Greenwich Council set to sell The Heights land for private housing after only two attend consultation

The Heights
Greenwich Council plans to sell this land at The Heights for private housing

Greenwich Council can press ahead with the controversial sale of public land at The Heights despite concerns that only two residents attended consultation events.

The authority backtracked on its original proposals to sell off garage sites at the Orchard Eastate in Lewisham and Kidbrooke Park Close following protests from residents and councillors.

The plans sparked a backlash with neighbours concerned primarily about parking, and with elected officials over the use of a private developer – Pocket Living – instead of building council housing.

The council undertook a seven-week consultation before deciding to scrap two of the sales, but still wants to dispose of land at The Heights, above Charlton Athetic’s stadium.

A scrutiny panel approved the schemes in principle last night despite concerns about the council’s assumption that because few people in Charlton bothered to reply, there was little opposition.

Only 14 people replied to the consultation in Charlton, with six people disagreeing with the sale, and drop-in sessions were only attended by two residents.

Director of housing Jamie Carswell said: “There has been widespread support that there needs to be more homes in the borough. I had to weigh up that – which is borough-wide – against the level of sentiment at each particular site.

“Not to dispute that there was a small number of people responding, but I had to weigh up that lack of concern, against the overwhelming necessity for housing in general.

“This was always going to be a decision made on balance. Balancing this up, the overwhelming positivity for housing or the naturality at the Heights, that is the balance of this recommendation.”

The Heights
The land between The Heights and Sam Bartram House is contaminated

Charlton councillor Gary Parker called for more consultation to be done and questioned why Pocket had been allowed to embark on a PR drive complete with template support emails.

He said: “Pocket produced a website with a model email and produced Facebook ads and other ads to support their case. I have real concern that developers with a commercial interest have tried to influence a public consultation.

“This was a consultation about the sale of public land. In Charlton, whatever way this is spun round, only two people supported it. The Heights was a neglected estate for a long time, socially isolated with very vulnerable people there. There is a history of anti-social behaviour, all of this has contributed to the low consultation rate.

“I think you have to do further consultation work in this area. You can’t read any conclusions from this.”

Housing bosses said they threw out responses submitted through Pocket’s PR drive, none of which were considered as part of the consultation.

Councillors were told that another consultation would not change the results, citing a lack of community and opposition on the estate as a reason for the low turnout.

Chris Kirby, cabinet member for housing, said: “We ran the same consultation across all estates. Everyone had the same opportunity.

“I believe this was an exemplary consultation – people have had the opportunity to have their say, when there have been strong feelings they have told us and we have listened.

“People do not tend to overwhelmingly respond to something they don’t think is going to affect them.”

The land at The Heights is contaminated and would be too expensive for the council to build on, but specialist developer Pocket believes it can build 45 one-bedroom flats on the site.

Councillors voted to approve the recommendations but told the cabinet member to ask Pocket to build some two-bedroom homes.

Did you take part in the Pocket consultation in Charlton? If so, let us know in the comments.


LDRS logoTom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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What’s happening at Charlton House? Local councillor Gary Parker explains

Charlton House

Charlton ward councillor Gary Parker has sent us a report on what he’s been up to over the past few months. We’re presenting this in two parts – the first is about his work on the board of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, which runs Charlton House.

The Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust was formed in 2014 and I have been a board member since its inception. The special report below highlights the work myself, staff, volunteers and trustees have been involved with recently. The Trust launched a range of leaflets and promotional materials earlier this year, along with their new website where details of all events can be found at www.greenwichheritage.org.

You can also follow the Trust on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, join the mailing list, or sign up to the newsletter online for regular updates. Some recent projects include:

Here Come the Girls – The Heritage Lottery-funded project has been a great success this year. The project introduced Ivy the Nurse, Nell the Munitionette and May from the Progress Estate, 3 local women who share their stories of the First World War with the people of the borough.

Ivy was a Nurse at Charlton House, and the Family Fun Day there in the summer was a huge success. Charlton residents came to meet Nell, the rest of the nurses, and some wounded soldiers in a convalescence hospital recreated for the day. The project continues to tour the Borough with further events in Eltham and Woolwich before the end of September.

Making Woolwich – Generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Royal Artillery Museums Ltd, including the Friends of Firepower, this new gallery for the Greenwich Heritage Centre will tell the story of a Royal Artillery soldier from 1716-2016.

World Monuments Fund – The Trust’s work with the World Monuments Fund continues. Thanks to WMF funding, Donald Insall Associates have now completed the Condition Survey and Measured Drawings at Charlton House. Yale University Scholar, Lily Higgins, recently presented the findings of her research work over the summer to the Friends of Charlton House, Trustees and other invited guests. The Trust are now working on next steps toward a Heritage Lottery Fund application in partnership with the World Monuments Fund.

Other activities – The Trust delivered a programme of heritage events that continue throughout the year including Summer activities for children through August. London Open House takes place this year on Sunday 18 September, from 10am – 4pm supported by the Friends of Charlton House.

Your Devoted Frank is a dramatic performance inspired by First World War love letters found in a Plumstead home. The performance, first delivered for Valentine’s Day at Greenwich Heritage Centre, will come to Charlton House on Friday 11 November at7pm. Tickets are available from Charlton House for just £8.

I have been using my professional skills to advise the Trust on fundraising and how to generate income. I briefed Tracey Stringfellow, the CEO, on this recently and there are likely to be some new initiatives coming forward including a potential crowdfunding project – watch this space.

Charlton House continues to be a fantastic community resource and I am working with many others to improve and develop it.

The second part of Gary’s update will follow in a day or two. If you want to contact Gary Parker or any Greenwich councillor, find their details on the Greenwich Council website.