Morris Walk developer Lovell ‘let down’ Greenwich Council, housing chief says

Morris Walk Estate
Many of the Morris Walk buildings are now in a poor state of repair

Greenwich Council has been “badly let down” by the developer in charge of rebuilding the crumbling Morris Walk Estate, its senior councillor in charge of housing said last night as it approved plans to knock down the 1960s estate.

The council entered into a 12-year deal with Lovell in 2012 to redevelop the Connaught Estate in Woolwich town centre and the Morris Walk and Maryon Road estates, on the Woolwich/Charlton border.

While Lovell has pressed ahead with turning the Connaught – close to the under-construction Crossrail station – into the Trinity Walk development, where 445 of the 689 homes are for private sale, work has not started on Morris Walk or Maryon Road. This is despite the council having spent years moving tenants and leaseholders out.

Now frustrated councillors have agreed to tell Lovell to knock Morris Walk down anyway, to stop the largely deserted estate from being a haven for crime and anti-social behaviour. Demolition had been due to begin in autumn 2018.

‘Build date could not be met’

Chris Kirby, the cabinet member for housing, told the cabinet – the council’s main decision-making body – that the council has been asked for “vacant possession” of the blocks. “When that process had begun, we were informed that the build date could not be met,” he said.

“To say I am disappointed doesn’t cover my feelings towards that. I feel badly let down by Lovell and I have told them in no uncertain terms.”

The agreement was signed off by former leader Chris Roberts and his cabinet, which included current Woolwich Riverside councillors John Fahy and Jackie Smith, whose ward covers the estate.

“If we were writing it now we would design it in a different way, but I’m not here to unpick old agreements,” Kirby said.

“Where we are in is a really difficult negotiation about bringing the build date forward. There’s a huge amount of concern and frustration about the start date – it’s difficult to give a running commentary on a negotiation, but as soon as we have concrete information for residents, we will do.

“We’re looking for that start date to be as soon as possible. We’re working with Lovell, with PA Housing [the housing association involved in the scheme], with police and with residents to mitigate the fallout from where we are.”

‘Not short of a bob or two’

Addressing the cabinet, John Fahy spoke of how Lovell’s parent company, Morgan Sindall, presented to councillors at the Local Government Association conference in Bournemouth last week that it had “£2billion in 2012, and £2 billion in 2019”, “They’re not short of a bob or two,” he said.

Kirby responded: “I just agree with you. Developers are allowed to get away with this kind of activity all around the country and what we need is a radical government that’s going to stop landbanking and restore grants for the building of social homes.”

Council leader Danny Thorpe defended the original deal with Lovell, saying the estates were “exempted” from the Decent Homes Programme, a Blair-era programme to bring social housing up to scratch. “We can’t defend squalor, we want to see a decent standing of housing moving forward, and we will be holding PA Housing to account for their actions as well.”

Councillors also approved a decision to approve compulsory purchase orders on the estate on improved terms, following a government decision involving Southwark Council and the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth. “This is now seen as best practice, which is why it is back before us tonight,” Kirby said.

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Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival is back for 2019 – here’s how to get involved

Alfred Hitchcock
Organisers are hoping this year’s festival goes without a Hitch (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival is returning for eight days this September – and it’s looking for movie fans to get involved with the running of the event.

The Charlton Champion can exclusively reveal the dates for this year’s festival – Friday 6 to Saturday 14 September. If you’re new to the idea, the format is simple – free films screened at locations anywhere in the SE7 or SE18 postcodes.

If you’re looking to put a film on – maybe you have an idea, or you have a venue – then your ideas are welcome, but the team is also looking for people who are also happy to learn projectionists’ skills, rattle buckets, fundraise, or deliver leaflets to help the cause.

One of the most successful events of last year’s festival was a screening of Young Frankenstein at Severndroog Castle – organisers are considering putting on a Hitchcock film there this year. Past events have seen Withnail and I and This Is Spinal Tap put on by Deserter.co.uk at The White Swan, and Battle of Britain at St George’s Garrison Church in Woolwich. There are plenty of other ideas – and you may have your own.

To get involved, sign up to the event’s mailing list or attend its open meeting at Charlton House on Wednesday 27 February at 7.30pm (with drinks at the White Swan after), where organisers hope to start nailing down some of the ideas and preparing a timetable.


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Faraday Works: 13-storey blocks planned for Thames Barrier live/work development

18-32 Bowater Road
The former wire workshop would become a new hub for offices and industry (pic: Neil Clasper)

Developer U+I is planning blocks of up to 13 storeys and 500 new homes on the old Siemens cable factory site next to the Thames Barrier.

The Faraday Works project, on the Charlton-Woolwich border, promises 8,000 square metres of employment space, with 40% at discounted rents to keep businesses in the area.

U+I render
U+I’s vision for Bowater Road, with the wire workshop on the right

The scheme, the latest to come forward for the Charlton riverside, includes transforming a crumbling former wire workshop on Bowater Road – the street recently opened up as part of the Thames Path “missing link” – into an “exciting new co-working space promoting and helping young and emerging businesses in the area”.

But U+I has confirmed plans to demolish another heritage block, the 1911 Faraday building, which it plans to replace with a similarly-designed block – although 13 storeys high – containing new housing, with a courtyard garden in front of it. It says the building is in poor condition with damage to windows and concrete.

37 Bowater Road
U+I wants to demolish the Faraday Building and replace it with homes (photo: Neil Clasper)

The developer says it wants 35% of the homes to be “affordable”, with a priority for housing at social rent (usually half of market rents).

It says the Wire Workshop element of the scheme will create 460 jobs, and will be similar to The Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes, west London, which was built out of the former EMI record-pressing plant.

U+I development
U+I plans to build up to 13 storeys on the site

The scheme also plans to keep light industry on site, with the Telegraph Works building extended to accommodate industry downstairs and homes above.

U+I revealed the scheme at a public consultation last week, and the exhibition boards can now been seen on its website, faradayworks.com, where it is also asking for public comments on its ideas.


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