B&Q Greenwich store could go in plan for 1,400 homes on Ikea car park

London Square render
The scheme would see housing built above Ikea’s car park

East Greenwich’s B&Q store could be replaced by a major new housing development on the site of the current Ikea store car park.

Developer London Square has opened a consultation into its plans for the Millennium Retail Park, which would see Ikea and the Odeon cinema remain, but the 20-year-old DIY warehouse disappear.

Up to 1,400 homes could be built in a proposal that would link Greenwich Millennium Village and existing communities in east Greenwich after nearly a quarter of a century. Details are sketchy, but London Square promises to “transform the existing site and create a new neighbourhood that will deliver new homes, cafés, shops and new pedestrian-friendly spaces, including a new public square at the heart of the site”.

Most buildings would be around seven or eight storeys, but some could be up to 20 storeys tall. Car parking for Ikea and the Odeon would be below the development, potentially on the ground floor. The development site does not include the Sainsbury’s petrol station left over from when the supermarket moved to Gallions Road in 2015.

Ikea car park
The site is currently a 1,000-space car park

“We are working to agree a temporary parking solution with Ikea for the construction period,” the developer says. Work on the scheme could begin in spring 2023.

Nearly a quarter of the homes – 24.5 per cent – would be for London Affordable Rent, about half market rent, with 10.5 per cent being for shared ownership. Like most major new developments in the area, it would be car-free, with residents banned from obtaining parking permits.

B&Q Greenwich
B&Q last spring: the DIY chain’s lease is running out

The developer plans a “green shield” to protect the development from the adjacent A102, which is likely to be also carrying Silvertown Tunnel traffic when the development is finished. It says it will “comprise a mix of trees, planting, a living wall and building massing adjoining the Blackwall Tunnel approach, that will protect the site to the north from the pollution and noise created by this busy route”.

“The development will serve as an ecological bridge between the suburban gardens of Westcombe Park and the green spaces within the Greenwich Millennium Village Ecological Park,” the developer adds in the consultation.

A similar principle is used nearby where blocks in Greenwich Millennium Village are designed to shield residents from the aggregate works at Angerstein Wharf.

The site has been a retail park since 1999, when Sainsbury’s opened its ill-fated “eco-store” on the site, with the cinema and other retail following after that. Ikea replaced Sainsbury’s two years ago. Before the site became a retail park, it served as a sports club for the nearby gasworks, before the Metrogas club moved to Avery Hill in 1989.

Two months ago, Greenwich councillors approved detailed plans for the final phase of Greenwich Millennium Village, backing plans for 489 homes on a site across Bugsby’s Way from B&Q and Ikea.

London Square render
The developers promise new retail space in the scheme

The scheme could potentially form a template for redeveloping the Charlton retail parks to the east of the site. None are currently in line for development, although a recent council planning document suggested the Makro site off Anchor and Hope Lane “should accommodate a mix of small and medium sized commercial, retail, leisure and community uses and flexible SME space”.

London Square is currently redeveloping the old Greenwich police station site on Burney Street into 59 homes. Its other developments include the former Crosse and Blackwell factory in Bermondsey and the old Royal Star and Garter Home in Richmond.

The consultation is open at mrpgreenwich.co.uk, with virtual events taking place at 6pm on Thursday 25 and Monday 29 March.


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Ikea Greenwich’s first weekend: How were the traffic jams for you?

A102
Sunday afternoon and the queue can be seen building up from the A102 (photo: Neil Clasper)

So, the first weekend with an Ikea on our doorstep is over. How was it for you?

The east Greenwich Ikea’s first Saturday appeared to get off to a quiet start with traffic appearing to be a little quieter than normal – but queues did start to build, not helped by congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel. In the retail park itself, queues (of people) formed during the afternoon, with Transport for London reporting congestion in the area.

As for Sunday, “car park full” signs went up and long lines of traffic formed on Woolwich Road…

None of this was helped by there being no trains on the Greenwich line, of course. Sustainable transport, eh?

But… was this any worse than usual? This is the old Sainsbury’s store, taken on a Sunday afternoon in 2014.

Former Sainsbury's Greenwich
Missing: Big blue box

As one of The Charlton Champion‘s wisest social media correspondents points out, traffic has always been horrible.

Ikea – with its notoriety for bringing areas to a standstill – has merely become the latest poster child for years of bad planning and short-term thinking in the Charlton/ east Greenwich retail parks. And there’s been years of bad feeling built up by a decision to approve a store that perhaps could have been better-placed on the quiet dual carriageways of Thamesmead.

While Charlton has had warehouse shopping since the 1970s, it intensified in the late 1990s with the appearance of Peninsula Park (Pets at Home, Smyths Toys etc – approved c.1987 and 1995), the “Greenwich” Shopping Park (Sports Direct, Homesense, Hobbycraft – planning permission granted in 2000; Matalan – extension approved in 2014) and the Brocklebank Retail Park (Aldi, Next, Primark – approved 2013); providing stores which are big draws for repeat visits, rather than the DIY/furniture stores which had been the Charlton retail park staples in the 80s and 90s.

And the traffic in these retail parks, adjacent to Ikea, is frequently terrible. But few go on social media to give Matalan or its customers a kicking for causing traffic jams. Or Asda or Makro, for that matter, which have been there 35 and 45 years respectively, outlasting a whole host of other retailers.

Greenwich Shopping Park
The problem was already there: Traffic trapped “Greenwich” Shopping Park on a December Sunday

What does appear to be different, though, is the queues coming off the A102. Yet this was foreseen, and action should have been taken to prevent this.

