Residents snubbed as Rockwell Charlton Riverside application gets rushed through planning

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
What Rockwell says the development’s residential garden areas will look like

Plans to build 771 new homes on an industrial estate at Anchor & Hope Lane are to be considered by Greenwich councillors next week – despite residents’ appeals for the decision to be delayed because it does not fit in with the council’s vision for Charlton Riverside.

Developer Rockwell, which is acting for Channel Islands-based Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco Ltd, plans to redevelop the industrial estate behind and next to Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens, including building five 10-storey blocks.

The plans will be considered by Greenwich Council’s main planning committee on Tuesday 17 April, with planning officers recommending approval – even though Charlton Together, an alliance of local groups, appealed to the council to take the decision after 3 May’s council election.

Holding planning meetings during the pre-election period is unusual for Greenwich, but happens elsewhere, with neighbouring Lewisham rejecting a 34-storey tower next to Lewisham station last week.

Early plans were, submitted in December 2016, included a 28-storey glass tower. Those were changed to the current proposals in January 2018 to fit more closely with the council’s Charlton Riverside Masterplan, and again in March to increase the level of “affordable” housing to 25% (17.7% for social rent, 7.2% at “intermediate”) – below the council’s target of 35%. Plans were revised again last week to alter the road layout.

In total, 11 new buildings are planned, with space for retail and commercial use alongside Anchor & Hope Lane. 210 car parking spaces are planned.

Charlton Together – which includes the Charlton Society, Charlton Central Residents’ Association, Derrick and Atlas Gardens Residents’ Association, SE7 Action Group, Charlton Parkside Community Hub and local churches, says the plans represent “a wholesale departure from that masterplan”.

‘Like the Greenwich Peninsula’

It says in a letter sent to councillors, local MP Matt Pennycook and London Assembly member Len Duvall: “It will create a precedent that undermines the development of the Council’s fundamental vision for the whole area. So we are extremely concerned, that if this first application is agreed, like the development of the Greenwich peninsula, this will affect the character of the whole borough for decades to come. And we also note that this was a masterplan developed over 5 years, with two major public consultations, produced at considerable expense, with external expertise and advisory costs borne by the Council.

“We are shocked to see how far this application departs from the agreed [Charlton Riverside] SPD vision. We are disappointed at the huge discrepancy that remains between the human scale, low to medium rise vision of the masterplan and the predominantly high-rise, monolithic proposal from Rockwell. We are also dismayed at the very low levels of affordable and family housing. The wide deviation remains not just in terms of height, but also in terms of density, design and affordability.

“It is unfortunate that a more detailed infrastructure plan is not available, to inform decisions relating to the Rockwell site. We cannot see how this scheme can be approved in its current form without further clarity from the Council on infrastructure, including further details for the main east-west route, which would have to be changed as a result.

“We are concerned about how far this application has got in the planning process, to even be considered in its current format, for decision at a formal planning meeting. We are aware that an original application at the end of 2016 included a 28 storey tower. We consider that to have been a somewhat disingenuous application, intended to show ‘progress’ by the developer between then and now. Similarly, despite lengthy discussions with the Council, we note that recent amendments to address height issues have made little impact and have only served to increase the out-of-scale nature of the proposal.”

The group has a detailed 22-page breakdown of how the application breaks the Charlton Riverside Masterplan, as well as a six-page summary.

Rockwell Charlton Riverside scheme
A plan of the proposals, together with Atlas and Derrick Gardens

‘Development is needed to kickstart regeneration’

Council officers say: “Whilst the overall density is above that recommended in the London Plan and the plot densities are higher than those recommended in the [Charlton Riverside] SPD it is considered that higher densities can be supported in this location in order to bring forward the redevelopment of the site and the regeneration of the area. Furthermore, density is just one factor to be considered in the assessment of an application and regard should be had to factors such as design, local character and impacts upon amenity.”

Furthermore, council officers say the amount of “affordable” housing would mean the development would secure a profit of 17.2% – less than the developer’s target of 18%. It recommends reviewing the scheme to see if there is room for more “affordable” housing if the scheme generates more profit.

Network Rail says it has concerns about local rail stations’ ability to cope with the demand from the development – a matter not addressed in the officers’ report.

Cratus Communications, the lobbying company which has former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts as its deputy chairman, involved in the Rockwell project. Former Greenwich chief executive Mary Ney is listed on the Cratus website as an “associate”, while one-time Greenwich Labour borough organiser Michael Stanworth heads up the company’s London lobbying operation.

The planning committee features – uniquely for a London borough – council leader Denise Hyland and her deputy Danny Thorpe, who is also the council’s cabinet member for regeneration.

Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy said he would be seeking a deferral of the proposals for a site visit.

Also on the agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting is a new plan to demolish and rebuild the Kings Arms pub in Woolwich – which was attacked by Irish republican terrorists in 1974 – and a proposal to add another two storeys to a stalled hotel project next to the Blackwall Tunnel approach at Tunnel Avenue, east Greenwich.

