Murky Depths

News in London and beyond

Greenwich borough, Housing, Plumstead

Greenwich Council leader states NIMBIES determine number of council homes built

Low rise set among taller buildings

Recently this site covered plans to build just four small homes on a sizable garage site in a built-up part of Plumstead close to a railway station and numerous bus routes.

It appeared as yet another gross underutilisation of public land in the midst of a housing crises and result sharp increase in homeless families recently seen.

Garage site in Plumstead

Anyway, needless to say the Greenwich Planning Board passed the plans. I asked Greenwich Council Leader Dan Thorpe (Lab – Shooters Hill) about this and he appears to confirm that NIMBIES dictated such a small number of new homes.

So NIMBIES are calling the shots? What’s particularly galling here is Dan Thorpe defending building so few homes shortly after tweeting about the awful conditions some families are currently living in – with the usual reference to austerity while denying what his own authority can do – and is actually doing. These figures show the stark reality of the problem in Greenwich borough:

Click to enlarge. Detailed figures from council report in early in 2019 showing homeless increase

In effect a council garage site that could have seen three times the planned homes – and that’s a conservative number – will now see just four homes with eight other families stuck in poor quality, expensive private lettings or temporary accommodation costing the authority, and thus the taxpayer, large amounts of money.

The news comes shortly after the GLA’s latest monitoring report shows housing targets are being missed by some way in Greenwich borough with just 63 per cent of the total being built last year – and “affordable” housing averages less than 20% of the total homes built over the past three years. That’s affordable and not even social – or council – homes.

Woolwich estate rebuild has seen just 13 council homes

The authority has recently been housing people as far away as Medway in Kent as the number of families in need of housing has increased. In July they sought to buy more market homes outside London. That council report revealed that costs have increased from £4 million a year in 2014/15 to £13.1 million last year and 50 people are now housed in Medway. Last month another £2.6 million spend on housing due to homelessness was revealed.

Aside from the numbers there;s the human aspect. One parent with children has been complaining of living in an infested house in Medway after being placed there by Greenwich Council, with the individual stating they are on the verge of a breakdown.

It’s those very people being deprived a secure and safe home by failing to build on existing land alongside selling various plots of public land and buildings to fund the Creative District in Woolwich, or selling public buildings off cheaply such as the Kinara Centre in Plumstead.

Advert for Kinara. It was sold without changing planning designation to residential thus limiting sale price

The defence for this was that is was an old building. That makes no odds. The buyers will inevitably apply for change of use and be quids in. And even if income funds a new library, gaining greater income would fund a library and additional revenue for housing. I know this is incredibly obvious but Greenwich Council fail to recognize it.

Back to the Plumstead site, and to listen to those already lucky enough to be in secure and affordable council homes in the area rather than those in dire need is quite something for a Labour council. Is this how it will be going forward? We’ve long seen bungalows and low-rise buildings even near Zone 2 stations such as Elverson Road in the borough.

Just this week when one member of the public asked a Greenwich Labour cllr on social media why the authority are building such low rise homes in inner London (at another site this time) they were blocked. I’ve seen a screenshot of the discussion and a simple question was enough to get that person shut out.

Estate redevelopment projects are seeing many council homes lost

The Conservative Government makes it extremely hard for councils to build new homes, but when local authorities in London then adopt policies that further increase hardship  then just what hope for those families in need?

With actions like this and Tory candidate to be Eltham MP Louie French agreeing to sell park land for private homes without a single affordable home, let alone council housing, what hope for many?

And all this continues to cost local taxpayers vast sums, as housing families in B&Bs or temporary housing can costs hundreds of pounds per night. If NIMBIES are calling the shots we can expect a trickle of homes, many more families in dire need and taxpayers costs rising ever higher.

 

 

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14 Comments

  1. Ed

    The land is not just seeing four homes but sizable car parking – so the authority are placing car primacy at the fore in a inner London site with excellent public transport connections.

    They behave more like a Home Counties authority than a London Labour borough.

  2. Jo

    Ridiculous statement from Thorpe but I’ve said it before; if some of the Labour Greenwich politicians lived a few miles south in Bromley they’d wear blue rosettes.

    It’s often those who appear most tribal that do the least for public housing.

    It’s not Labour action now, nor ever before, that deprived those in need due to a few moaning. If that happened none of the great housebuilding schemes of the 20th century would have happened.

    What is wrong with them? This is beyond a pattern. It’s like they’re actively trying to build as few council homes as possible. Volume private housebuilders and landlords are ultimately the winners.

  3. Roy Tindle

    Over 20 years ago, I was working on economic regeneration in the Ferrier Estate, Kidbrooke. Greenwich proposed changes to Telemann Square and quoted a consultation. I checked the Square; no one had seen the consultation! Greenwich Councillors generally consult only themselves.

  4. Ashley

    Delusional Labour and their spin of lies, you cannot blame austerity measures consistently Mr Thorp.

    You and your Party have been in power almost 5 decades! So its Labour failings, lack of leadership and priorities.

    Isn’t it also down to policy set out by your party to where and how funds are distributed? Shameful it’s lacking at all levels. Surely, the council has enough funds to build affordable rented accommodation through for those in dire need of housing. Especially when you hear they have spent over a £100 million on homes off the market.

