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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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.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7.
– Help us by telling us your stories
– Buy Darryl a coffee at ko-fi.com
– NEW! Become a monthly patron at patreon.com/charltonchampion
– NEW! Donate directly to the site at paypal.me/charltonchampion