Greenwich Council’s developer off-shoot Meridian Homes have submitted plans for a new block of flats in Woolwich town centre.
The council’s development arm are looking to build 47 affordable flats on Vincent Road beside the new Plumcroft school building.
Given central government restrictions on direct council building, local authority development companies can be a very useful tool rather than selling land and hoping private developers will provide sufficient affordable housing – which is rarely the case.
Council developers can either build entirely affordable homes – at various levels – or sell a number for private sale with all income re-investment back into public funds. That’s a lot better for public funds than selling to a private developer who will only consider providing affordable homes after it becomes “viable” – which means after a minimum profit margin of 20 per cent is gained.
In addition, Right to Buy also doesn’t apply to homes built by council developers.
There are those opposed to this method as social homes are often lacking – but given the option to build outright is lacking this is the next best option, as all profit can subsequently fund social homes at other sites.
The alternative is land sales to private developers – which will never provide what is needed to alleviate ballooning costs to taxpayers due to a lack of affordable homes.
Rents are set at various levels –
- 15 one bedroom (80% rent level)
- 22 two bedroom (65% rent level)
- 10 three bedroom units (55% rent level)
This is higher than most social rent levels, but is more than would be achieved by selling to a private developer. Given restrictions on councils it makes sense at this moment.
Greenwich’s use of Meridian Home Start has been lacking over the ten years since established – with tens of millions spent dealing with a housing shortage over that time. According to Centre for London research, the authority are at the bottom of any London authority when comparing planned homes using a council developer to dwellings needed under the London Plan – which guides development across the capital.
Turning to design, and unfortunately the design is not as good as could be. The usual fears over height have seen the building reduced and made fatter – and so it now breaks the line and rhythm of the street by jutting out towards the pavement. It was hardly a skyscraper before. A low-rise blob is worse than an elegantly proportioned, slightly taller building.
It also presents an almost entirely window-free facade facing an adjacent school which will impact upon light levels. Paranoia has played a part here. Some will probably complain about any homes next to a school. Presumably the same people not struggling with a home to live.
If we never have homes in the vicinity of schools and parks then we’ll prevent much needed housebuilding and condemn more people to poor living conditions. The sheer scale of housing problems slips under the radar of many but the numbers don’t lie.
More and more people are forced to live with parents as they can’t afford to make a start in life. More people homeless. More having to move ever further from schools, family and social bonds. More pressure on transport and finally ever more personal and taxpayers money spent on private rentals – which is money taken from the wider economy.
In terms of design, the application states:
“The site is close to the former Woolwich Rope Yard and so the concept for these gable elevations is to take inspiration from rigging and patterns made in rope with an intertwining brick pattern running up the building using projecting bricks to create a texture within the red brick wall.
This pattern changes in intensity across the elevation to add further interest and depth filtering away from the northern corner of each gable.”
Greenwich Council have stated that Meridian will build 250 homes. With other boroughs looking to build in the thousands using their equivalent developers, there’s ample scope to push that number up. Even Bromley Council are now looking at 1,000.
Click here to view plans.
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