Housing campaigners are to hold a public meeting on Monday 8 October about developer Rockwell’s plans to build 771 homes off Anchor and Hope Lane.
London mayor Sadiq Khan overturned Greenwich Council’s refusal of the scheme during the summer, meaning City Hall will now decide on the application.
The Charlton Champion understands a new proposal has been submitted to the mayor’s office, however it has not yet been made public.
Khan’s decision to “call in” the decision came with criticism of Greenwich Council for not allowing enough “affordable” housing in recent years – Rockwell’s scheme would have 32.4% “affordable” housing.
Local businesses have also voiced fears that they will have to move or close, saying the new development’s residents will not want them as neighbours.
Rockwell’s plans for 32.4% of the units to be “affordable” housing were inserted into the scheme at the last minute. Of those, 162 would be for London Affordable Rent – roughly £150/week for a one-bedroom flat – and aimed at those on low incomes, with the remaining available for shared ownership.
What has Charlton ward councillor GARY PARKER been up to? Here’s his latest report.
Dear 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.
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.
Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has told the developers behind controversial plans to build 771 homes off Anchor & Hope Lane that they should respect the masterplan developed for Charlton Riverside – and build more affordable housing.
Pennycook spoke out days after London mayor Sadiq Khan blocked Greenwich Council’s refusal of the scheme by developer Rockwell to build five 10-storey blocks and other buildings on land surrounding Atlas and Derrick Gardens.
The mayor, who has designated Charlton Riverside an “opportunity area” for development, will now decide whether or not the plan goes ahead.
Khan’s decision came with criticism of Greenwich Council for not allowing enough “affordable” housing in recent years – Rockwell’s scheme would have 32.4% “affordable” housing.
Local businesses have also voiced fears that they will have to move or close, saying the new development’s residents will not want them as neighbours.
Pennycook said on his Facebook page that Rockwell needed to be making the blocks smaller and providing more “affordable’ homes.
He wrote: “I fully understand the pressure the Mayor is under to build more homes in London as the market falters, I’m deeply disappointed that City Hall have chosen not to back Greenwich Council and stand behind the local community’s very strong objections to the proposed scheme.
“I will of course look carefully at any modifications that the Mayor is able to secure over the coming weeks/months and I trust that there will be extensive consultation with local residents and community groups as well as with the developer.
“However, City Hall must appreciate that there is a very strong feeling locally that we not compromise on the vision set out in the 2017 Charlton Riverside masterplan.
“That is why it’s crucial that development across the entire Charlton Riverside opportunity area, including any modified proposals from Rockwell, respect the vision of an exemplary urban district set out in that masterplan document.
“For Rockwell’s site that means not only a higher level of affordable housing, and a modified dwelling mix, but also reductions in the proposed height of buildings. If that requires reductions in the total number of units then, in my view, that’s what needs to happen.”
While the Charlton Riverside masterplan does not rule out 10-storey blocks, it says they should be an exception, preferring to see buildings of between three and six storeys.
Khan’s letter to Greenwich Council announcing he was taking over the planning process said the Rockwell scheme “has potential to make an important contribution to housing and affordable housing supply”.
Pennycook’s intervention was greeted with scepticism by journalist Paul Wellman, who tracks London’s developers for Estates Gazette. “Want more affordable housing? Generally the compromise is more private and greater heights. The below scenario is hugely unachievable,” he tweeted.
Want more affordable housing? Generally the compromise is more private and greater heights. The below scenario is hugely unachievable. https://t.co/m9U40BcKhh
Hounslow had refused a scheme with 421 homes, including 40% “affordable”, citing the possible effect on nearby Kew Gardens. But Khan approved a revised scheme with 50% “affordable” housing and 441 homes.
Khan said: “This scheme shows how we can unlock the potential of an underused site to build more of the genuinely affordable homes Londoners so urgently need. I’m clear that to fix the capital’s housing crisis Government must play its part, but we can make a difference now by ensuring developments include more genuinely affordable housing.
“I am committed to using the full strength of my planning powers to get London building more affordable homes.
“This is another important step as we work towards my long-term strategic goal for 50 per cent of housing in all new developments across the city to be social rented and other genuinely affordable homes for Londoners.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan has blocked Greenwich Council’s refusal to allow a developer to build 771 homes at the end of Anchor & Hope Lane, meaning he will now decide whether or not it will go ahead, rather than local councillors.
All 11 councillors on Greenwich’s planning board voted to reject the scheme, the first to come forward at Charlton Riverside – designated an “opportunity area” by the mayor.
But Khan has now opted to take over deciding what happens with the scheme himself – the first time a Greenwich Council planning decision has been called in by City Hall.
