Have your say on controversial Pocket Living plans for 48 ‘compact flats’ on The Heights

The Heights development
The blocks would sit behind two-storey homes on The Heights

Controversial plans to build homes little bigger than studio flats on Greenwich Council land at The Heights have been submitted to town hall planners.

Pocket Living plans to build 48 flats on land currently used for car parking space. It specialises in building “compact flats” – 40 of the planned homes will be one-bedroom apartments of just 39 square metres, designed for one person to live in. Planning guidance gives the minimum size for a studio flat as 37 square metres. All 48 homes will have shared living rooms and kitchens.

Pocket Living Lewisham development
This Pocket development at Marischal Road, Lewisham, was completed in 2016

The flats are designed for first-time buyers, and would be sold at 20 per cent off market rates to Greenwich borough residents – meaning they qualify as “affordable” housing. Pocket developments have already appeared in Lewisham and New Cross, but this is the company’s first scheme in Greenwich borough.

Two linked blocks of four and five storeys are planned for the site, overlooking The Valley, with two car parking spaces for residents – 21 spaces for existing residents will be relocated. The blocks will be next to the two-storey homes of The Heights estate.

Greenwich Council had hoped to sell three plots of land to Pocket, investing the proceeds in new council housing elsewhere. But proposals to sell land off Lewisham Road and Kidbrooke Park Road were abandoned after protests from residents and Labour councillors. Of 41 Labour councillors in post at the time, 12 attended a protest meeting at Charlton House. Many were angry that the council was not developing the land itself or handing the site to Meridian Home Start, its spin-off housing company.

However, plans for The Heights, which sits on contaminated land that Pocket will have to clean up before it starts work, have continued.

Pocket Living render
The flats would overlook The Valley

The company is financially supported by Sadiq Khan’s administration at City Hall, while former Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford sits on the board of the company. A viability assessment submitted with the proposal shows that the company can expect to make a 17.5 per cent profit on the scheme.

Residents have until 19 August to have their say on the proposals on the Greenwich Council website (or search for reference 20/1967/F)


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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.
See more about how The Charlton Champion uses LDRS content.



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Cllr Gary Parker’s Charlton Ward Report: Summer 2018

What has Charlton ward councillor GARY PARKER been up to? Here’s his latest report.

Cllr Gary ParkerDear Charlton Residents, this is my current ward report, this is a snapshot of my recent activities it does not cover individual case work or a range of other meetings. I try to highlight a few key activities which maybe of general interest. Please contact me direct if you want more information: gary.parker[at]royalgreenwich.gov.uk Twitter: @CllrG2013.

Charlton Society – I attended the Charlton Society meeting on redevelopment and regeneration of the village and surrounding areas, together with my co-councillors and other officers from the Charlton Society, some good ideas came forward, I will be working with the CS and others to develop and support these ideas wherever possible. A meeting is scheduled in the near future with council officers and we gave the Charlton Society some information about current funding opportunities through the council – more below.

New Funding- Charlton-based organisations or those that support Charlton residents can now bid for new funding from the council this includes the ward budget – your ward councillors want to give money to as many local organisations as possible within the £30,000 budget allowable and also from the Community Infrastructure Levy (to be launched on 17 September) – a fund from actual development to support local neighbourhoods. There is over £109k to support projects in four wards including Charlton. This is a one year fund with more money available next year – for more info see www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk.

[Charlton Champion note: read more about previous ward budget funding here]

Planning & Development Issues – I have been working with local groups and individuals regarding a range of planning issues, yet again. I opposed the recent application by Rockwell and spoke at the planning board meeting on this in July as did many local residents. The application was rejected but since then, the Mayor of London has ‘called in’ the decision for review, as he claims that Greenwich has not been achieving its affordable housing targets. In my view this call in is a challenge to local democracy, the planning board, who I have been sharply critical of in the past, did the right thing as did local residents. There is a large group of residents, community organisations, businesses and groups in the area actively opposing this development – I will support them as much as I can. If the application is upheld by the Mayor I will be encouraging the council to seek a judicial review on this issue. I will continue to campaign vigorously on this issue, which is now as much about local democracy as it is about planning issues and defending local communities against big developers.

Pocket Homes – Pocket Living is a property development company supported by the Mayor of London which builds homes for sale to first time buyers at reduced prices. The Council cabinet took a decision on 16 July to go out to consultation with residents on the sale of three plots of land to the company at three sites – in Blackheath Westcombe, Greenwich West, and The Heights in Charlton. I called in this decision with Cllr Fletcher from Blackheath ward, a “call-in” is a council process by which councillors can ask for decisions to be reviewed. I have some specific concerns which I raised about: social value, the impact in Charlton ward, land contamination at the site and the nature of the consultation. Many local residents attended this meeting and they too voiced their concerns. Since then this issue has featured significantly in social media and in the local press.

Events & Engagements – A selection

I attended two Better Together Community Engagement events covering Charlton.

I attended the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust board meeting on 17th July and raised a number of local issues including parking charges at Charlton House and access to the archives for local residents and historians – I will issue a separate report on the trust soon.

I support the John Roan- anti academisation campaign and attended the picket line to support striking workers in July.

I attended and supported the new Greenwich Housing Forum which held an open public meeting about housing issues in the Borough – I estimate nearly 100 people attended- more info @greenwich_forum

I chaired the Council’s Regeneration Scrutiny Panel on 23 July – it reviews policy and executive actions on regeneration issues in the borough.

I held a meeting with the council’s deputy chief executive about the Woolwich Creative District and other heritage and regeneration issues in the Charlton area on 24 August.

SURGERIES/CASEWORK – Raised a very large amount of housing and planning related casework, community safety and crime related issues which is ongoing. I also dealt with some issues in Charlton Park related to alleged drug dealing and anti -social behaviour and continued graffiti and vandalism around the toilets. I am concerned about the escalation of such behaviour in Charlton Park and am working with my co-councillors to address this issue.

COUNCIL  I also attended the July 2018 full council meeting and the main overview and scrutiny panel meetings of which I am a member. This received reports from senior council officers and cabinet members about major issues in Greenwich.

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