Murky Depths

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Greenwich

East Greenwich park sell-off: Pocket Living to build on site?

Greenwich Council’s controversial plan to sell a park in a polluted part of Greenwich looks set to be compounded as a plan appears to sell the plot to a controversial developer of very small flats.

Pocket Living specialise in flats at the very limit of minimum space standards for new homes, and have the former MP for Greenwich and Woolwich sitting on the board and are supported by Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Decision by Nov 2020

Greenwich Council have previous links with the developer which I’ve covered extensively in the past, and previously attempted to sell three plots of public land to the company to build at 80 per cent market rate rather than build directly and offer social flats at half that level, or use their Meridian housing company to offer homes at around 60 per cent of market rates.

When they previously proposed selling off public land they did not list all options available when presenting a report to councillors.

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

Three plots previously listed for sale were reduced to one after a strong number of objections, though Pocket Living still stand to make almost 20 per cent in profit margin on the remaining public plot.

At a proposal in Charlton, 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.

Pocket Living previously encouraged people to write in support at proposed land sales stating in a pre-written email: “Affordable home ownership for local people like me, helping them stay in the communities they grew up in and which stops them having to move out of the area to get on the housing ladder, should be the priority of any council.”

However, away from a dedicated website set up to encourage land sales they had described £90,000 as a “modest income” on their own website and sell one-bed flats for near £400,000.

When people had emailed opposition they received an email from Greenwich Council acknowledging their support.

Letting others profit?

There are arguments against building on a small green space in a polluted area already seeing many new homes built in the area, but even if is developed, why allow a private developer to reap the rewards rather than the authority building  and reinvesting income or lowering exposure to expensive private lettings?

Another £4.3 million overspend on housing was revealed just last week. That’s on top of existing extremely high costs. It’s due to a lack of council homes causing the authority to place people in expensive temporary accommodation. The number of people needing emergency housing grew again from 1200 to over 1340 as seen in this council report.

September 2020 report

The number of homeless has grown from 700 in 2018 to 1340 in 2020 when previous land sales to Pocket Living were proposed.

Recently the authority have also celebrated new council homes in Plumstead – yet they built just four on a sizeable plot set among mid rises. It barely scratches the surface of demand. Building low numbers on scarce land then sees the argument made that other public sites must be sold.

Plumstead saw new low rise homes set among mid density buildings

It’s not easy to build directly though borrowing caps have now been lifted. In addition, the Meridian option permits less restrictive borrowing methods in order to build – so why sell to Pocket Living?

Not to mention that building very small flats isn’t too sensible given what we have just witnessed with self-isolation. Green spaces have also been lifelines to many.

This proposal means local people either lose a green space, or the authority and taxpayers lose income in the mid to long term once the short term capital income is gone. Who benefits?

UPDATE: The current MP Matt Pennycook has come out strongly against plans to sell the land:

 

6 Comments

  1. Roy

    In 25 years I haven’t seen one example of green space purposely created by Greenwich Council. What is interesting is that for maybe 70 years local people have continually voted for Labour Councillors yet during that time Woolwich has deteriorated so much for shopping and local amenities….and didn’t Cutty Sark burn on their watch

  2. Greenwich council, in common with a lot of local authorities, is only interested in filling the chest. Consequently, there should no surprise that it has chosen the option that generates the maximum yield.

    Buyers have been ‘gaslit’ into accepting ever smaller spaces at an exhorbitant price and there will be takers for these rabbit hutches.

  3. John

    Either councils should be banned from the property business or planning should be spun off to a separate (local) body. The set up at the moment is the equivalent of a bank being both a bank and its regulator.
    I do think its a shame that we dont have changes in local Government at least sometimes
    – I feel its more of ‘I could never vote Tory’ or ‘I could never vote Labour’ than what the party could offer. Maybe there should be a max term for a party – like 15 years.

    I do feel it strange that the Council is spending money on ‘pocket parks’ . I guess there was special money for that.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pocket-parks-helping-communities-transform-unloved-neglected-or-derelict-areas-into-new-green-spaces
    And at the same time removing a green area which undoubtedly turn tunnel avenue into a ‘unloved’ area (there is absolutely nothing there except traffic).
    It sort of implies that they are only doing it for the money and dont really care about the neighbourhood.

    • Paul SuperUnknown

      Again, the Council, and someone with a backslapping relationship with them, are rubbing their hands together, and slavering at the money that’s within reach, assured by the Council’s own rubber stamp of the profits that’ll soon be rolling in!
      One wonders where it all goes?

  4. DWW

    So a kennel will be worth how much in a years time? Don;t be surprised if Khan approves that soon!

  5. Steven Norris

    I agree with all the comments that have been made so far, I see people are waking up at last, I havve been saying for a years that we need a change of council. Maybe not only a change of council but a change of mayor, who is only there due to covid 19 an not elected for this term of office, so he really doesn’t have a mandate to to run London. Maybe the council could look at the empty retail premises in woolwich an convert them into 1,2,3 bed dwellings to help the homeless problem. Because as Charlton’s got all the main shops I can’t see any major retailers moving back any time soon. If the council had the foresight in the past they could have built car parking spaces in the arsenal , it would have helped the highstreet and in the prosess alleviate the need for a lot of people to drive to Charlton’,

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