Greenwich Council set to sell The Heights parking spaces to ‘compact homes’ developer

The Heights
The plot of land sits above The Valley and Sam Bartram House

Greenwich councillors have voted to sell car parking spaces at The Heights to a private developer, promising to invest the proceeds in new council housing.

The small plot of land, which overlooks The Valley, will be sold to developer Pocket Living, subject to a consultation with council tenants who live nearby.

Pocket believes it can build 45 one-bedroom flats in a four-storey building.

Greenwich Council’s cabinet also voted to sell two other plots of land to the same company – one off Kidbrooke Park Road and the other on the Orchard Estate in Lewisham, providing 151 one-bedroom flats across the three sites.

The developer, which specialises in “affordable compact homes for first time buyers”, will sell the homes to Greenwich residents at a 20% discount, with a covenant in place to ensure they cannot be sold for a year after purchase. No parking permits will be issued to buyers.

The Heights
The entrance to the site from The Heights

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

80% of the proceeds from the sale will go into new council housing, with the remainder being used to improve the immediate area in the housing estates affected.

The proposal has been criticised because of the small size of Pocket’s homes, and the fact the council had opted to sell to a private firm rather than Meridian Home Start, the company it set up to deliver housing at 65% of market rents. Neither criticism was directly addressed in the meeting.

The Heights
Residents currently use the land for car parking and recycling

Regeneration director Pippa Hack, the senior council officer in charge of the scheme, said developing all three sites would deliver between £100,000 and £130,000 in council tax receipts.

“All the homes will be for sale to people who live or work in the borough, and 70% of buyers who buy through Pocket have incomes of up to £40,000. They will be sold at 20% discount compared to the local market, there will be a restrictive covenant that secures the properties in perpetuity, so there will be no sub-letting or no sales in year one,” she added.

Asked by deputy leader David Gardner what the council would do if the consultation revealed significant opposition to the scheme, Hack said officers would need to judge if the concerns outweighed the benefits of the scheme.

Cabinet member Averil Lekau added: “It seems obvious to me that you will listen to the views of residents and you will weigh that up. We would never say we would go to consultation unless it was meaningful.”

Leader Danny Thorpe said: “There have been some comments online about these particular schemes and our decision to dispose of the land; I would point out that on The Heights in Charlton, that is actually contaminated land that we are looking to dispose of; and while I appreciate that there have been some concerns about that, we have to address the housing crisis in any way we can.

“The land we are looking at here is land that we haven’t been able to make the best use of as an authority, so that conversation with residents will hopefully be a positive one when we explain what we’re doing.

“And also, we can utilise some money directly for us to build our own homes, council homes at social rents. It won’t provide us with the funds to provide all the homes we need, but it will provide us with some. And we have to start somewhere.”

One resident of the housing opposite The Heights plot was unaware of the scheme when The Charlton Champion visited the site on Wednesday. When told what the council was planning, she responded: “What? But we need that for our car parking!”

Last October, Greenwich councillors approved plans to build 37 new homes at nearby Fred Styles House, on Charlton Church Lane, a scheme that was later switched to Meridian Home Start.

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Council backs amended plans for Charlton riverside

On Monday night Greenwich Council’s cabinet agreed to adopt the masterplan for Charlton riverside.

This follows a four week period of consultation and a new document being drafted after responses from the public.

The main differences to this new version are the following:

1) The designated area now encompasses Charlton station.

2) A firmer commitment to downgrade Woolwich Road.

3) A mention of a green bridge as one option for a crossing at the eastern section of Woolwich Road.

4)  A nod towards enhancing Charlton railway station and improving its connections with other modes of transport.

5) The idea for a marina has changed to “leisure activities on the waterfront” due to concerns from the Port of London Authority that it would interfere with other river uses.

6) There’s a sentence added that calls for a limiting of retail uses in Charlton “to support the aspirations of Woolwich becoming a metropolitan centre”, which possibly came after pressure from investment vehicle Powis Street Estates who own buildings in the heart of the town. A council officer at the meeting stated that any new planning applications for the retail park would have to fulfill impact assessments so as not to take trade away from Woolwich.

Residents also addressed the cabinet at the meeting. Some representing local groups such as CRAG, the Charlton Society and the Westcombe Society. Each underlined the main themes from their formal responses. There were calls for Charlton to be seen as a whole and for residents and businesses to be involved as much as possible. The traversing of Woolwich Road was highlighted as key as well as improving our streetscapes.

Charlton Champion reader Ashleigh Marsh also raised the point that blogs (like this one) should form part of the consultation process, or at least noted.

Before the meeting a crowd had gathered outside Woolwich Town Hall protesting at the potential loss of businesses and the poor consultation. On further investigation it’s believed that this lobby group were actually the Christ Faith Tabernacle Church. They’ve recently been in the news with their battle to take over the former Gala Bingo building in Woolwich – something Woolwich’s masterplan conflicts directly with. Why they weren’t more up front with their intentions is beyond me, but it might have something to do with council statistics showing only 10% of these objectors live within the borough.

It’s probably best not to get too carried away and come back to what a supplementary planning document actually is. My own knowledge tells me that it will complement the overall plan for the borough. It will add to a “core strategy” and will be taken into consideration in future planning applications.

This point was reiterated by councillors and officers on Monday night. Council leader Chris Roberts added:

“Changes won’t necessarily happen overnight, next week or next year. This is a think-through as to what might happen when traditional industry moves on.”

I’m guessing the next step will be to confirm the actual core strategy.

Keep your eyes peeled for another consultation period.