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Charlton, Greenwich borough

Plans submitted for pocket homes in Charlton

Plans for 48 small homes on public land sold by Greenwich Council to developer Pocket Living have been uploaded to the authority’s website today. The building will top out at five floors.

Internal communal space at entrance

This project is one subject I’ve covered extensively in recent years. Three plots of public land were put up for sale by the council despite a sharp increase in homelessness and people housed by the authority in expensive emergency accommodation.

Charlton site

Eventually three plots for sale reduced to one which was sold to Pocket Living who proposed homes at the very edge of legality when it comes to overall size.

Flats are as small as 38.5 square metres. National size standards state a home should be at least 39 square metres for a one-bed property with a bath. This gets around that by having a shower instead of a bath.

The Council’s Cabinet were not presented with a full range of options when the decision was made to sell in July 2018. Using the authorities own developer Meridian Homes was not on the list of options:

Meridian Homes notable by its absence on list of options for land

Numbers of people registered as homeless in the borough increased from over 700 in 2018 when the decision was made to over 900 in 2019.

The council also choose not to build directly despite ever increasing costs of housing people in emergency accommodation. Since then millions have had to be found to meet ever growing costs. This is just one example seen in February 2020:

This is regularly seen in council reports. Ever more millions needing to be found due to public housing shortages

References to “affordable housing” in the council report neglect that this is at the level of 80 per cent of market rates. Meridian Homes are typically 60-65% and direct council homes around 40%.

Applicants will need to earn at least £37,000 a year to afford the smallest 1 beds on site. Pocket Living state a very small one-bed at 80 per cent market rate will be more affordable than other tenures. Well yes, but so would an even smaller box at 60 per cent but it’d be barely liveable. This race to the bottom is not a model that benefits many people.

Pocket Living claim in planning documents that 38%, or 42,000 households would be able to afford a Pocket Living home. Yet their small size means it would be completely impracticable for many of  those households.

Is this what an authority should be doing with precious public land? Selling to a company that provides homes on the borderline of legality in terms of size? Greenwich Council could have built directly here providing cheaper and larger units that would have reduced cost pressures on emergency temporary housing – especially as the borrowing cap for councils was removed in 2018. They could have used Meridian which prohibits future sales via right to buy.  Neither was taken up.

There was strong opposition from respondents to a survey in 2018 despite a strong PR campaign and dedicated website sent to local residents with pre-filled responses from Pocket Living advocating development.

It wasn’t the only public land sell off. Other council owned sales included Riverside House in Woolwich. New owners now propose 200 homes on site using Permitted Development rights which require no minimum size standards, no affordable housing and no Section 106 or Community Infrastructure Levy income to the authority. Money from that sale is going towards Woolwich Creative District.

Click here to view plans.

8 Comments

  1. Jo

    You didn’t mention that former Labour MP Nick Raynesford who was MP for this area until recently now sits on the board at developer Pocket Living.

  2. A single buyer who can afford that £37,000 for the smallest one bed unit will either be a professional or upper management. Two people could share the mortgage, but to me it is unthinkable that more than one person could live in such a small space.

    Looking at the entrance hall, I would say it’s bigger than the flats will be.

  3. Ashley

    More land under-utilised by this Labour Run authority. Why wasn’t meridian given the chance or outright council housing built on publicly funded land. Surly it’s more beneficial to utilise for its own means while you have an ever growing waiting list. Same goes with Riverside house! Another ideal location to convert office space into apartments for social rent

    • Graham

      Yes I agree Ashley. Riverside House I believe would have been better converted in to flats at social rent.

      I would also like to see some more sheltered accomodation for older and disabled residents built in the Borough for residents who would like to down size from larger properties. So they have somewhere safe and secure to live. But Greenwich Council have sold a lot of sheltered accomodation homes off to private developers.

  4. Greenwich council doesn’t want social housing tenants in the borough. Making little or no provision for them ensures that there is no alternative but to leave.

    The seaside locations and northern towns are full of people driven out from London.

    • Graham

      I think you have hit the nail on the head anaonymous201481.

      I do not why Greenwich Council keep accepting people from outside of the Borough on to the houisng waiting list when they are forcing people born bred and lived in the Borough all their lives out of the Boroughwhen itcomes to housing.

      • CDT

        I agree Graham, More has to be done to help the homeless and vulnerable people born and brought up in the Borough I agree. Also more as to been done for local residents that are born and bred in the house they live with older relatives for over 40 years, . These residents should not be turned out to the streets like they currently are and made homeless they should be offfered tenancies even if it means moving to smaller properties.

        These people need to be in the top priority group.

        We also need more social housing at local affordable rents, more sheltered and supporting housing to help the elderly and vulnerable people.

  5. Benji

    This feels badly out of synch with how individuals and companies are planning on emerging out of lockdown. All signs point to a migration away from London, and I can’t see the prospect of pocket homes being the incentive for people staying…

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