    I and most like-minded people (Conservative or Labour supporters) believe in more affordable council homes either if it’s through Meridian Home Start (which Greenwich Council own) or directly funded council homes. It’s essential.

    So Greenwich Council must start utilising income from S106/CIL and TfL for the benefit of the Realm, public safety improvements and more social homes.

    It’s a sorry state of affairs, a Royal Borough with High levels of incompetence by this outdated Labour administration. Greenwich is Long overdue a change of governance, PARTY and leadership.

    • Ethics Gradient

      Congratulations on composing such an unbiased piece of analysis.

      It has rather a lot to do with Tory austerity though, doesn’t it….

      Then there’s this in the above article: “… actions like this and Tory candidate to be Eltham MP Louie French agreeing to sell park land for private homes without a single affordable home, let alone council housing …”

  5. Charles Calthrop

    Meridian’s acronym would be more along the lines of Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone. The acronyms for Mr Thorpe and his worthless ilk are best left unpublished..

  6. GreenwichRes

    I don’t know why you need to speak so dissmissively of people who are concerned about their immediate surroundings. If I lived in one of the houses in that row behind the garage site I would definitely want only a limited number of new builds.

    I doubt very much the locals are calling the shots but certainly their views must be taken into consideration too.

    The council will have other sites where they can build at a higher concentration.

    • fromthemurkydepths

      There are precious few council owned sites left. There are maisonettes and tower blocks beside this disused site, yet many in them apparently want to prevent what they already have? People who value car parking spaces above those families in need of housing…well. Assuming it’s true of course, as no consultations appears to have happened beyond verbal. Plus, its costing them and everyone hugely in the financial sense resulting in cuts to other key services.

    • It’s the ‘I’m alright, Jack’ mentally of the protestors that reeks. Everybody has the right to decent housing and it is the job of local authorities to provide for those who cannot afford to buy or rent the many shiny, new matchbox flats.

      Greenwich Council, in common with many other local authorities, is intent on exporting the poor out of the borough whilst selling off council land to big developer. It’s a disgrace and an outrage.

    • Susan

      It’s interesting you first think of those already with a home and not those in desperate need of one.

      Let me tell you about a friend of mine who worked all her life and who left an abusive relationship alongside her children and ended up being moved every other week and in desperate, horrible housing. Moved from pillar to post. The reason was lack of suitable council housing. It added to an already horrendous situation for the family. Those are the people who are missing out by building so few homes on sites such as this. They are being forgotten.

  7. LJH

    Thanks for the blog post, as always very helpful and informative.
    However I just wanted to raise something re: trinity walk – there are 13 apartments managed by council which were last minute sale (no housing association involvement), but there are hundreds (don’t know exact number) managed by paragon asra (I think it’s 35%). They are marketed as affordable rent but actually I don’t think the borough really participates in this – and these also I believe are all council homes but managed by PA. With these flats having higher occupancy levels half of the developments’ occupants are in social housing.

    The remainder of the development has been sold on help to buy. I see your other posts about help to buy being overpriced but for me it has been a godsend – I spent ten + years in rented accommodation with difficult landlords and unpredictable housemates which had a detrimental impact on my mental health, and paid more for one room in a sharehouse than I do now on my mortgage. so for me it was worth it and I hope I’m not unwanted in Woolwich. The higher sale prices of our property helps to fund the building of social housing (Lots of it going in developers pockets of course), and the trinity walk flats are stunning and I hope give the new residents a great opportunity to raise families in much better accommodation. I appreciate this is a really difficult issue and I know more could be done and neither do I have all the answers but just wanted to share my perspective.
    Thanks for all the brilliant articles and welcome other points of view.

    • fromthemurkydepths

      Thanks for the kind words. I don’t begrudge people using Help to Buy given how abysmal private renting often is. My thinking is that on a wider level its helping some but long term is not addressing the underlying issues and in fact exacerbating them.

      The 35% total for affordable housing is still quite a big fall from the numbers of social housing before the estate was redeveloped. The council state anyone who left could return if they wanted, but when they move on or pass away is the property then let at a social rate I wonder? It’s all very opaque. Even those who have returned such as elderly supported by housing benefit, is the taxpayer now paying more to the HA than they were to the council? The tenant wouldn’t see a difference, but taxpayers do. Multiply that nationwide and we start to see why housing benefit costs have risen by billions over the past decade.

      • LJH

        Agree with comments on HTB propping up house prices- guess at least it tries to limit horrendous buy to let culture. Housing crisis is a disaster really for everyone who didn’t buy before the recession / doesn’t earn double the average salary / don’t have wealthy parents. Not great for those of us in overpriced new builds we can’t sell, even worse for the huge proportions stuck on the unregulated rental market and terrible for people in need of social housing. Re-electing Boris means nothing will be done as funding for social housing is just so limited.

        Are there other councils in London who manage things better than Greenwich?

  8. LJG

    I also wonder whether councils have the appetite/ resources to manage social housing and whether it’s also motivating the passing over of new builds to housing associations. Not that housing associations seem to try very hard at all to manage things properly.

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