New residents are finally moving onto a new development at Callis Yard in Woolwich after legal issues saw the building stand empty for months.
A number of residents had contacted me to complain about not being able to move in though some are now able to pick up keys and finally move.
The tower is located beside Riverside House – which Greenwich Council have sold – and was formally stables and then a council depot.
The council opted not to use this site and neighbouring Riverside House to provide new housing but instead sell to private developers. That may yield a short-term cash boost, but over the mid to long term results in a poorer outcome for taxpayers given the need to house ever more people in expensive private rentals. Huge sums are now being spent doing just that.
Building homes directly is difficult due to Government policy, yet if the the authority had developed both sites using their own developer Meridian Homes, including a percentage at market sale, every penny of income could then be re-invested towards local services or affordable homes. Selling to a private developer results in affordable homes only being provided after profit margins of 20 per cent (at least) being attained.
The Callis Yard development has brought in £1.3 million from Section 106 payments. None was allocated towards public realm to improve safety and pedestrian access in the area. I covered this past week how the adjacent dual carriageway does little to encourage footfall from the town centre to the riverside, shops and other parts of this area – with the the leisure centre seeing large falls in visitors, though £66,502 was allocated to “local community”.
As we’ve seen before though that can mean anything. Money allocated to “local community” in Plumstead was spent in Eltham and Greenwich.
Before developers agreed terms with Greenwich Council public realm was listed was as a likely recipient. As happens all too often, it disappeared from the final S106 agreement. The draft areas are seen here:
Details on exactly what projects received money within each general area where spending was allocated is not covered in council documents.
For example, we know £965,431 went to transport. Presumably Crossrail though its unknown exactly. Crossrail takes 50% of S106 income overall yet the total is about 70% here. Of course, it could mean another similar development allocated 30% to transport which still sees 50% overall?
Who knows. Maybe some extra is going to buses, or cycling? Or ripping out more trees and greenery in central reservations nearby as revealed last week?
Greenwich Council are opaque in the extreme in how they spend Section 106 income. It’s only now revealed in vague terms it as it became a legal requirement to do so. It’s also never on agendas at council Planning Board meetings held in public. Again in contrast to other authorities. Southwark discussed this allocation of S106, for example, in August 2019 at a public meeting:
The same theme continues with income received from developers via the Community Infrastructure Levy which has mainly replaced S106 (though not entirely). It’s a legal requirement to spend at least 15 per cent of CIL income from new developments in a local area – which Greenwich stick to. Other councils go above and beyond that level.
Greenwich Council name their 15% allocation as the “Neighbourhood Growth Fund” and give the impression it’s a public spirited endevour – yet they have to do so and stick at the bare legal minimum.
There’s still a long, long way to go before transparency and local focus gets anywhere near other authorities.