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    Rockwell Charlton Riverside development: Consultation sessions to be held on 2 and 3 March

    Rockwell Charlton scheme
    The new proposals see brick-based buildings with a maximum height of 10 storeys

    Hot on the heels of Greenwich Council telling developer Rockwell to consult properly on its plans to build 771 homes on land off Anchor and Hope Lane, it has announced two events to take place at The Valley early next month.

    Rockwell, which is acting for Channel Islands-based Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco Ltd, plans to redevelop the industrial estate behind and next to Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens, including building five 10-storey blocks.

    Plans for a 28-storey glass tower were blocked, while the developer only wants to provide 5% “affordable” housing on the site, compared with 15% for the previous plans. However, it says it will be discussing a “growth scenario” to provide more “affordable” housing with Greenwich Council.

    Local residents’ groups have been angry at the lack of consultation on the revised plans, which are dramatically different from the original scheme for the site.

    Now a public exhibition will be held at the Millennium Suite in The Valley between 3-7pm on Friday 2 March, and 10am-2pm on Saturday 3 March.

    A flyer distributed by Rockwell says “key members of the project team will be on hand to answer any questions”.

    Not much to say: The Charlton Conversations website

    It also directs residents to charltonconversations.com for more information, but that website is just showing a holding page suggesting visitors go to the council website.

    You can wade through all the planning documents and comment by searching for reference 16/4008/F at Greenwich Council’s planning pages. You can also read part one and part two of the lengthy design and access statement, which outlines the proposals.

    Developer Rockwell told to consult community about new Charlton Riverside plan

    Rockwell Charlton Riverside
    What Rockwell says the development’s residential garden areas will look like

    The developer hoping to build the first major housing development on the Charlton Riverside has been told it needs to properly consult the local community before Greenwich Council will decide on its plans.

    Rockwell, which is acting for Channel Islands-based Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco Ltd, plans to build 771 homes on land behind and next to Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens, including five 10-storey blocks.

    But local residents’ groups complained that Rockwell had not consulted them properly on the project – which has changed dramatically from the developer’s original plan to build glass towers on the site.

    Now they have been told by Greenwich Council that Rockwell has been advised to, and has promised to, consult residents on its proposals.

    Led by the Derrick and Atlas Gardens Residents Association, a loose coalition of local organisations has now formed around the proposals, including the Charlton Society, Charlton Central Residents Association and others – with the shock of the Fairview Victoria Way planning decision prompting many to keep a close eye on the Rockwell scheme.

    Charlton Society planning chair Roden Richardson said working together and using social media was proving to be effective.

    “Any number of people are now contacted simultaneously and instantaneously to distribute a given message,” he said.

    “In the case of the latest application that meant all our fellow community stakeholder members and councillors, leading council staff, the Greater London Authority and, of course, our MP, all virtually at the touch of a button. If we handle this kind of thing wisely, it might begin to help a bit to make community and council more like constructive partners than frustrated strangers.”

    In total, 11 new buildings are planned for the site, with space for retail and commercial use alongside Anchor & Hope Lane. 210 car parking spaces are planned. But the developer only wants to provide 5% “affordable” housing on the site, although its application says it is in talks with Greenwich Council about a “growth scenario”.

    Cratus Communications, the lobbying company which has former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts as its deputy chairman, involved in the project. Former Greenwich chief executive Mary Ney is listed on the Cratus website as an “associate”, while one-time Greenwich Labour borough organiser Michael Stanworth heads up the company’s London lobbying operation.

    Anger grows over Rockwell Charlton Riverside development as residents plan response

    Rockwell Charlton Riverside
    What Rockwell says the development’s residential garden areas will look like

    Residents of streets next to the planned Rockwell development off Anchor and Hope Lane are holding an open meeting to help people respond to the proposals, as anger grows over the lack of consultation over the new plans.

    The developer plans to build 771 homes on land behind and next to Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens, including five 10-storey blocks. The scheme, submitted in the name of Channel Islands-based Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco Ltd, is the first major residential plan to go forward on the Charlton Riverside.

    In total, 11 new buildings are planned, with space for retail and commercial use alongside Anchor & Hope Lane. 210 car parking spaces are planned. But the developer only wants to provide 5% “affordable” housing on the site, although its application says it is in talks with Greenwich Council about a “growth scenario”.

    It has also emerged that Cratus Communications, the lobbying company which has former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts as its deputy chairman, is now involved in the project. Former Greenwich chief executive Mary Ney is listed on the Cratus website as an “associate”, while one-time Greenwich Labour borough organiser Michael Stanworth heads up the company’s London lobbying operation.

    The workshop, which has been organised by Derrick and Atlas Gardens Residents Association, will be held at Greenwich Yacht Club on Sunday 4 February from 3pm to 5pm. All with concerns about the scheme are welcome, not just residents of those two streets.

    Rockwell Charlton scheme
    The new proposals see brick-based buildings with a maximum height of 10 storeys

    The association has already written to Greenwich Council chief executive Debbie Warren, in a letter supported by other local groups including the Charlton Society and Charlton Central Residents Association, to ask that the scheme be deferred because no public consultation has taken place on the revised plans.

