New Our Lady of Grace school approved for disused Highcombe playing field site

new Our Lady of Grace School on Highcombe
Developer Galliford Try’s image of the new Our Lady of Grace School on Highcombe
Plans to rebuild Our Lady of Grace primary school on a disused playing field in Highcombe were passed by Greenwich Council last night, despite a 100-signature petition signed by neighbours who oppose the development.

The scheme, passed unanimously by the nine councillors on the planning board, will see the Roman Catholic school move down the hill from its Charlton Road site to open space last used by the former St Austin’s comprehensive school and its successor, Christ The King sixth form college.

The school building was demolished when Christ the King moved to Lewisham in the early 1990s and was replaced with housing, but the playing field remained in church ownership and was left abandoned. The land and Highcombe itself have long been a blackspot for flytipping.

It will enable the school to double its intake to 420 pupils, at a time when primary school places are in high demand. Vehicles will enter via Highcombe – 18 staff parking spaces are being provided – with deliveries using Lime Kiln Close.

The new school could be open as early as September 2016 – a factor in councillors wanting to approve the application now instead of wanting to defer it to iron out issues with those who live near the site.

With a shortage of school places in Greenwich borough, planning chair Mark James said that as community open space can be used for education, “that is the overriding consideration” in the case. Councillors did call for a community garden to be included on the site.

Our Lady of Grace site render

Neighbours are concerned about increased car traffic on adjacent side roads as well as the loss of open space – the 1992 planning agreement for Lime Kiln Drive stated the site was to remain for recreation – with some calling for the school to be rebuilt on its existing site or at the Blackheath Bluecoat site on Old Dover Road. There are also concerns about a “multi-use games area” alongside the school.

Charlton ward councillor Gary Parker led objectors, saying the development would add to the “significant” amount of traffic caused by parents and staff driving to schools in the immediate area. He asked for the application to be deferred.

Martina Keating of the Charlton Central Residents’ Association – whose area doesn’t cover Highcombe – complained the group had not been invited to consultation events. She was also concerned about effects from building the school, adding that piling work at the Sainsbury’s site could be heard from Charlton Village.

Keating said the application had a “rosy view” of car parking – adding that most current Our Lady of Grace staff and pupils came by car. She was also concerned about claims that Victoria Way was a “quiet road” that was suitable for pupils to use to cycle to school, particularly with an increase in traffic caused by new superstore development.

Caroline Love of Charlton Community Gardens pointed out that her group was formed through unsuccessful negotiations with Southwark Diocese to use the land, lamenting the loss of potential for a “community-managed local park”

Local resident Richard Lovegrove, who presented a 100-strong petition from immediate neighbours, said the area would struggle to cope with traffic and branded the scheme a “dangerous, flawed proposal”. Another resident referred to a 1914 covenant on the land which he said meant the owners “must not cause noise or nuisance to neighbours”.

But a father of a child at Our Lady of Grace school, Mark Adams, said there was a “silent majority” in favour of the scheme, claiming most parents there did not drive.

Representatives of the scheme said it was impossible to rebuild the school on its current site due to the listed buildings next to it, and in any case they didn’t own the land there. They added that a scheme to hire out the playing field at “reasonable” rates had failed.

The current site of Our Lady of Grace is not included in the planning application. A previous application covering both sites failed in 2014 because of worries about housing planned for the land where the school sits now.

Valley House: ‘Poor doors’ lead to decision on controversial nine-storey block being deferred

A CGI from architects Chassay & Last.
A CGI from architects Chassay & Last. “Affordable” housing entrance not shown.

Greenwich councillors deferred a decision on controversial plans for a nine-storey block of flats on Woolwich Road at a meeting last night.

The Charlton Champion wasn’t at the meeting, but understands from those that were there that the decision to defer a decision was made because of plans to include “poor doors” – a separate entrance for residents living in the block’s “affordable” housing elements.

The block, at the junction of Gallions Road, is due to replace Valley House, a former council building and headquarters of Sykes Pumps, and sits opposite the Sainsbury’s/M&S development.

Just 18.9% of the accommodation was slated to be affordable, with all other residents able to use the building’s main entrance.

Three local groups – the Charlton Society, the Charlton Central Residents Association and the Greenwich Conservation Group – had objected to the building’s height.

From The Murky Depths puts the case for building high on the Woolwich Road here, as well as discussing a plan for more car parking on Bugsbys Way that was thrown out by councillors last week.

Look up – nine-storey tower planned for Woolwich Road

A CGI from architects Chassay & Last showing the  view from the BP petrol station
A CGI from architects Chassay & Last showing the view from the BP petrol station

Would you want to see this on Woolwich Road? Developers want to knock down a derelict office block on Woolwich Road, next to the new Sainsbury’s/M&S development, and build 74 new homes plus a retail unit on the site, crowned by a nine-storey tower.

The old office block – most recently called Valley House – has an odd history of its own – it was once Sykes House, home of Sykes Pumps; then it was taken over by Greenwich Council and renamed Guy Barnett House after the late local MP; but then that name was withdrawn when it had the bad luck of being the place where it tried administer the poll tax from. The council pulled out a few years ago; this website understands Metro Bank had been eyeing up the site for a branch, but that came to nothing.

valley_house_site01

So instead, it becomes the first concrete proposal for housing development north of the Woolwich Road since the Charlton Riverside Masterplan was produced. It looks smart enough from the renders, and London needs new homes, but is nine storeys too high for the Woolwich Road? The Charlton Society has voiced its disapproval*, you, however, may have a different view.

This has been going through planning for a while – it’s now at a “reconsultation” stage, and comments need to be with the council by 10 March. If you want to find out more, go here or enter 14/3258/F on Greenwich Council’s planning search.

(*Declaration of interest: I’m on the Charlton Society’s committee, but I’ve no strong view on this building.)