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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Charlton Riverside gains two new conservation areas

Cory boatyard, Charlton
The Cory boatyard is now in a conservation area

Greenwich Council’s cabinet has approved two new conservation areas around Charlton Riverside, which it hopes will preserve the area’s historic character as it prepares for huge redevelopment schemes.

One area includes the old Cory boatyards, the Anchor & Hope pub, Atlas and Derrick Gardens and Stone Foundries. The other, Barrier and Bowater, includes remnants of the old Siemens plant, the Thames Barrier, housing on Woolwich Road, the old Clancy’s pub and part of Maryon Park.

Last week’s cabinet meeting heard from local residents, and senior planner Victoria Geoghegan said the decision would “bring a positive approach to placemaking”.

Council leader Denise Hyland said: “We’ve got eight and a half miles of riverfront, and we have to celebrate that and look after that waterfront.”

Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy has previously reported on his Facebook page that council planners had come under pressure from a developer to abandon the idea because of the cost of maintaining the buildings.

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  • Vote for Charlton’s Big Red Bus Club to get new windows from council fund

    The Big Red Bus Club
    “We need new windows!”

    Charlton’s Big Red Bus Club children’s centre wants your backing in a council-run vote to get £8,000 to replace its windows.

    Residents in most of Charlton are eligible to vote in the poll in how to spend the Greenwich Neighbourhood Growth Fund, which is money taken from a levy the council has to charge on developers.

    Greenwich councillors decided last year to divide the borough into four areas, which would hold their own online votes on how to spend the money. Most of Charlton has been grouped with Woolwich and Kidbrooke for these votes.

    The only Charlton project in this round of voting is for the Big Red Bus Club, the free children’s play centre in Charlton Park.

    It wants £8,400 to install new windows: “The project aims to replace windows at Charlton Under-5s Play Centre and refurbish the locks of the metal security grate, bringing both into use after decades of disrepair. It is currently home to the Big Red Bus Club, a family wellbeing centre that runs a range of free services for local families.”

    The other projects in the vote are Greenwich and Lewisham Youth Theatre, based in the Royal Arsenal, and a digital inclusion programme on the Woolwich Common Estate.

    To vote, you need to open an account on the council website – www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/register – then once that’s one, vote at www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/growthfund, picking area three.

    Council website typo

    Please note: it’s definitely windows they’re replacing. Windows.

    Live in Peninsula ward? One quirk of this scheme is that if you live in Peninsula ward (north of the railway line and west of Ransom Walk), you’re included in Greenwich and Blackheath’s vote.

    Projects very near Charlton vying for your vote in that poll include a digital inclusion programme at Mycenae House, an equipment upgrade at the Blackheath Westcombe Autism Support project based at the Montessori school on Westcombe Hill, a pond-dipping platform at the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park, and new outdoor play equipment for The Bridge play centre in East Greenwich Pleasance. More at www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/growthfund.

    37 new council homes to replace Charlton Village sheltered housing

    Fletching Road drawing
    The proposed development on Fletching Road, with Charlton Church Lane to the left

    Plans for 37 new council homes to replace a 1980s sheltered housing block behind Charlton Village were backed by Greenwich Council’s main planning committee last night.

    The council’s Planning Board endorsed the scheme by three votes to one, with two abstentions, after concerns were raised about the way the council had gone about consulting people who live next to Fred Styles House, which faces demolition.

    The block will be replaced by three 1-bedroom and five 2-bedroom flats, along with 16 one-bedroom, seven 2-bedroom and six 3-bedroom houses, all for social rent.

    While the current block only allows access to Charlton Church Lane through a gate, the new scheme will see two pedestrian walkways linking it with Fletching Road, which runs behind The Village.

    Residents of the homes that surround Fred Styles House have voiced concerns that turning their area into a pedestrian thoroughfare will lead to an increase in crime.