Ikea traffic
Traffic on Sunday at 3pm, as seen on Google Maps

The 2014 legal agreement between Ikea and Greenwich Council which enables the store to be built specifically says that Ikea should have provided money for signage to be put in place directing customers away from the Woolwich Road roundabout – signage which hasn’t appeared.

Ikea legal agreement
From Ikea’s 2014 legal agreement

It is unclear quite what has happened to these signs. Pedestrian improvements, which are under the control of Greenwich Council, are due in the spring. It’s also unclear quite what local councillors are doing to make sure their officers are on top of the situation.

The first weekend seems to have been a mixed bag of experiences; some appearing to contradict each other. Early shoppers could get in and out quickly; later shoppers, less so. Travellers on the Woolwich Road seemed the unluckiest of all. Predictions of gridlock could have driven some away from the area. Whether the traffic will settle down or whether it will be like this every weekend remains to be seen.

But with many of the decisions around Ikea so far not really engendering much hope in the store’s interest in the community around it – a feeling exacerbated by the tone-deaf attitude of Greenwich Council over the years since the scheme was approved – for every shopper delighted to have a flatpack furniture emporium within half-an-hour’s drive, there’ll be a neighbour approaching each weekend with trepidation for some time to come.

If you were out and about over the weekend and saw the conditions for yourself (rather than watching on social media), please let us know your experiences in the comments below. Thank you.


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Inside Greenwich Ikea: Flatpack heaven with a little bit of greenwash

Ikea meatballs
Don’t forget the meatballs (and veggieballs)

Ahead of its official opening on Thursday, Greenwich Ikea has been holding preview days for members of its loyalty club (including Saturday – details here). The Charlton Champion‘s DARRYL CHAMBERLAIN, who has followed the saga since the store’s plans first emerged in 2013, signed up and went for a look.

We’ve been here before, of course. 19 years ago, Jamie Oliver fired a little white cannon on this site to declare the “environmentally-friendly” Greenwich Peninsula Sainsbury’s store open. Inside, you couldn’t move for reminders that this was something different – even the flooring in the toilets had a sign telling you that it came from recycled plastic.

There’s very little of that in the new Ikea which has taken its place after Sainsbury’s found some of those eco-features didn’t work and decamped half a mile down the road to somewhere bigger. For all the claims that this is Ikea’s most sustainable store yet (TM), it feels little different from any of the chain’s other London area outlets.

Some residents’ groups had pinned their hopes on something like its Harburg store in Hamburg, a high street outlet full of signs exorting German shoppers to use cycle delivery services and take public transport. There’s very little of that here.

Ikea Greenwich
Spot the spelling mistake

First impressions matter, and for those bruised at seeing the blue behemoth land in their neighbourhood, the in-store DJ’s choice of Rihanna’s We Found Love (“we found love in a hopeless place…”) seemed bleakly apt. After all, if the council had seen anything of value in this end of east Greenwich, between the traditional neighbourhood and the Millennium Village, it wouldn’t have encouraged a multinational to plonk its warehouse here.

If you love Ikea – and most people do, even if they pretend not to – then you will fall in love in this hopeless place. It’s an Ikea, doing the things Ikea do reliably well. The smaller footprint of the store means this is a little bit more cramped than other stores – but just as Ikea show you how to ingeniously squeeze stuff into your tiny flat, its twisty route through the salesfloor shows it can do this in retail too, even though it can feel a little claustrophobic at times.

Ikea Greenwich
This way forward..

Ikea-spotters will also note the marketplace – the bit where you pick smaller items off the shelves – is on two levels, with garden plants downstairs. Between the showroom and the marketplace is the restaurant, which was packed – it is likely this will be as much a draw as the furniture will be. But faced with an unpleasant walk around some of London’s most forbidding public realm to get there, will diners travel sustainably?

Ikea Greenwich

The major nod to the community is tucked away upstairs, with a roof terrace and an indoor space that can be used for events and meetings. A day of dire weather was not the best opportunity to show the roof terrace off, but views up towards Blackheath and Canary Wharf will look better when the sun’s out. Shame about the dual carriageway in between, which may make you think you’re taking a break in a motorway service station. A second nod to the community is a “learning hub” downstairs.

Downstairs, the warehouse section – where you pick up your flat-pack purchases – was seeing very little trade; somewhat surprising, as today would have offered the ideal chance to pick something big up before the crowds descend. But cheapskates will be delighted to know that Bargain Corner is already well-stocked, while the food outlet was doing a roaring trade (although the booze was taped off, clearly someone forgot to get the licence in time). Yes, there are plenty of meatballs.

Ikea Greenwich
The community hub and roof garden

In conclusion, it’s an Ikea, and if you expected anything different, go back to the start of this sentence and read it again. The store was reasonably busy for a Friday lunchtime, and the roads seemed to be holding up okay – despite the impatient (and totally unsustainable) horn-honking out on Peartree Way. How things will be next week, when the store’s first Saturday coincides with a Charlton match, is anybody’s guess.

Long-standing residents who remember this as a sports field will wince at the “sustainability” claims. This store has created jobs (about 100 have gone to people in the borough, councillors were told this week) but it would have created jobs if it had opened on the empty dual carriageways of Thamesmead – or on Eltham High Street, for that matter.

But they winced when Sainsbury’s came here, and that turned out to be something people become rather fond of. Will the people of SE10, SE7 and SE3 – so powerless when this was decided five years ago – learn to love the big blue beast in their midst? Only you can answer that.

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