Plans for new Plumstead council homes – but a gross under-utilisation of land?

Greenwich Council’s planning board are set to approve new Plumstead council homes tonight. Houses are planned on 57-67 Robert Street – a short distance from Plumstead station in Glyndon Ward.

New social homes are welcome given a severe housing shortage and spiraling costs to taxpayers by housing people in expensive private lettings – not to mention the poor conditions and instability they present to many people – this yet again appears to be a site where land is not utilised to maximum effect by Greenwich Council.

The human cost, and the financial cost, are great. Just four 2-bedroom homes are planned on a sizable garage site with 11 off-street parking spaces included in the plan.

It’s certainly possible to build taller than two-storey homes here. A tower block is beside the site and four-storey maisonettes surround on other sides. It’d hardly be out of context.

Current site – block and maisonettes on all sides

Ah, but families want houses with gardens some will say. Well if we ignore the fact that flats for families work perfectly well around the world and are common on the continent, just four homes here ensures many other families are consigned to poor quality B&Bs or short term lets. No decent homes for them.

Large site = just 4 small homes

It’s often those stating “only build low-rise!” who are already lucky enough to be in comfortable, safe and secure housing – and that includes politicians who shout the same thing. I know as a long-term private renter how dire the situation is – and I’ve also lived in plenty of flats above shops, pubs, railway lines and much else. I wouldn’t turn down good quality social housing and neither would many others.

This isn’t to suggest a 24-storey tower is suitable here, though they could at least have shown a modicum of ambition and gone for four-storeys given buildings directly adjacent are of that height. Continuing to build small is simply condemning more people to crap living conditions.

Click to enlarge. Detailed homelessness figures from council report in early in 2019

The number of households accepted as homeless more than doubled  to 287 in one quarter in Greenwich borough according to some of the latest figures we have. The vast majority of those households will be housed in homes costing the authority extremely large sums – and those families will be in a state of limbo with no idea where they’ll be in years to come.

Central Government

It’s not easy to build. While Government have lifted the borrowing cap for local authorities, loans through the Public Works Loan Board (a facility for councils to borrow from central Government) have been increased by one per cent by central Government overnight recently, though they are still below three per cent.

Advert for Kinara

Greenwich could have secured additional funds to build more on this site if they hadn’t sold buildings such as Plumstead’s Kinara Centre cheaply after failing to secure wider planning use classes before marketing, or put money from sales such as Riverside House towards housing instead of the Creative District.

Riverside house on left. Site sold recently

Central Government really don’t make it easy, but Greenwich are hardly busting a gut to do all they can within their power – and it’s costing everyone. Last week it was revealed that the Housing Budget has another £2.6 million overspend.

From Greenwich Cabinet report last week

More than £100 million has also been spent buying existing homes off the market rather than building new.

When these four new homes are approved expect many glowing PR pieces from the council. What you won’t see mentioned is just how many other families will be deprived through a lack of ambition – and one we see time and time again.

Click here to view plans.



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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

    14 thoughts on “Plans for new Plumstead council homes – but a gross under-utilisation of land?

    • I *genuinely* don’t think Greenwich Labour want to solve this problem. Corbyn or even Johnson could give them powers and cash and they won’t do anywhere near what is needed.

      How many Greenwich politicans live or lived on a council estate or been in emergency accommodation?

      The past 10 years shows lack of drive time and again. Powers unused and funds unspent, or spent in odd areas, instead of providing the biggest net increase of homes possible.

      Why are so many HMOs still unregulated and not fined for ignoring rules? Why are so many other private landlords not even under a regulated scheme?

      Why spend so much buying existing homes in secret?

      The possibility of conflict of interest is huge. I’ll tell you what though – if the Labour of old existed with people at the top who REALLY knew about housing struggles then we would see swift action. The party locally and nationally all too often now seems the domain of the wealthy and those with homes and are landlords themselves.

    • It’s Utter madness, mismanagement on a large scale. Greenwich Labour have outstayed their welcome. We need a change of leadership and direction. From those who see what actually needs to be done.

      The council as enough funds to build affordable rented accommodation for those in need of housing.

      Especially when you hear they’ve spent over a £100 million on homes off the market.

      it’s great to hear more Council housing is announced. Yet More needs to be done.

      Surely it’s more beneficial for this site to house a multi-storey apartment block to reflect its surroundings. A landscaped communal garden and off street parking for residents would be a good case.

      • It is not GREAT to hear that more social housing announced. Particularly from those of us who go to work and pay for it.

        • 1) social housing is not subsidised 2) it’s far, far cheaper for taxpayers than housing people in private lettings

        • 3) oh, and you think those in social housing do not work? Please, do some learning

          • Social housing – is not social housing – since all housing delivers a social function of some sort.

            It’s housing that’s made available to different segments of the market based on different economic models to market housing – it’s delivered primarily through taking a cut of the profits from developers who deliver market housing, by organisations including Council’s taking out lower interest rate loans than businesses have access to and by Government through Homes England funding because its far far far cheaper to deliver housing to these segments of the market via this approach, than deal with homelessness and other issues.

            Had Governments delivered housing for different segments of the market to a greater level than they have to date (since the 60’s/70’s) a. housing would be a lot cheaper for everyone b. everyone wouldn’t be complaining about the amount of development that’s needed now c. society would generally be happier with people having a better work / life balance and everyone within a household (in most instances) not having to work all the time. THereby having the time to look after children, their elderly relatives etc which reduce the cost to society in terms of social care / child care etc.

            • Agree100%

    • High-rise and apartment living works elsewhere for people of all incomes and socio-economic levels, particularly in Europe, because there is to a large extent the opportunity to use high quality public realm shared space in place of private gardens. Parks, tree-lined pedestrian walks, vistas, play space, meeting and social space, a sidewalk and cafe culture.

      In too many places in the UK, apartments have become prisons and citizens barricade themselves inside, public realm space is poorly designed and even more poorly maintained, people using public space are treated as a problem to be managed not an asset to be encouraged. Once local authorities abandon their support for people legitimately using public space, legitimate use that ‘crowds out’ anti-social behaviour and takes responsibility for the public realm, you might as well write-off the potential benefits of shared space.

      Sometimes I wonder why we really don’t get it.

      • The reason we as a country don’t get it is because most people still want a 2-3 storey home with a driveway and garden and the land market has been screwed up over such a long time through green belt and other government policies, compounded by the structure of successive government’s approach to planning, that everything becomes about delivering numbers and nimbyism.

        That leaves developers trying to maximise the density of development on every square meter of land that they purchase.

        Only true way of fixing it, is through Government intervention in the land market and *cough* national and regional planning towards development, which no longer exists.

    • Agreed that this a poor use of the site, BUT I am not in favour of building high for anyone. Ditch the parking spaces and add a couple of storeys.

    • I’m not in favour of highrise living for anyone, but agree that Greenwich is making poor use of the space. Add two more storeys and drop the parking spaces.

    • If families in other countries live happily in high rise flats with not enough space and no gardens, why are so many of them coming to this country? The real problem is over-population of the world, being a drain on all sorts of resources.

      • Who said not enough space and who said high rise? Jumping to assumptions there. Flats do not equal smaller room sizes. UK houses are smaller than most flats in European countries. And no gardens? Go visit them. Many have courtyards and well maintained public/communal spaces – and less social problems. But you want to condemn many families to squalor in private rentals which are often far worse? As for the migration line, not many families move wholesale from the EU to UK.

        • It’s the old ‘the wrong sort of people are having too many children and coming over here and taking all our houses’ argument. Such a narrow view of a complex problem.


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