    You can wade through all the planning documents and comment by searching for reference 16/4008/F at Greenwich Council’s planning pages. Comments need to be with the council by Wednesday 6 February.

    Worries over the Rockwell development come as wider concerns are being raised about Greenwich Council’s planning procedures and consultation policies in the Charlton area, with the numerous local groups now starting to work more closely together on scrutinising schemes.

    Residents’ groups are seeking explanations as to why no councillor explained why they backed the controversial Fairview Victoria Way development at a meeting last month – a departure from usual practice at planning meetings – along with issues to do with the consultation, which was also run by Cratus Communications.

    Rockwell returns: 771 homes planned for Charlton Riverside – but just 5% are ‘affordable’

    Rockwell Charlton scheme
    The new proposals see brick-based buildings with a maximum height of 10 storeys (click the image to enlarge it)

    Developers behind the first major plans to build new housing at Charlton Riverside have submitted new proposals for 771 homes to be built off Anchor and Hope Lane.

    As reported here last month, Rockwell has dropped plans to build a 28-storey glass tower as part of its proposals, and has now submitted a plan which includes five 10-storey blocks, three of which would be on Anchor & Hope Lane itself, close to Charlton station.

    The other two would be set back behind Atlas Gardens and a cluster of smaller blocks.

    But the viability assessment submitted with the proposal reveals that the developer only wants to provide 5% “affordable” housing on the site, compared with 15% for the previous plans. However, it says it will be discussing a “growth scenario” to provide more “affordable” housing with Greenwich Council over the next month.

    Rockwell’s earlier scheme went against several principles of Greenwich Council’s masterplan for the Charlton Riverside, which set guidelines suggesting that tall buildings should be no taller than 10 storeys, and outlined a desire to see a new road driven through towards the Thames Barrier area.

    Rockwell Charlton Riverside
    Rockwell’s description of the changes it has made
    Rockwell Charlton Riverside planning
    What towers?

    But this scheme, which was first revealed by council deputy leader Danny Thorpe at a “stakeholders’ forum” last month, now appears to tick the boxes the council demands – at least as far as design and planning goes.

    Residents now have less than three weeks to comment on the proposals.

    In total, 11 new buildings are planned, with space for retail and commercial use alongside Anchor & Hope Lane. 210 car parking spaces are planned.

    As well as the change in height and materials, the scheme also sees its central green space replaced with a series of smaller residential garden areas as well as a “play street”.

    Rockwell Charlton Riverside scheme
    A plan of the proposals, together with Atlas and Derrick Gardens

    Rockwell, which is acting for the applicant, Channel Islands-based Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco Ltd, also says its revised proposals will allow more light through to properties at Atlas and Derrick Gardens, who feared being overshadowed by the original development.

    The application makes much of public consultations held by Rockwell, although there has been very little consultation since the original scheme was submitted 12 months ago, save for a council-approved “stakeholder” group. An email sent by The Charlton Champion last month seeking more information about the plans went unanswered.

    You can wade through all the planning documents and comment by searching for reference 16/4008/F at Greenwich Council’s planning pages. You can also read part one and part two of the lengthy design and access statement, which outlines the proposals. Comments need to be in by 6 February.

    Rockwell Charlton Riverside
    What Rockwell says the residential garden areas will look like

    After last week’s experience with the Fairview New Homes development at Victoria Way, The Charlton Champion would not be surprised if this development went before a planning committee very quickly indeed.

    But the extremely low level of “affordable” housing could yet prove a major sticking point – especially with council elections due in May.

    The viability assessment says that Rockwell is aiming for an 18% profit on the scheme. “If we were valuing a more established site with planning permission we would adopt a profit margin of 17.50% on sale,” it says. “This is an untested site in an untested area and developers would require a higher profit margin to reflect the risks going forward.”

    In addition to this scheme, developer U+I is in the early planning stages for 370 homes at the Westminster Industrial Estate, by the Thames Barrier, while another developer wants to restore the nearby Victoria pub and build housing behind it.

    Coming down: Rockwell’s 28-storey Charlton tower cut to 10 storeys

    Rockwell's plans included a 28-storey tower close to Charlton station
    Coming down… this 28-storey tower has now been taken out of Rockwell’s plan

    Developer Rockwell is to remove plans to build a 28-storey tower off Anchor & Hope Lane from its proposed Charlton Riverside development, it has emerged.

    The firm had hoped to put up nine buildings ranging from two to 28 storeys on the old British Ropes site off Anchor and Hope Lane , providing 975 homes with retail, community and leisure facilities.

    But now the company is revising its scheme to cut the buildings down to 10 storeys, which means it would fit in with Greenwich Council’s recently-adopted Charlton Riverside Masterplan.

    It would also cut the number of new homes to 771. It is not known how many would be for social rent or “affordable” – the previous scheme had just 13% “affordable” homes.

    The announcement was made at a “stakeholders’ forum” of representatives from residents’ and amenity groups last week and tweeted by council deputy leader Danny Thorpe.

    The Charlton Champion emailed Rockwell’s representatives seeking clarification on the plan, but did not get a response. A new planning application is expected soon.