    Fred Styles House
    Fred Styles House as seen from Charlton Church Lane
    Fred Styles House
    The current building has 42 bedsits and closed in October 2013

    One resident, who lives next door to the proposed development, told councillors she only found out last week that the development would come right up against the side of her house – building over a path she uses to access her front garden, particularly when emptying bins.

    Another complained that construction of three one-bedroom flats would block out daylight and lead to two homes being “enclosed like caves”, while one objector said residents’ questions had been met with “stock answers, don’t knows or ‘we’ll get back to you'”.

    Fred Styles House
    Many of the upset neighbours’ homes have this view of the current Fred Styles House

    One of the architects behind the new development told the meeting that he wanted the site to feel “much more villagey” with a “traditional approach to housing”. His aim was to create “a little neighbourhood”.

    Fletching Road houses
    How the new homes will look

    Several councillors indicated they were unhappy with the way the residents had been consulted. Council deputy leader Danny Thorpe said there was “potential for an off-line discussion” about giving existing residents communal bins to ease the problems caused by losing space near their homes. Kidbrooke with Hornfair councillor Norman Adams voiced concerns about the homes having flat roofs so close to a conservation area.

    Planning chair Mark James said he backed the scheme but wanted the applicant – the council – to “engage further” with residents, adding that open walkways actually reduced the risk of crime.

    Fletching Road development
    A 3D view of the development

    The council was spared the embarrassment of seeing its own housing proposal thrown out, with three councillors – James, Thorpe, and Mark Elliott – backing the scheme to one – Clive Mardner – against. Two – Adams and Geoff Brighty – abstained.

  • Last night’s meeting also approved plans to transform the Woolwich “island site” – the former home of Greenwich University – with 300 new homes.
  • Council planning blunder may mean unwanted phone mast for Siebert Road

    The site sits just behind houses on Westcombe Hill

    A fuller version of this story can be read at 853.

    A Greenwich Council planning blunder means residents of Westcombe Hill may get a mobile phone mast at the end of their gardens – despite planners refusing permission for it.

    Residents who thought their protests against the mast had paid off were shocked to find diggers turning up last week – and had to persuade contractors to stop work.

    Agents acting for Vodafone and O2 applied for permission to build a mast on land off Siebert Road, next to the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach in September 2016. The land sits between homes on Westcombe Hill and the dual carriageway, which divides Charlton and Blackheath.

    Council planners refused the application in November after protests from residents, citing its “prominent location, height, design, scale, appearance and poor siting would lead to a cluttered and an over-dominant appearance within the location and when viewed from the neighbouring conservation area”.

    But the council took too long to reject the application – under planning law, a council needs to respond within 56 days to prevent this type of application. Greenwich took 57 days to respond, meaning Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd (CTIL), which runs Vodafone and O2’s networks, has permission to build the mast by default, so long as the property owner agrees.

    Land ownership confusion

    However, there is confusion as to who actually owns the land – it had been believed it was owned by Greenwich Council, but Land Registry documents indicate that it is actually owned by Transport for London. The planned location of the mast is on the route Bramshot Avenue used to take before construction work started on the A102 in 1967.

    Confusion over the land ownership and relevant permits meant contractors had to stop work, while residents have been urged to lobby TfL to refuse permission if it is confirmed that the mayor’s transport agency owns the land.

    Siebert Road, 1 August 2017
    Residents already have to live with the noise and pollution from the A102 – typical evening rush-hour congestion can be seen behind

    A letter sent to residents by senior planning officer Victoria Geoghegan and seen by this website says: “Regretfully and due to a systems error, the application wasn’t determined within the 56-day period which means it is deemed to be consented and the mast can now be installed provided all other permissions are obtained.

    “It is extremely unfortunate that the application wasn’t determined in 56 days given representations objecting to the scheme were made. I can assure you that the system now now been corrected to ensure this will not happen again.”

