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Greenwich reveal sites for new council homes – where’s the ambition?

Greenwich Council have released some further details of possible sites for new homes in a report before the Council’s Cabinet next week. But are they lacking in ambition?

Last year Central Government lifted the borrowing cap on councils and the authority revealed plans for 750 homes – but only starting on site around 2022. Yep, that’s right. Three years time. To compare, Hackney are looking to build 3,000 by 2024.

The housing crises requires much faster and more ambitious plans than just 750 homes with 17,000 now on the waiting list – an increase of 44% over the past five years. And these stark figures show the increase in homelessness in just one quarter:

Big jump in homeless people

Looking through this document shows why numbers are so low. Greenwich want to build low rise in many places. Compare that to other Labour councils that have ambitions ranging from family homes to high density locations where suitable.

Courtesy Google. Just four homes planned on this site. Why so little? It’s scruffy underused land with more greenery two seconds away

In Hackney, to give one example of what can be done, at King’s Crescent estate redevelopment has seen 765 new homes on site with 376 for private sale, 115 shared ownership and 275 council flats – which is 80 more than before.

Greenwich report

The Cabinet report in Greenwich states:

“The majority of the sites on RBG HRA land which are currently available and
have the potential for development, are small in scale. This means they will
accommodate less than 10 units and will be low in density.”

Just three new homes planned here above new community centre. Even 10 would be modest

I’m always reminded of the authority building bungalows in recent years directly next to a Zone 2 DLR station at Elverson Road. It was madness. More and more people are homeless and others left in completely inadequate short term accommodation at extremely high cost to the taxpayer and they build bungalows by a high frequency station.

The whole area could be reworked with a sizable jump in council homes and new homes for commuters to prevent urban sprawl. Yet it looks like they’ll make the same mistake nearby with just 14 new homes on large sites such as this:

Courtesy Google

It’s the same in every corner of the borough.

Much scope for homes not being realised at sites like this

In addition, and separate to direct council building is the option of using council spin off developer Meridian Home Start. The number of homes to be built using Meridian remains at the very bottom of the list of London Labour councils when judged against housing targets in the London Plan according to Centre for London research.

As a comparable, Croydon are looking to build at least 2,500 using their version of Meridian. Greenwich? Just 250.

If using arms length council developers means building some market sale homes and using income to cross-subsidise social homes then so be it. It’s really not a time to piss about. It’s still preferable than the private sector building on land, providing a sprinkling of “affordable” homes and walking off with a 20% plus profit margin.

Entrance to garage site beside Abbey Wood Crossrail station. Perfect for mid-density housing? New tree planting suggests no action likely. Adjacent former council yard was on disposal list

The severity of the housing crises just doesn’t seem to permeate through to the authority.  It’s an absolute disaster and public health crises. It affects children and families. The old, the sick and the most vulnerable. It’s forcing people to commute far longer to work. Less time with families. The negative impacts are massive.

Just 11 homes are planned here

To add insult to injury they’ve actually proclaimed 750 homes starting in three years as some sort of triumph. Sure, that’s better than dire numbers over the past decade but really they should be aspiring for far, far more using every tool out there.

Underused land in Greenwich. Could this be used?

I’ve had to move about eight times myself and know how awful the housing situation is. I’ve seen the reality of it and the impact on friends and families. This is one of the most pressing issues right now. I just don’t think Greenwich Council get it.

I’ve listed numerous sites on this website that are council owned and ripe for building. They include garages and a council yard next to Abbey Wood Crossrail (seen above). Abbey Wood estate could see many more homes in certain locations including the shopping parade on Eynsham Drive with extensive garage sites behind shops.

Garages in Abbey Wood. Council proposed selling ground floor

We’re not talking half a dozen homes but hundreds across underused sites. That’s if they had the ambition. But are they running scared of NIMBYs? Those fortunate enough to already have a home placed above those in need?

It wouldn’t be without controversy. Some demolition may be required but the need is vast. The alternative is condemning more and more people to atrocious living conditions.

Schemes could be funded in numerous ways such as borrowing, partnerships or market sales to help cross-fund. It needs imagination. And is it there?

For example, Woolwich’s Creative District is being funded to the tune of £40 million partly through sell offs of council buildings such as Riverside House in Woolwich. Would it not be possible to fund the Creative District (let’s assume it will go ahead) using an ultra low interest rate loans from the Public Works Loan Board and instead use all income from building sell-offs on building new homes? Or build a high rise tower on the site directly or through Meridian? There’s many options to be studied.

It can be done. Other Labour councils show it can. Many are planning far more homes than Greenwich. When will this authority realise the urgency of the situation?

 

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8 Comments

  1. Jo

    It’s truly depressing to see those sites, many of which have already been built on, have such minimal plans.

    All well and good for those not in need to bleat and try to stop building but this is a major issue and Greenwich have not grasped it. Why? The excuses fall away and still little is done. It’s as if they don’t want to step on the toes of the big boys and build homes directly to any real degree.

  2. SG

    The numbers promoted on those sites reflect the character of the area and the constraints of the area, you can’t just put up high density buildings anywhere and everywhere without looking at the implications…

    • fromthemurkydepths

      Except that’s not what I suggested. However they certainly get more than low numbers planned on many of these plots. Some are surrounded by mid density buildings.

  3. anonymous201486

    @fromthemurkydepths, low rise accommodation is much better for social housing tenants since many will have children. They and the elderly do not want to be marooned at the top of skyscrappers reliant on lifts that may or may not be working at any given time.

    If the council was to use every bit of land it owns, long, low rise blocks would house many people without the need to go up into the sky. However, Greenwich is not interested in alleviating the chronic housing shortage either by building on the land it owns, or using low cost, quick build units as Place Ladywell erected by Lewisham Council. Ironically, however, the build was quite slow.

    • fromthemurkydepths

      I never spoke of skyscrapers. As said, mid rise and what is contextual. The council is not just housing families (and even then in can work very well as seen all over the continent). Restricting building to two stories is condemning many to B&Bs and being shipped many miles away.

      • anonymous201486

        @fromthemurkydepths, you cannot compare the ‘money machine developments’ with what goes on abroad. Further, Greenwich shows no interest in helping the 17,000 on the waiting list, and 750 units just doesn’t cut it. Families will continue to be shipped or forced out of the borough for lack of decent homes.

  4. Richard

    London is a big city and if people don’t like the kind of buildings that big cities have – ie apartment blocks and tall buildings that make efficient use of limited land resources – maybe they shouldn’t be living in London. Too many local councils are too nervous about this small, highly vocal special interest group that oppose any kind of development, or indeed change to the landscape at all. Shame on the planners for not only doing the wrong thing, but also for not even attempting to argue the case for what they know to be right.

  5. Sue

    SG – these plans are NOT contextual in many instances. Look at the size of the land plots and buildings around. Terraced homes is a gross under utilisation on some sites. Some sites could certainly take more homes.

    When you have a relative with children stuck in unsafe, tiny accommodation and the only other option is being moved 50 miles away from friends and family you see how ridiculous the actions of many NIMBIES and the “I’m alright jack” brigade are, who often themselves benefited from a good standard home they want to deny others.

    And shame on this council for indulging that rather than standing up and stating the case for more homes and higher density. That doesn’t mean repeating the mistakes of the past with towers but it also doesn’t mean building very few homes on precious plots of land.

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