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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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