    Greenwich Council sorry

    Residents are lobbying local politicians and starting their own campaign, Westcombe Hill Against the Mast (Wham), to fight the proposal.

    A spokesperson for CTIL told this website: “Vodafone and O2 customers expect to be able to use their mobiles and devices where they live, work and travel. Base stations are low powered devices which cover approximately half a mile in radius, therefore we have to put base stations close to our customers.

    “Vodafone and O2 identified that they need to improve the coverage to their customers in Blackheath and we now have consent for a base station on Siebert Road. We have received a query on the land ownership at the proposed location and are currently investigating this point.”

    A Greenwich Council spokesperson said: “The Royal Borough listened and responded to residents’ objections to this phone mast. Planning permission was refused on 14 November 2016. An IT fault regrettably resulted in this decision coming after the legal 56 day period and therefore planning permission was attained ‘by default.’ We apologise to residents and are determined, going forward, to make sure that all works on the site only proceed with the landowner’s permission.”

    More on this story, including other planning mistakes in the borough, at 853.

    Charlton skate park: Work starts as council plans October opening

    Charlton skate park site, 24 July 2017
    It’s coming… work began today on turning a corner of Charlton Park into a new skate park. Greenwich Council plans to have the new facility ready in October, and work is due to take place on the site between 8am and 6pm on weekdays.

    Detailed designs were given final planning permission earlier this month. Already, a tree has been felled to make way for the new facility, which will curve around the outdoor gym.

    The skate park, which is funded by Berkeley Homes and replaces one it has built on in Woolwich, caused some controversy with a Friends of Charlton Park group being formed to fight the proposals.

    However, with that battle lost, the group is looking for new members – so if you want to get in involved in the future of Charlton Park and its new skate park, application forms should be in the Old Cottage Cafe.

    Dirty Charlton: Councillors to discuss Greenwich’s struggling street cleaning service

    Flytipping
    Street dumping off the Woolwich Road – a regular hotspot not covered by the “taskforce”

    Noticed any changes in how clean your street is? Changes in Greenwich Council’s street cleaning services are being discussed by a panel of councillors on Tuesday – with a special focus on Charlton.

    Internal changes in how the service is run means streets are now – apparently – swept on the same day as rubbish and recycling are collected. For most of Charlton, that will mean Monday, although for some streets towards Maryon Park this is Thursday.

    Councillors on the Community Safety and Environment Panel will be reviewing the progress of the new arrangements at Woolwich Town Hall on Tuesday evening.

    A report presented by council officers reveals cuts in funding have hit a service which already gets less cash per resident than neighbouring Lewisham and Southwark boroughs, with street cleaning services predicted to overspend by £1.6 million this year (or 8/10ths of a tall ships regatta).

    It also claims that “perceptions that streets are not as clean as they have been in the past” are just perceptions, as fewer people are contacting the council to complain – although in August, Greenwich borough failed more than one in ten inspections of street detritus.

    A separate report admits there have been specific problems in Charlton – but not all streets are getting the attention needed to deal with the issue.

    Earlier this year, part of Plumstead got an “environmental taskforce” to deal with flytipping and other issues. The approach, the report says, “proved successful”, so has resulted in similar teams “being deployed in the Charlton area following a meeting with the Charlton Church Residents Association [sic] in December 2015″.

    Taskforce area
    The taskforce area. Almost all the Charlton Central Residents Association patch (west of Charlton Church Lane) is covered, along with Floyd Road, once notorious for flytips

    So, if you live in the area covered by Charlton Central Residents Association – along with a stretch of Charlton Church Lane, Floyd Road and the Valley Grove Estate – you should be getting extra street cleaning and prompt attention to flytipping.

    The report says: “The introduction of the Charlton Taskforce has improved the public realm, especially around the Charlton station area where litter was a particularly problem [sic] and in the vicinity of Charlton Athletic FC, where street cleansing operations are now more effectively co-ordinated to coincide with home game fixture timings.”

