Rockwell’s ‘Stalingrad’ plans for Charlton Riverside killed off after site sold for logistics hub

Anchor and Hope Lane
Rockwell had hoped for approval for its development here

Controversial plans for 771 homes off Anchor & Hope Lane have finally been scrapped after the site was sold to a company promising to revamp it as a logistics hub.

Rockwell’s proposal for the VIP Trading Estate was the first to come forward as part of plans to transform the Charlton riverside to provide up to 8,000 new homes. The scheme was fiercely opposed by residents of Atlas and Derrick Gardens, whose homes would have been in the shadow of the proposed blocks, as well as community groups, councillors and local MP Matt Pennycook.

Rockwell revised scheme
Rockwell’s proposals were rejected three times

The scheme was rejected by Greenwich councillors in 2018, with Sarah Merrill, the chair of planning at the time, saying it was “reminiscent of Stalingrad”. The decision was called in for scrutiny by Sadiq Khan, who rejected it himself. Rockwell then appealed to a planning inspector, but the scheme was rejected a third time.

Greenwich Council officers had originally recommended approving the 11-block development.

After Rockwell lost its appeal, the site was sold by its owner, the property investment company Zenprop, to another property company, Falconbrook. An industry website, React News, reported that Falconbrook had talked to Greenwich Council about building homes on the land.

Anchor & Hope Lane development site
The VIP Trading Estate will now become a logistics hub

But with industrial land now at a premium in London, a third investor, GLI, has snapped the site up – reportedly for £42 million. The site will focus on “last mile” and “last hour” deliveries, the company said.

GLI, which has already snapped up sites in Park Royal, Mitcham and Croydon as part of a push into London, said the revamped hub “will be highly energy efficient and redeveloped on a net zero carbon basis”,

The sale will be a setback to Greenwich and City Hall’s plans for new housing on the Charlton riverside, which have so far yielded just one new home – a flat at the Victoria pub, which is being redeveloped into a pizza outlet – after two other schemes were also refused.

The developer Aitch Group and the housing association Optivo are appealing against the refusal of their plans for new housing off Eastmoor Street, near the Thames Barrier, which together would have provided 255 homes, including 107 for affordable rent. Aitch has also submitted a new application for 149 homes on its site, with just 11 for affordable rent.


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Rockwell’s Charlton Riverside development thrown out by minister

Rockwell revised scheme
Neighbours disputed Rockwell’s images of what the scheme would look like

Plans for 771 homes close to Anchor & Hope Lane have been thrown out by the communities secretary Robert Jenrick, 17 months after they were rejected by London mayor Sadiq Khan and nearly two years after Greenwich councillors first turned down the scheme.

The huge development was the first to come forward as part of plans to transform the Charlton riverside to provide up to 8,000 new homes. The scheme was fiercely opposed by residents of Atlas and Derrick Gardens, whose homes would have been in the shadow of the proposed blocks, as well as community groups, councillors and local MP Matt Pennycook.

Greenwich Council officers had originally recommended approving the 11-block development – but councillors threw it out, with Sarah Merrill, the chair of the planning committee, calling it “reminiscent of Stalingrad”. It was feared that Khan would approve it after “calling in” the scheme to decide himself. But after he rejected it, Rockwell appealed to planning inspectors, who held a public inquiry last October. Speakers at the inquiry included Pennycook, Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe and Glenn Tilbrook, the Squeeze singer, who owns a recording studio next to the site.

A report went to Jenrick, who agreed with the recommendations to throw out the scheme. The decision came on the same day as plans for a 27-storey block in Woolwich were also rejected.

The planned development would have been built here, behind Atlas and Derrick Gardens

The development “does not reflect the aims or vision” of the council’s masterplan for the Charlton Riverside, which was called a “considered and robust, and also to be a carefully crafted and well-informed document”, the rejection letter stated.

The rejection is a major victory for Greenwich Council’s plans to keep some level of control over the development of the Charlton Riverside, distinguishing it from Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich where developers have largely set the agenda – in particular, to keep buildings to a maximum of 10 storeys in height – and for tall blocks to be an exception – and to make the development less dense than its neighbours.

“The Peninsula, with its strong relationship to the high-rise development of Canary Wharf and increasingly metropolitan character, is, for example, very different to Charlton,” wrote inspector Mike Robins.

“Here the character to the south of Woolwich Road, including Charlton Hill [sic] and Charlton Village, is residential, comprising well-established communities in traditional or more modern, low-rise and family housing, becoming increasingly more open as you travel east.