In a letter sent to Greenwich Council and seen by this website, Khan says that the proposal will have a “significant impact on the implementation of the London Plan and the draft London Plan” – the mayoral blueprint for planning across the capital.
The news will anger local residents who have battled against the proposals – particularly those who live in Atlas and Derrick Gardens, who say the Rockwell development will loom over their homes and deny them natural light. Local industries have also voiced concerns about whether they will be able to continue in business with a large residential development on their doorstep, and Squeeze singer Glenn Tilbrook has complained that his recording studio would be put in jeopardy by the plans.
London mayors have the power to “call in” major developments after councils have made a decision, but it rarely happens. While it has never happened to Greenwich Council, two past developments on its borders have been called in.
A call-in effectively means the planning process starts again, with the mayor’s officers taking over and a public hearing taking place at City Hall.
More recently, Khan overturned Bromley Council’s approval of a new stadium for London’s oldest football club, Cray Wanderers, who play in the eighth tier of English football, and two four-storey blocks of flats at Flamingo Park, off the Sidcup by-pass.
Negotiations with Greenwich Council finally produced a revised plan by the end of 2017, cutting the maximum height down to 10 storeys with 25% “affordable”. In July 2018 this was increased to 35% “affordable” when judged by number of rooms, or 32.4% when assessed by the number of units.
5pm update: Greenwich Council regeneration cabinet member Sizwe James says: “I am disappointed that the Mayor of London has called in the Eynsham Drive and Charlton Riverside planning applications, both of which were rejected by our Planning Board last month. This means that the Mayor of London, and not the local councillors elected by the people of Greenwich, will decide on these applications.
“At the Planning Board, local residents spoke passionately about the issues they had with the proposed developments. The committee members listened to the residents and shared their concerns about the height of the buildings, the lack of homes for families, and the affordability of those homes.
“After the planning applications were rejected, we hoped that the developers would come back to us with a new application that provided much needed affordable housing for families, in developments of an appropriate size and scale for Abbey Wood and Charlton.
“Whilst I respect the rights of the Mayor of London to call in these planning applications, and understand the pressure he is under to get more homes built, we very much hope he will address the concerns of residents in the process.
“I would urge him not to simply wave the applications through, but include us in discussions with the developers to secure a greater proportion of well designed, affordable family homes.
“We also need to learn from the mistakes made in the 60s and 70s and create proper neighbourhoods, with walkable streets, places to work and spaces for children to play and socialise.
“I hope that we can work together with the developers and the Mayor of London to do this.”
But councillors agreed with neighbours who said Rockwell’s scheme went against the recently-adopted Charlton Riverside masterplan, which sets out a vision for lower-rise developments aimed at families in Charlton to sit in between the towers of Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich.
Planning chair Sarah Merrill (Labour, Shooters Hill) said: “This application in no way resembles the spirit of the Charlton Riverside masterplan, in terms of height, massing and design. It’s reminiscent of Stalingrad.”
All 11 councillors on Greenwich’s planning board voted to reject the scheme, to applause from the public.
Squeeze frontman Tilbrook – who lives in Charlton – told councillors that he had tried to engage with Rockwell because he owns a studio adjacent to the development site, which is used as a base for the band’s tours. He said he feared losing access to the studios.
“The replies I’ve had from them have not been sufficient,” he told councillors. “Access for me is important, Squeeze work from the studios, we rehearse there, we go in and out every weekend for festivals, sometimes late at night. This access is not guaranteed.”
Tilbrook added that he feared that noise from the construction work would make the studio unusable, then new residents would complain about noise coming from the studio.
“It feels like to Rockwell, I’m a bad smell they want to make go away. It feels like they want to drive a coach and horses through my life and my studio, and they want to drive a coach and horses through the Charlton masterplan.”
While Woolwich Riverside councillor John Fahy told the committee the council had to act “in the best interests of the community – not hedge funds in Guernsey” – a reference to the development firm backing the scheme, Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco. He said the council would “compromise itself” if it backed the scheme.
Rockwell representatives said the scheme offered a “fantastic opportunity to kick-start the regeneration of this area”, saying it “has the makings of a destination, a real place in its own right”. It claimed it would generate over 200 jobs.
But the firm – which has retained former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts’ company Cratus Communications as lobbyists – arguably overreached itself by drafting in a teacher who wanted to set up a nursery school on the site, claiming she could not find another suitable site.
But they had little to fear as councillors lined up to put the boot into the scheme – despite council officers having recommended they back it.
“We all want to see the area redeveloped and there is potential on the site, but this does not conform to the masterplan,” councillor Nigel Fletcher (Conservative, Eltham North) said. “Either we have a planning policy and we adhere to it, or we don’t.”
