Murky Depths

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Woolwich

Woolwich town centre scheme including cinema revised after City Hall opposition

Building on right part of the island site opposite Wetherspoons

A scheme to build nearly 300 homes in central Woolwich that was approved by Greenwich Council back in 2017 is back before the Planning Board next week after complaints over a lack of social housing.

Part of the scheme

The Island Site which covers an area between Wellington Street and Thomas Street and will retain and renovate some fine buildings while sweeping away away 1960s structures formerly used by the University of Greenwich. It was also due to include a new cinema.

Overview of site

Affordable home levels were set at 13.5 per cent when plans were approved back in 2017. After intervention by the Mayor that is now up to 20 per cent though most of the increase is due to providing more homes through the notorious shared ownership scheme.

Island site in Woolwich

I’ve taken a closer interest in shared ownership recently. What started as a helping hand has quickly turned into a scheme that sees home “owners” obtain just a fraction of a property for a price – relative to average wages – that would’ve seen previous generations secure the whole property.

And even this diminished share of a property is often only accessible to those earnings good wages i.e. above £40,000 in many instances.

Courtesy @Kleon. Island site is to right of new-build beside Woolwich Town Hall. Building seen will go

As Government continues to intervene in the “market” to prop up prices there’s talk of lowering the percentage people can buy. It’s easy to see where those who capitalise on this scheme want it to go. A five per cent share for £500,000? Who knows.

Each and every scheme dreamt up in Number 10 and the Treasury stores up trouble with buying an entire home on an average wage heads further beyond the reach of many.

Low levels of affordable housing has overshadowed what is a very good design. Exemplary really. All existing buildings of quality will be refurbished and see a new lease of life with all the poor quality buildings replaced by good quality new builds.

853 has taken a look at the scheme here and notes the new make up of the Planning Board may not be so amenable to such low levels of social housing – albeit higher than 2017.

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9 Comments

  1. J Smalls

    Ask any of the shared owners in the Royal Arsenal about their experiences:

    – skyrocketing service charges.

    – paying for the concierge service but are not allowed to use it (it’s for ‘real owners’).

    – a ‘full time’ cleaner (we’re charged for 40 hrs/wk) who shows up for an hour a day, if we’re lucky.

    – building falling apart due to a complete lack of maintenance, despite paying for it.

    – Six months to have any sort of complaint or repair dealt with, and even then, we usually have to escalate to our local councillor or MP.

    – locked into a 20+ year communal heating system with charges far higher than industry standards. 

    – Southern Housing Group staff openly mocking/laughing at residents when they ask for help.

    – No accountability for the hundreds of delayed/undealt with complaints dating back years despite escalating to the council and ombudsman.

    – residents currently can’t sell their flats due to a fire cladding issue with the wooden balconies.

    It’s the worst of being a council tenant, but without the cheap rent.

    • Paul SuperUnknown

      J Smalls, I can empathise with your predicament, it is disgusting, and I wish you luck.

      Quick question; do you have a Resident’s Association?

      • J Smalls

        Paul – Thank you.

        Because of the split between owners/shared owners, we have different RAs, which in turn makes us less powerful. Ours is with Southern Housing and as per some of the details in my post, it’s toothless. There is no censure for their inaction, and SHG know it. Pennycook is involved in the communal heating system issue, but with Brexit dominating, even he can only do so much.

    • Charles Calthrop

      Homemade banner hanging from the balcony for every affected resident: one issue per banner. Don’t mention the landlord by name but just let anyone snapping photos know its not the advertised paradise.

      • J Smalls

        Big smile at your comment (and it’s genuinely appreciated).

        There have been several tactics attempted over the years. We’ve been to court. We’ve been to the Leasehold Advisory Service. We’ve been to the media. We’ve tried social media campaigns. Ombudsman. You get worn down by it. Different people take up the mantel, but in the end we’re a small group with limited resources, who just want to live our lives in peace.

        It’s also complicated by the fact that Berkeley Homes is the builder, Rendall & Rittner are their managing agent on site, and Southern Housing Group run the social housing/shared ownership side of it. They all blame each other if there are any complaints.

        I mentioned in another comment that SHG are basically unaccountable to anyone. Additionally, the money and influence Berkeley Homes throw around London (and the UK) is significant and overwhelming. Look at how many buildings they’ve been allowed to squeeze in the Royal Arsenal, despite them not being on the original approved masterplan. They look awful and residents campaigned hard against them. But anytime the plans are rejected, BH just resubmit with a slight tweak and it starts all over again.

        On a particularly bad day, I saw SHG in my building trying to unload a S/O flat on an unsuspecting buyer. I lost it. I went over and told him all the reasons why not to buy. The SHG rep was furious. Welcome to the club, mate.

  2. Jo

    Shared Ownership is now little more than a HUGE scam. Much like Help to Buy.

  3. Paul SuperUnknown

    I must ask: Are the Citizens, who participate in the Shared Ownership Scheme, able to buy the remaining share of the ridiculously priced property at a reduced rate, as with Right to Buy, or is this a boondoggle all the way around?

  4. Graham

    Shared ownership is a very expensive way to buy a property. But there are a lot of people who are happy to get a foot on the housing ladder by buying a property undet these schemes.

    I agree we do need more affordable rentred accomodation for people on lower ncomes,

    I know from people who have purchased flats in Woolwich includung on the Royal Arsenal Estate and have said to me they would prefer separate blocks for privately ownred properties and social housing properties due to anti social behaviour etc.

    I personall think Governments and Local Authorities need to invest in new council housing estates built jointly with Local Authorities and Housing Associations.to provide as many new affordable social houisng homes as possible.

  5. tony g

    Now that 35% is the norm for most new applications, surely this should be the bare minimum here

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