“While the established industrial character of the Charlton Riverside must change, it strikes me that the aspiration of the SPD [masterplan] to enable regeneration that respects the character of Charlton, promote increased linkages between the existing residential areas and the new neighbourhoods and enhance the permeability of the site to allow access to the river and parklands, is entirely justified.”

The scheme would “materially alter the appreciation and experience of” Atlas and Derrick Gardens

High-rise developments across the area would “in my view, be likely to divide Charlton rather than achieve the integration sought, and extensive use of high-rise development would be unlikely to foster the community led, mixed-use character that was the concluding vision of the stakeholder engagement and consultation that informed the SPD”, he wrote.

In part of the proposed development, the buildings were written off as “oppressive” with warnings that they would block out sunlight. The development would also “materially alter the appreciation and experience of” Atlas and Derrick Gardens, two cul-de-sacs originally built for workers at the nearby Corys bargeworks.

“The offer of 771 units with a relatively high proportion of affordable housing could easily be considered as overwhelmingly beneficial. However, such an approach must consider the quality of the development proposed and the effect that it would have on the area both now and into the future,” he added.

“The proposal fails to take the opportunity to promote a high quality of design, particularly in relation to scale and massing, that responds to its location and establishes a benchmark that accords with the design aspirations and guidance set out in the SPD.”

Greenwich and Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook called the verdict “the right outcome, a victory for the local community and a clear signal to developers to honour the vision set out in the 2017 Charlton Riverside masterplan”.

Len Duvall, the London Assembly member for Greenwich and Lewisham, said: “This decision comes a huge relief for local people and is a testament to the campaigning efforts of community groups, such as Charlton Together, who have vigorously opposed the scheme.

“Rockwell’s plans defy the framework laid by the Charlton Riverside Masterplan, with the excessive height of the tower blocks threatening to loom over neighbouring residents. The scheme also fails to deliver sufficient affordable housing on a site where it could be maximised.

“The council and the mayor have been right to reject these plans. Urban development needs to work for the whole community and should not come at any cost.”

Rockwell can seek a judicial review of the decision, or it can go back to the drawing board and submit a revised version of the scheme.

Six other schemes for Charlton Riverside have been announced since Rockwell first submitted its plans – none have yet been approved.


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‘Rockwell’s Charlton Riverside development threatens our area – sign our petition’

Rockwell revised scheme
Neighbours have disputed Rockwell’s images of what the scheme would look like

Next month, there will be a public inquiry into plans for 771 new homes off Anchor & Hope Lane. The developer, Rockwell, is appealing against the Mayor of London’s rejection of the scheme; that followed an earlier decision by Greenwich Council to throw out the proposals. Community groups fear the scheme will get the Charlton Riverside redevelopment off to a bad start and want you to sign their petition. ANDREW DONKIN of Charlton Together, which represents groups including the Charlton Society and Charlton Central Residents’ Association, explains why.

If you care about the future of Charlton, I’d like to ask you to sign this petition calling on the Planning Inspectorate to dismiss an appeal by property developer Rockwell for its overcrowded and poorly-designed scheme on Charlton Riverside. The appeal is next month and Charlton Together urgently needs your help and signature now.

Regular readers of The Charlton Champion will recall how Rockwell’s application has already been refused by both the Mayor of London and Greenwich Council. It was refused because the plans submitted would result in the over development of the site and would fail to adhere to the vision and objectives for the redevelopment of the area set out in the Charlton Riverside Masterplan, adopted by the Council in 2017 as planning guidance for the area.

The well-received Charlton Riverside masterplan was developed over a period of five years, with the full involvement of the local community, at a cost of £854,000 using the council’s (eg, the public’s) money. The Rockwell development appeal currently before the Planning Inspectorate drives a coach and horses through the carefully created Masterplan in terms of building heights, levels of density/massing, and affordable housing.

Roden Richardson, the vice-chair of the Charlton Society, said: “If the Rockwell development appeal is allowed by the Planning Inspectorate it will set a precedent for all future developers to ignore the masterplan in respect of further planning applications for the wider site. This will have a huge impact on the whole of Charlton and beyond it across southeast London.”

Helen Jakeways, from Charlton Together, added: “It would set a dangerous precedent if this appeal is allowed at this density. There are many other developers waiting in the background to see what happens. All of their proposals for new housing are well over the density required for their plots in the Masterplan and the London Plan. There are no agreements currently in place for local infrastructure, which includes, roads, school places, doctor surgery places and public transport. This will affect everyone living and working in the SE7 area and all the areas around it.”

If you’re reading this and you care about Charlton, please sign the new petition. Numbers really will count when it is presented to the Planning Inspectorate in mid-November.

You can sign the petition at change.org.


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