    However, it appears the rest of the area is still being neglected – something highlighted by Greenwich’s annual struggle to deal with autumn leaf fall.

    Victoria Way, 12 November
    These leaves were actually taken away – but it was Victoria Way’s first sweep for many weeks

    I’ve heard anecdotal reports of streets not being swept for weeks on end – and there’s certainly evidence of leaves being left in piles and abandoned on Charlton Road and elsewhere rather than being bagged and taken away.

    Unfortunately, dealing with Greenwich’s street services teams can be like a war of attrition.

    After a Greenwich councillor claimed streets were being swept on Mondays, I thought I’d take some photos…

    Wellington Gardens (left) and Victoria Way (right), Sunday 30 October
    Wellington Gardens (left) and Victoria Way (right), Sunday 30 October

    On Sunday 30 October, I took some pictures ahead of the supposed Monday sweep. Left is Wellington Gardens (in the area covered by the taskforce), right is Victoria Way.

    Wellington Gardens (left) and Victoria Way (right)
    Wellington Gardens (left) and Victoria Way (right), Wednesday 2 November

    On Wednesday 2 November, I returned. And guess what? The street covered by the taskforce had been swept. Victoria Way had been ignored. I later found a bag of leaves had been abandoned further down Victoria Way – it appeared a council cleaner had just walked off the job and left it there.

    But even after presenting these photos to local councillor Gary Parker, who then pressed officers and senior councillors to act, it took Greenwich Council 10 days to bother sweeping the leaves off Victoria Way – and that was only after I copied local MP Matthew Pennycook into a follow-up complaint. There was no response to me from any of the council officers involved, although it was noticeable that neighbouring streets were ignored.

    Victoria Way
    Three separate reports of this bent lamp post have been sent to Greenwich Council – but nobody has taken action

    While the council is to be applauded for using the FixMyStreet system, it clearly isn’t using it properly – three separate reports of a dangerously bent lamp post on Victoria Way have been filed since last Thursday; nobody has acted on them at the time of publishing.

    It’s also clear that council staff aren’t encouraged to report street issues themselves, as they are in Lewisham – refuse teams will have passed that bent lamp post three times on Monday.

    Fix My Street map
    This map of live Fix My Street reports shows how the taskforce does not address areas such as Victoria Way, Charlton Lane and Gallon Close. A further hotspot, around Marlborough Lane/Canberra Road, is not on this map.

    FixMyStreet also reveals reports that anyone with a basic knowledge of the area will know have been simply ignored. They’ve been filed, but not carried out.

    If the councillors take their job seriously, they should be looking at the map of complaints. And if council officers are recording a drop in complaints, it may be because people have lost confidence in the council’s ability to respond.


    “Leaves and litter piling up at the beginning Canberra Rd, junction with Marlborough Lane and Charlton Road”
    (28 October)

    “Rubbish needs sweeping up. Lots of paper rubbish and tree rubbish needs clearing up – it’s not been done for a few weeks.” (Marlborough Lane, 22 August)

    “The top section of Victoria Way beside the shops has been getting more and more littered over the past few months. As well as being unsightly, it is encouraging or at least condoning littering in the area. Yesterday, I had to ask someone to pick their litter up when I saw them dropping crisp packets right on the pavement.” (15 August)

    “This road has not been swept in months, leaves are now a major issue, causing blocked drains and dangerous conditions for pedestrians walking down Charlton Lane” (10 November)

    “After 2+ months this side of the road on Bramhope Lane still hasn’t been swept.” (6 October)

    It goes on. There are also numerous reports of flytipping in Charlton Lane and at the Woolwich Road end of Victoria Way, as well as Gallon Close – another reminder that the “taskforce” appears to be far too narrow in scope, and perhaps has been partly influenced by lobbying rather than data.

    Has the taskforce worked for you? Did you even notice any difference? Please share your experiences below.