Murky Depths

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Woolwich

Woolwich Tesco tower plan rejected on appeal

Site of planned tower

Plans by Meyer Homes for a 27-storey tower in front of Woolwich Tesco have been rejected by the Planning Inspector. Over 800 homes were planned in both a tower and blocks behind the existing Tesco development.

Tower plan

Campaign group Speak Out Woolwich had raised over £2,000 to appear at the enquiry and many local people took time to raise issues over the plan.

Today’s report states the tower “cannot simply be viewed in isolation, and the contextual response revolves around the height of what is proposed. He (the Secretary of State) agrees with the Inspector’s conclusions that the Phase 3 building would be of an incongruous height which would dwarf anything around it and loom oppressively over the Square.”

“Overall the Secretary of State agrees that the Phase 3 proposal would harm the character and appearance of its immediate surroundings. He considers this carries substantial weight against the proposal.”

Green space would have seen tower

A recently enacted Conservation Zone covering Woolwich town centre is also a factor. It states “the Woolwich Conservation Area has since been designated, and there is no disputing that this is an important new material consideration”.

This shows that tools available to local authorities can influence planning decisions. For a long time some within the council stated decisions had to be approved as developers would always win on appeal. Well, masterplans, Conservation Zones and tools such as Site Allocation strategies all help determine policy.

Land to rear of tesco

It was a lack of such plans, or badly drawn up documents, that permitted so many poor developments in recent years such as retail sheds in Charlton. Now there is finally a second Conservation Zone covering some of the best buildings in Woolwich – in addition to one that has stood for some time near the Common.

Click to enlarge. Conservation Zone area

Greenwich Council almost blew it by permitting outline permission for a tower on site when Tesco owned land before it was sold to Meyer Homes. A masterplan for the site was also binned by Greenwich in 2017/18 after spending £124,054 and going out to public consultation. That proposed capping heights until it was ditched.

Original tower proposal – outline permission was granted

They redeemed themselves through the adoption of a Conservation Zone.

Other tools

However this isn’t the end of wrangles at other sites. A Site Allocation policy which determines land usage is running years late. The report mentions this stating: “Having regard to the stage in the process that it (Site Allocation strategy) has reached this is a material consideration of limited weight.”

But for now, action taken elsewhere has prevented a tower which although personally I liked, was one which was in entirely the wrong position. On the Arsenal site beside the river it would have offered a nice contract to numerous angular blocks.

And while the tower gained most attention, blocks to the rear were pretty dire:

Rear blocks

The report states in regards to those: “the proposals would not offer a reasonable living environment for occupiers of the new single aspect units, and neither would the proposal adequately protect the living conditions of neighbouring residents in terms of loss of sunlight and daylight”.

Affordable housing levels were also small at 23 per cent though this is not one of the reasons for refusal.

Mayer Homes can now seek a Judicial Review. They may well do so. Given their claim that just 23 per cent of “affordable” housing was feasible here despite cramming so many units onto the plot, they may have overpaid for land to quite some extent.

I’ve been covering this story for the past decade including issues such as the cancelled £124,000 area masterplan and spent hours reading documents. It’s possible possible thanks to support from readers. Any help is appreciated and you can donate here. 

 

11 Comments

  1. Dawn Green

    Best news I’ve heard for ages

  2. D.W.W

    There are thousands of flats being built, mostly to buy so are useless to the majority who can’t afford them and who rely on the council for housing. Precious little is being built for the council sector! But along with new flats and houses, where are the extra hospitals, schools, Doctors surgeries, NHS Dentists and extra parking being built to serve them?

    • lu

      Too right, they ripped down the social housing on Brookhill and don’t appear to have replaced it, they now seem to want to rip down an old people’s home to build a cinema, years after turning our last cinemas into flats….. It seems the people who kept the community going for decades are being pushed out, we never learn that everyone needs somewhere to live, not just people with deep pockets and a love of high rise blocks.

  3. Sensible decision for once!

  4. Kit

    Great news, well done Planning Inspector! The last thing we need is a 27 story monstrosity – especially one with an incredibly bold 77% of units being defined as NOT affordable.

    The square is an essential community space and I’m really glad that the Inspector has protected it.

  5. HK

    I agree with all the comments.
    A rare occasion where the correct decision was made.
    We need to retain open public space in our inner cities!

    • Graham

      Yes good news !!

      I agree HK now what they need to do is make this open space more attractive and user friendly and stop the people that hang around here causing anti social behavioiur.

      As it is the anti social behaviour that is ruining Woolwich and stopping it from being a really great area that it once was and really can be again !!

  6. Excellent, so pleased all the hard work by Speak Out Woolwich paid off, pleased to play my small part in giving written and verbal evidence to the hearing. Now we really need a community-led proposal for the sites that complements and enhances Woolwich.

    • CDT

      Greenwich Council now really needs to improve the public spaces in and around Woolwich Town Centre including the open space to the front of the Tesco Store to make them much safer and brighter for everyone to use.

      With so much high dentisy housing now being built our open spaces in the Borough are now more important than ever.

  7. Jack

    “Well, masterplans, Conservation Zones and tools such as Site Allocation strategies all help determine policy”

    The development plan is policy against which planning applications have to be considered, masterplans conservation areas etc are material considerations once adopted by Council as well. All local planning authorities are aware of that. However, you have to go through various processes before adopting such documents, and they have to be evidence led.

    Not sure why Greenwich have removed the decision notice and other documents to planning application 06/1751/O, but rarely do you have situations where an outline planning application expires after it’s been implemented.

    Condition 3 as the inspector states, doesn’t actually state that all phases of the development must be consented within a given period, or completed, it just states ” The development to which this permission relates shall begin not later than whichever is the later of the following dates:”

    That development began with the Greenwich Council building / Tesco’s etc… whilst I disagree with the scale and design of the refused proposal, the approach taken by the Council and developer does seem to be odd to say the least.

    • Jack

      It’s actually condition 2 of the original outline which stops further phases from coming forward, not condition 3: “Any application for the approval of the reserved matters pursuant to condition 01 shall be made to the LPA before the expiration of eight years from the date of this permission.”

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