Plans for a tower and 272 homes in Abbey Wood at Eynsham Drive will go before before Greenwich’s Planning Board in less than a week.
Accompanying documents reveal that Greenwich planners have drawn up a draft agreement on how and where to spend money derived from the development, which totals £1,259,415.31. Clicking here shows the draft agreement from page 48.
This is a once in a generation chance to leverage money from Crossrail-related new-builds to improve an area that sorely needs it.
Yet, as usual, hardly anything is going to be spent improving the adjacent deprived estate which has barely seen any funds in decades.
Much income goes towards more affordable housing. Nothing wrong with that. The contribution to Carbon Offset Payment takes £309,600. There’s also funds towards Greenwich’s job scheme “Greenwich Local Labour and Business“. Again, nothing wrong with that.
Yet the amount of income the job scheme swallows is vast, both borough-wide and again with this development. It’s taking £401,927.00 leaving little for the local area.
Many areas of local improvement are missing out due to the job scheme swallowing huge sums. It’s odd how GLLaB takes so much cash from so many developments.
I’ve been regularly searching the GLLAB site and it has never shown one job available. Try yourself.
It’s currently involved in advertising jobs for Ikea – though none appear online. Why Ikea couldn’t do that themselves, with money instead used on improving streets and parks across Greenwich is a mystery.
GLLaB does have other functions including a bus which visits various sites including town centres for outreach work, and that’s fine, but surely it should have some jobs on its web portal?
When it advertises jobs on Twitter it’s often what the private sector already does.
I’ve said it before; the private sector will advertise jobs in coffee shops but will not improve parks and use income to get more people walking and healthy. That’s what S106 and CIL money can do and is not in so many instances.
Many authorities run job schemes and improve parks and public spaces. Greenwich seem unable to do both with the job scheme swallowing most, if not all, income after other obligations are factored in.
Abbey Wood’s need for improvement
I recently covered the state of the public realm in Abbey Wood. It’s poor in many places, and that’s being polite. Parks and shopping areas are extremely dated on its vast 3000-home estate.
Areas around Abbey Wood station are seeing investment but the estate is another world. Areas such as Sewell Road are a very long walk from the station. It might share the same postcode but money spent at the station means nothing to areas like that. Greenwich planners and department’s may not know that when looking at a map. It’s different on the ground.
How money is spent
For years Greenwich Council were very cagey on how they spent developer income. Legislation has forced them to.
Section 106 has now been superseded by the Community Infrastructure Levy, though S106 still exists on big schemes.
In terms of the CIL, here’s Greenwich’s list of where CIL funds can be allocated, named the Regulation 123 list:
At the bottom of the list is public realm and open space, which is probably an indication of the importance the authority places on quality public space. Yet it’s on the list, so can be used for that purpose.
The great shame of an area like Abbey Wood estate is that all the fundamentals of a well-designed place arethere. It’s extremely green and great for children with much open space. It’s well designed for walking with car-free paths but decades of neglect have left it very rough around the edges. Now money is flowing in that can arrest that decline, yet so far Greenwich Council show no desire to do so.
The only changes that seem to occur are tinkering with roads and planting trees (whilst cutting others down). Oh, and dozens of bollards stuck up at random, all weathered and mostly looking awful and doing little about endemic poor parking.
Greenwich Planners, the Highways Dept and Housing Department can and should be doing so much more. How many chances will they get to do so? For all the complaints about cuts, money is coming in, and yet so many areas are missing out. What’s even worse is that the most deprived areas are missing out under a Labour council whilst in the midst of incoming wealth right next door.
People have to see benefits from new-builds to accept and even welcome them. And new builds are needed to solve the housing crises. Not sharing wealth from these new blocks stokes tension and the poorest miss out. Yet in Greenwich borough it happens again and again.
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EDIT: Some have commented that politicians cannot question S106 or CIL money or focus. This is wrong. The Planning Board is supposed to be apolitical when deciding plans yet the CIL spending priority list is drawn up by a department under political control. Politicians can request focus on certain areas and question decisions.
Second, regarding public consultation on schemes before planning. S106 and CIL spending won’t generally come up during that consultation. The building’s form, height or other factors will. Then when plan’s are submitted negotiations between the Planning Department and other departments plus the developer on spending will occur.
After affordable housing and similar factors are agreed the authority then has a sum left over to spend where it sees fit before an agreement signed, based on the CIL 123 regulation. It’s here they can focus on parks, public spaces etc but in Greenwich generally do not.