MP criticises ‘bad practice’ at Fairview New Homes’ Synergy development on Victoria Way

Fairview Synergy development
The Synergy development is now poking into the sky above Charlton

Local MP Matt Pennycook has reacted angrily after the developer behind 330 new homes being built on Victoria Way shrugged off complaints about the impact of construction work on the site’s neighbours.

Fairview New Homes dismissed a series of issues raised by Pennycook on behalf of residents about dirt, idling construction vehicles and work taking place outside permitted hours.

Its senior site manager, Matthew Hook, said “we can only assume that the points raised are generally historical” and said that Greenwich Council was happy with the cracked state of the road outside the development site, which is being branded Synergy.

After effectively being told residents’ complaints were groundless, Pennycook has now said he will name the company in Parliament as an example of bad practice in the construction sector. He is also asking for residents with complaints to get in touch with him and the company.

Greenwich had threatened Fairview with an unlimited fine in December 2018 after complaints that contractors were working outside permitted hours. Hook claimed that the work was actually being carried out by a utility firm.

Fairview Synergy
Residents have had to put up with dust and construction lorries

Hook also said that the points had been addressed in a meeting with the council on 25 February, and that no further complaints had been made since.

“So to summarise, all of the concerns raised in your letter have already been discussed, reviewed and mitigated following a meeting between [Fairview] and [Greenwich Council] on the 25/02/19 and to date, since the meeting we have had no further complaints or correspondence from local residents or [Greenwich Council] or any other industry bodies such as the Considerate Constructors Scheme regarding the development on Victoria Way,” Hook wrote.

However, the residents’ complaints were made to Pennycook at a roving advice surgery on 30 March, more than a month after the meeting with the council, with the letter written on 14 May.

Pennycook has responded: “It is patently the case that local residents do have outstanding complaints about construction management on the site. Rather than seeking to dismiss these complaints as you did in your letter, a responsible developer would have engaged with the substance of each of them and given due consideration as to what more could be done to alleviate them.

“I intend to name [Fairview] on the floor of the House of Commons and use your letter as an example of bad practice in the sector as well as making additional direct representations to ministers at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.”

The source of residents’ gripes was clear on Thursday afternoon, with surfaces on the lower stretch of Victoria Way covered in dust from construction. While a site worker hosed down the entrance to the development, nothing was being done about dust and grime outside people’s homes. The wheels of a passing construction truck did not appear to have been washed.

Fairview Synergy site
Fairview has hosed down the road and pavement outside the site, but not outside people’s homes

An eight-strong committee of councillors approved the scheme, which includes two 10-storey blocks and 144 car parking spaces, by six votes to one in January 2018. Among the complaints from residents was a lack of consultation with neighbours about the scheme, and accusations of bullying tactics.

Fairview has not responded to a request for comment.

Cratus Communications, whose deputy chairman is former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts, handled the consultation for the Victoria Way scheme. Last month, the company published a blog post on its website claiming it was “quietly revolutionising and abolishing the traditional view of ‘faceless’ developers sweeping into town and ‘doing what they like’”. “Communication with existing residents has to be managed carefully and with tact,” it added.

If you live close to the Victoria Way development and are affected by the dirt and grime from Fairview New Homes’ Synergy development, please email matthew.pennycook.mp[at]parliament.uk, and copy in matthew.hook[at]fairview.co.uk. Comments are also open below.


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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: 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).

(Ray Walker (Labour, Eltham West – vice-chair) indicated he had voted for the development but did not count himself in the total.)

Vote against: Geoff Brighty (Conservative, Blackheath Westcombe)

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.