“I have a concern about how this has been allowed to proceed to this point through discussions with officers and recommended for approval. I almost feel sorry for the applicant being led to believe this is something we might support.”
Local MP Matt Pennycook said on Thursday morning that the decision was “a clear signal to developers that the community will not accept proposals that do not honour the vision set out in the 2017 Charlton Riverside masterplan”.
“I hope Rockwell now do what they should have done months ago: reconsider the height, massing and levels of affordable/family housing within the scheme and come back with a proposal that will ensure Charlton Riverside becomes the exemplary new urban district we all want it to be.”
Controversial plans to build 10-storey blocks behind homes off Anchor & Hope Lane go to Greenwich Council’s main planning committee on Monday. Developer Rockwell plans to build 771 homes on land surrounding Atlas and Derrick Gardens – which, if approved, would be the first housing development in the Charlton Riverside regeneration scheme.
At the river end of Anchor and Hope Lane, you’ll find Atlas and Derrick Gardens. It’s a community of 74 homes, a few houses with the rest being small flats. Our community is a blend of social and private tenants as well as homeowners. I’m a resident of Derrick Gardens – I have only ever lived in the borough of Greenwich.
These homes are examples of model worker home properties and carry some historical significance, having been built by local shipping industrialist William H Cory for his employees and their families in 1908. Earlier this year, our homes were given conservation area status to reflect this history.
However, our community is now fighting for its survival.
To capitalise on this, Rockwell Property – on behalf of Leopard Guernsey Anchor Propco – has bought the VIP Trading Estate and wants to build luxury “family homes” on the site.
These ‘”family homes” would feature a collection of tower blocks, with most of the 771 properties exceeding £500,000. After nearly two years of discussions, the “affordable” housing provision has climbed from the initial offer of 8% to 25%, whilst the density has reduced from 975 to 771 homes.
‘We would lose all natural light’
Rockwell’s proposed blocks of flats, with up to 10 storeys, would be just 18-20 metres behind our homes. We would completely lose all and any natural light.
London needs new homes, but I and other Atlas and Derrick Gardens residents feel our quality of life should not be forfeited for financial gain and to meet local authority targets.
Especially where there is established planning guidance in place which says that homes built within this area should be of low height and low density, and complementary to the heritage of the area while not having a negatively impact on existing neighbourhoods.
For me, it’s beyond disappointing that Greenwich Council’s hard work in establishing this local guidance is being ridden roughshod over by a need to meet targets and a desire not to upset developers.
The housing crisis has been a very easy loophole for developers to exploit: how many Londoners can afford luxury one/two-bedroom flats exceeding £500,000? Rockwell’s plans are disingenuous at best, mercenary and opportunistic at worst.
We need new homes which meet all layers of planning policy, not just the bits which are convenient or release the most profit for developers, regardless of the consequences for others. Which is why Greenwich Council needs to hold the line.
‘Don’t be scared of refusing Rockwell’
But nothing in this process has convinced us that housing Greenwich borough’s residents, especially the 17,000 on the waiting list, is actually a priority for either the developers or for the council.
Greenwich planning officers are scared of what will happen if Rockwell’s application is rejected: paying for an appeal and a date with the Planning Inspectorate.
But Greenwich Council should not fear an appeal. Rockwell knew the local policies in place when it purchased the land.
It has already spent five years and £850,000 of existing residents’ money in developing a masterplan – not upholding this and not explaining in detail why planning officers are supporting Rockwell’s schemes calls for questions to be asked about whether public funds are being mismanaged. We support the petition urging councillors to stick to their masterplan.
We have been disappointed with the lack of honest engagement from the council – including some of the very councillors we elected – with an apparent inability to see the wider issues that approving this application will create and exacerbate.
Even though this proposal has loomed over us for two years, we only had a site visit a month ago, where it was clear that some who participated and would be deciding on the application did not even know our neighbourhood existed.
‘We demand better for Charlton Riverside’
Charlton Riverside is already an identified opportunity area – development does not need to be kickstarted by inappropriate schemes by hook or by crook. It needs to have the right start to set the tone for the rest of the area.
Many communities across London will be going through similar issues with development which is both inappropriate for their local community and does little to address the actual housing crisis.
Our planning system needs to change and we need to see Greenwich at the forefront, listening to and engaging with us, using the policies developed with taxpayers’ support to benefit its residents, not for the financial benefit of developers – especially when those developers are aided by consultation organisations employing former council leaders.
We hope that by raising awareness of our plight, we can urge both officers and councillors to reject this application, and demand better for our Charlton Riverside.
The residents’ petition on the Charlton Riverside Masterplan can be found at change.org.