Peabody have partnered with Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands to draw up a masterplan for one of their biggest projects to date in Thamesmead at Thamesmead Waterfront.
The scale of the project makes two nearby Housing Zones (1,800 homes in Bexley borough and 1,800 in Greenwich borough) look like small fry.
The plans are for at least 11,500 homes as part of a £4 billion scheme.
These images are purely indicative but offer a glimpse into the type of densities and housing being looked at. Out goes cul-de-sacs and retail parks from the 1980s and 1990s and in come mid-rise apartment blocks around a completely rebuilt town centre.
New builds should finally make use of the myriad natural sites that Thamesmead is lucky to possess yet mostly overlooked. Currently many homes and the town centre completely ignore lakes and the Thames instead of offering views, paths and places to eat and drink.
Morrisons have a big car park next to a lake yet ignores it. Thamesmead leisure centre turns its back to another adjoining lake.
This is much more like it:
When Thamesmead was conceived in the 1960s the plan was for this area to be a lively town centre with the Thames and lakes surrounded with pubs, restaurants, shops and even a marina. It all fell apart due to cuts from the 1970s then 1980s planning pushed retail parks on the town and no proper centre ever developed.
It didn’t help that Jubilee Line plans were cut as well, as were plans for a new station between Abbey Wood and Plumstead with an express bus link to the area.
It’s hard not the miss the DLR in these plans. Peabody have been pushing hard for the DLR rather than a London Overground extension from Barking Riverside.
The rationale is that more stops can be accommodated in Thamesmead. But the question is does it extend to link up with Abbey Wood Crossrail or head towards Erith, or even head anywhere at all or simply terminate in Thamesmead?
The DLR route doesn’t offer as much north of the Thames than London Overground, which heads to Barking and is a major transport interchange with frequent c2c trains to east London and Essex, London Overground lines across north London and two tube lines (District and Hammersmith & City).
The DLR simply heads to Beckton (not much there and no interchange to other transport modes) and then heads to Poplar beside Canary Wharf and Tower Gateway (quite slowly).
For many people in Thamesmead it’d be quicker to head south to Abbey Wood and take Crossrail to Canary Wharf or central London than use the DLR.
And to send the DLR to Thamesmead means splitting the Beckton branch.
Both London Overground and the DLR offer benefits but also downsides. In the past a tram located on a Thames road crossing looked a decent third option that could extend to Barking via Beckton to the north and allow more stops within Thamesmead and branches to both Abbey Wood and Erith to the south. This is a bit pie in the sky as trams aren’t flavour of the month.
And then there’s the question of timescales. Peabody have been very slow to get building on the Housing Zone sites that already exist. The first stage of Bexley Council’s Housing Zone was pretty much already levelled when they took over Gallions four years ago.
Very little has happened since. And progress at most other sites has been very slow.
And this slow building rate is in a time when the government have been throwing everything at boosting land and house prices to benefit developers and Housing Associations who also indulge in market sales.
The 11,500 scheme is dependent on “market conditions” which aren’t overly healthy right now, with average house price to average wage ratios way out of line with historic averages due to governments actively trying to boost prices.
Homes need to become far more affordable, yet to do so puts the breaks on schemes like this under current government policy.
A change is desperately needed. It wasn’t left to market conditions alone to build homes after World War 2, for example, when both main parties sought to build mass housing leading to over 300,000 homes a year being built built under Churchill and Harold MacMillan by the early 1950s whilst the country was still rationing.
Incidentally, the Tories went on to win in 1955 and 1959 after building that many homes, of which around half were by local authorities.
The 1955 manifesto stated:
“our Party’s pledge to build 300,000 houses a year was derided by our opponents as impossible to fulfill. In fact, nearly 350,000 were built last year, and at least as many are likely to be built this year.”
Teresa May is miles off that despite drawing up a similar target but with none of the drive. Locally, Labour seem more concerned with buying homes off the market at great cost than using Meridian Home Start to mass-build homes bypassing central Government caps in direct council building.
So, will Peabody build 11,500 homes by the Thames in the next few years?