Lidl have submitted an application to demolish and rebuild their store in Abbey Wood. The store’s located about five minutes walk from the railway station, which is currently being redeveloped for high frequency Crossrail services to various parts of London including areas of large employment such as Canary Wharf (10 minutes away) and the City (Liverpool Street at 18 minutes).
Couple that to the desperate need for housing, rapid population growth and a mixed-use scheme with various types of housing above the shop will be proposed, right? Nope. Another bloody retail barn.
It’s such an incredible waste of land. Lidl recently did the same at the Old Kent Road. Fortunately Southwark Council rejected their application in October. Here’s what Southwark Council planners stated:
“The proposed development on site to provide a mixed use development would be an underdevelopment of the site which would result in an inefficient use of the land failing to optimise residential and employment outputs and densities in a site which forms part of the Old Kent Road Opportunity Area and has very good public transport accessibility”.
Will Greenwich council follow Southwark’s lead and ask for a scheme befitting its location? Abbey Wood is also categorised as an ‘opportunity area’. Recent actions do not bode well, as they continue to permit mass retail sheds across Charlton and Greenwich with no housing components – a failed legacy of 1980s and ’90s planning that many other parts of London have moved away from, particularly in zones 1-4.
Southwark planners had encouraged Lidl to pursue housing in discussions. Have Greenwich council been doing the same? Southwark had “urged the applicants to explore the possibility of providing a more comprehensive development that took the opportunity to provide much needed housing as well as an improved retail facility”.
Does Abbey Wood need housing?
Some may argue that the Old Kent Road is in zone 2 and very close to zone 1 whilst Abbey Wood is in zone 4. But as stated before, Abbey Wood will shortly be 10 minutes from a huge centre of employment at Canary Wharf, which will see further huge growth in employment once the new transport infrastructure finishes. Planners need to be thinking of the near future, and not how things were in the 1980s.
In terms of design, the dreary grey box also appears to be exactly the same crap that they tried to build in Southwark. The only positive is that a small amount of car parking will be under the store, but really, that’s far from enough.
Canary Wharf’s workforce doubling
Around 105,ooo people currently work at Canary Wharf. As The Standard reports, Crossrail is expected to double that to 200,000 once it opens. Existing transport links have restricted growth. Crossrail’s station box is already built and fitted out, and now the group are now looking to push ahead with various towers directly beside the station which were unable to proceed until capable transport provision is in place.
Workforce levels in outer London are also declining. Greenwich borough will see some of the biggest reductions in employment within its boundaries compared to other parts of London. This means far more people commuting out of the borough in coming decades, mainly to two large areas of employment – the City and Canary Wharf. The more employment and housing trends in London are analysed, the more retail sheds close to major stations seems extremely short sited and misguided.
This is not arguing against shops with large floorspace. Lidl’s is popular, and rightfully so. Expansion is fine. Yet expanding with nothing but more car parking and no residential whatsoever in such a location is incredibly wasteful and short sited. London’s population will hit 10 million in just over 10 years at current growth levels – up from 8.6m now, which is the highest level ever. If housing is not built in places like this, where will 1.4 million people go?
I’ve written before about how Lidl submit many plans for low rise stores in areas of London where much housing can be provided, and how that compares to many of their stores across Europe which include residential above.
The plans also see 157 car parking spaces – a rise of about 50. This will place further strain on Harrow Manorway, which is the main link from Thamesmead to Abbey Wood station. Traffic is now far slower since a number of traffic lights were installed earlier this year due to the new Sainsbury’s superstore plus its large car park, a related roundabout and Crossrail work. Thousands of new homes will also line the road in coming years.
So, the ball is in Greenwich Councils court now. A nearby borough very recently rejected Lidl’s identical and lazy plans. The housing need is pretty desperate. Hopefully we will see a break from Greenwich’s recent actions and a demand for something far more fitting for the site. Many previous mistakes were under former leaders and cabinet members. Hopefully the replacements take a more enlightened position.
Planning Ref: 15/3709/F
Update: After some further research I thought it’d be a good idea to highlight that Lidl are now building more mixed-use schemes in London and elsewhere. Here’s one proposed store in Richmond with 24 flats:
Over in Dartford they are proposing a small number above a forthcoming shop. Less than ideal, but better than none.
In Croydon they propose 42 flats above a shop.
Over in Stockwell they have built housing above a large store. It can be done and increasingly is in London.