly involved in these decisions – and whether the relatively high number of homes for social rent have helped seal the deal.

Consultation for the proposal has been handled by Cratus Communications, whose deputy chairman is former council leader Chris Roberts. In July 2016, Hyland and fellow planning board member Norman Adams joined Roberts on a town twinning trip to Berlin.

A much more modest development close to Eltham station was rejected by the same committee in September on the grounds of lack of car parking.

The 9 January meeting will also decide on a 100-bed extension to Queen Elizabeth Hospital on land facing Charlton Cemetery.

Fairview trims Victoria Way development but keeps 10-storey blocks

40 Victoria Way design
The plan includes two 10-storey blocks next to the railway line

Plans for new homes on the remainder of the old Thorn Lighting site on Victoria Way have been revised, cutting the number of dwellings from 341 to 330.

But developer Fairview New Homes still plans to build 10-storey blocks on the site, which has caused anxiety among residents who live close to the proposed scheme.

Fairview submitted the plans back in June, but has now changed its proposals following discussions with Greenwich Council planning department.

40 Victoria Way application

It says 35% of the new homes will be “affordable”, while a nursery and business space have also been added to the scheme.

The changes are, according to the planning documents:

  • 330 new dwellings, including 35% affordable homes – tenures and mix as previously ‘agreed’ with RBG Planning Policy, namely 77 rented (including 29 family rented units) plus 37 intermediate /shared ownership.
  • New D1 Nursery building at approx. 439m2, with a potential child capacity of 125 children depending on ages and up to 22 staff / jobs – based on DfE / OFSTED requirements.
  • A new dedicated B1 employment building – building ‘A’ at 999m2 (GIA) of open-plan flexible floor-space, suitable for SME workspace, with a capacity of approximately 85 FTE roles. A combined potential employment offering of approximately 107 jobs.
  • Design improvements to the ground floor layout and elevations along Victoria Way and the internal ‘Avenue’
  • Increase provision of 3-bed family units to 89, bringing the percentage to 27%.

40 Victoria Way proposal
View up Victoria Way taken from the original application
40 Victoria Way scheme
View from Gurdon Road, taken from the original application
Victoria Way scheme
The tall block can be seen in this view from Fossdene School

The scheme can be found by searching for reference 17/1795/F on Greenwich Council’s planning pages. Comments need to be in by 13 December.

Travellers occupy Fairview development site at Victoria Way

Travellers on Fairview New Homes site

It’s almost predictable, really. Large company takes ownership of large plot of land in south-east London for development. Large company doesn’t secure the land properly. Then the neighbours find a load of caravans parked on their doorstep.

It happened when Ikea took over the site of its new Greenwich store, and it’s now happened at the Fairview New Homes site on Victoria Way, where the company recently put in a planning application to build 341 new homes on land that had been occupied by storage depots.

Travellers on Fairview New Homes site

The caravan invasion is unlikely to endear Fairview to neighbours who are already unhappy about its plans to build blocks of up to 10 storeys on the land (reduced from 11 storeys after a recent consultation).

Travellers on Fairview New Homes site

Fairview’s plans are currently being considered by Greenwich Council. Its former leader Chris Roberts and chief executive Mary Ney now work for lobbying company Cratus Communications, which is working with Fairview on the development.

Travellers on Fairview New Homes site

One Charlton Champion reader kindly sent in these snaps, saying: “As I went past last night I took some pics and the kids ran out throwing stones and planks of wood at me. They also seem to have a dog unit at the front of the site, guarding it presumably.”

That particular incident has been reported to police. Local residents will now be hoping their new neighbours won’t be around for long.