Many will already have heard that a couple of big housing schemes in Greenwich borough were approved this week. One is a 300-home scheme in Woolwich and another was 245 homes in a tower by Abbey Wood station.
Both schemes have a lot of merit. Woolwich’s Island Site plan is pretty unusual in that it retains all buildings of worth, including unlisted structures, and removes the dross and by doing so opens up internal courtyards and permeability. The Earl of Chatham pub stays.
Abbey Wood’s tower is also much better than the initial application. The taller tower is still not great as it’s pretty much a slab with little variation in roof height, but generally the entire scheme it is a big improvement.
What is concerning about these two schemes however is the lack of “affordable” and social housing, and how two out of three Abbey Wood councillors failed to show up at a meeting where the biggest planning application in the town for around 40 years was being decided.
Abbey Wood ward is unusual in that all three of its councillors sit on the Planning Board, including council leader Denise Hyland. She arrived only for the last few minutes of the entire meeting missing three discussions and votes.
Another Abbey Wood councillor, Steve Offord, didn’t show up at all. Only Clive Mardner did. He voted against. The issue with Clive Mardner is that his usual attendance record is 48% with 52% absence over the past six months. Previously attendance is better but not great.
So Abbey Wood is hardly being well represented by its Labour councillors.
Issues not raised
By arriving late, council leader Denise Hyland had no opportunity to question elements of the scheme.
She didn’t ask why only 24 out of 245 flats are “affordable” at 70% of market rents. Less than 10%. And absolutely no social housing at all.
Nor did she get to ask about parking and access. There’s very few spots provided. Understandable given the proximity to Crossrail, but with parking enforcement in the local area and estate often non-existent, locals have a right to be concerned. Access for deliveries and services is also a worry.
The lack of low-cost flats to rent is even more erroneous when considering how much developers are contributing through the Community Infrastructure Levy. The rate in Abbey Wood is £40 per square metre compared to the rate in most of the borough at £70 per sq mt. This map shows the different zones:
Here’s charging totals with residential difference based on zone:
Still, even at almost half-rate the development will still bring in healthy amounts of money to the council which could improve parts of the run-down local area. But no questions on whether it would.
Maybe Hyland had a good reason for being very late. But she hasn’t said anything to explain it on her Twitter account or online. There’s absolutely nothing about this scheme on there for the past few weeks.
The other councillor who didn’t show – Steve Offord – has no online presence either on Twitter or Facebook. Nor a website. Nor does Clive Mardner. You’d be hard pressed to find three members of the public off the street with so little online engagement as these three.
And the same lack of questions was given with the Island Site scheme at Woolwich. Though it looks fantastic, “affordable” housing levels are just 13.5%. Social home levels are 6%. It was waved through.
Last week the site covered how Greenwich Council’s Deputy Leader (who is also in charge of Regeneration) appeared to confuse social and “affordable” housing on a regeneration scheme in Woolwich which is seeing a big drop in social housing.
The other scheme approved was a council scheme for 37 homes in Charlton. This was a welcome scheme in terms of providing real low-cost homes, yet doesn’t make up for approving schemes elsewhere with a paucity of homes that people on low and average incomes can afford.
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