Plans for 1,306 homes in Kidbrooke were approved this week by Greenwich Council’s Planning Board after rejection in July.
The plans passed 5 votes to 1. Click here to view the meeting on Youtube. There were modest changes to the rejected scheme though no change in the number of homes from the level of 1,306 proposed in July, which was an increase from 1,002 approved some years ago.
There were three main reasons for rejection in July:
- Height of main building and view from Blackheath
- Segregation of affordable housing
All “affordable” housing is still located in one block rather than tenure blind. The main tower has been reduced from 17 floors to 15.
A Greenwich Council planning officer stated during the meeting (from 55 minutes in) that there would be “social housing” via London Affordable Rent, however rents via this tenure in 2017/18 were 52% higher than the average 2017/18 council rent and 32% higher than the average 2018 housing association rents. Service charges are extra. This page gives a good overview.
The view from Blackheath has now changed, though this issue seems a little odd. A number of taller blocks are already visible as seen below.
The July plan made next to no difference in comparison. If a desire to avoid seeing any building from Blackheath was important, well, that ship sailed long ago. It reminds me of complaints about views from Hyde Park when a bloody great 1960s block is already visible.
The above outline also doesn’t show already approved tower plans now underway to the north of Kidbrooke station.
Of more relevance are street level views. Instead of careful reworking with massing, altered plans appear to cut and paste additional floors:
Landscaping is again pretty yet appears high maintenance. How many similar sites have we seen gradually abandoned after 10 years?
Cllr Geoff Brighty (Conservative – Blackheath Westbourne) queried transport assessments on rail capacity. Berkeley Homes’ plan has stated that capacity increases would be in place, though Network Rail have only committed to modest increases in the Kent Route Strategy. A Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham which would offer relief to the rail network is also now on hold.
He queried a lack of 12-carriage trains “with the possible exception of Thameslink on the Blackheath line”. However Thameslink only run on the Greenwich line, except rare occasions of disruption and use 8-carriage trains on that route. Labour Cllr Gary Dillon (Labour – Charlton) also mistakenly referenced Thameslink on the Kidbrooke line, though did raise a good point about cumulative development all along the line.
In response a Greenwich planning officer accepted capacity enhancement was “not set in stone” and claimed it was reliant on a “new train operator” which is not quite correct. It doesn’t really matter who operates services, as it’s the Department for Transport who would authorise any enhancement. Trains are leased and not owned by operators. Additional stock could happen before, during or after a new operator, and with future services now up in the air any future is unknown.
A modest number of trains are due to move from South West Railway but there is no word on whether they are additional stock or like-for-like replacements. Southeastern lack stabling space for any additional stock as things stand. That require Network Rail to rectify. A recent review into franchising also appears to be kicked into the long grass.
The planning officer also stated neither TfL or the Council’s highways officer’s questioned figures on rail numbers – however TfL do not operate trains through Kidbrooke. Highway officers are not rail professionals.
Bear in mind this is or five-ten years after current problems, and many new developments rely on public transport to get residents around for work and leisure.
With London’s population forecast to continue rising over the next decade, current issues will subside.
Brighty made the point that 12-car trains were planned sometime ago. It was as far back as the early 1990s as platforms were rebuilt in preparation. The then ruling Conservative government cut back orders for the new Networker train hence 10-car became the limit. Since then neither Labour pushed for longer trains, including the 2006 franchise award which locked in above inflation fare increases, nor did the Conservatives since 2010 with numerous short term franchise extensions without significant investment. Further platform extensions were carried out by Network Rail alongside power upgrades over the past five years, but no significant order for new trains ever happened.
Transport consultation generally appears limited in this latest plan, referencing TfL to a greater degree rather than Network Rail and Southeastern who operate trains beside Kidbrooke Village. This is a common problem with planning applications; in an area of London lacking tube connections, a failure to engage with rail operators in many plans is regularly seen.
Just this week I looked at a planning application in Woolwich with a transport assessment containing some absolute howlers on rail. It listed the nearest station to Woolwich as being Uckfield, and train frequencies were completely inaccurate.
A representative of transport consultants ARUP claimed the Kidbrooke development had led to a “significant” improvement in rail. A new station building has been built but there’s little change to rail capacity.
He then stated that a recent housing application saw TfL state there was “no significant congestion” at the station. That is regarding current conditions, not in eight years when thousands more homes are completed. Most of the blocks around the station now are not yet occupied, let alone future buildings. In terms of future demand this is batted off the the DfT, who we know have got future demand numbers wrong numerous times in recent years.
The ARUP consultant continually referenced Greenwich Council and TfL, but as stated it should be Network Rail and Southeastern as the main sources of engagement in an area dependent on rail.
He conceded they hadn’t spoken to the DfT and Network Rail after questioning from Cllr Gary Dillon (Labour – Charlton) who asked pertinent and relevant questions a number of times.
There will be 456 car parking spaces in the new phase. New homes are in close proximity to the A2 Kidbrooke junction which will see an increase in congestion when Silvertown Tunnel is completed according to TfL’s own traffic forecasts. Mayor Sadiq Khan continues to state the tunnel will reduce congestion, which is not true for many areas of Greenwich borough as red dots shown at various junctions indicates:
During the meeting a Berkeley Homes employee gave a speech about providing high quality homes (let’s not mention the 2006 Berkeley Homes estate that is so dangerous all residents are now being vacated) as well as helping with the housing crises.
Hmmm. As stated, there is a limited number of truly affordable homes in this development, while Berkeley Homes gross profit margin has risen from 31.3% to 33.2% in recent financial results. Operating profit margin was 24.5 per cent.
Clive Mardner (Abbey Wood Labour) sat in on the meeting was not permitted to vote after legal advice around the 1 hour 5 mins mark after a 10 minute break in connection.
It was notable how few cllrs really engaged with the discussion, and exactly why they changed their minds from July given modest changes. Transport issues have not changed at all – and the information given from Arup on the issue lacked detail and information from relevant parties such as Network Rail.
Denise Hyland (Labour – Abbey Wood) stated she did not know what will happen with transport “I don’t have a crystal ball”. Hyland also praised One Space who work with local youth. She mentioned keeping the pressure on regarding longer platforms, though that is already in place. It’s the trains to use them which is the issue.
She called for Berkeley Homes to work with GLLaB. GLLaB are in line for £302,000 more income. Other areas such as health, education and transport get no such specific number.
Cycling within Kidbrooke Village is good, though as soon as leaving the site it is poor. No specific investment in that area was announced which could assist with combating road congestion and a rail network with no confirmed additional carriages. Greenwich can not keep batting this off to a TfL in severe trouble when they have income from new developments to change travel behaviour.
At the end, the vote saw all five Labour cllrs approve and the sole Tory vote against.
Having watched the entire one and a half hour meeting and read through plans I personally don’t see much wrong with the overall scheme and housing numbers given housing demand, with some exceptions such as affordable homes – though am puzzled as to how much actually changed since July. The only real change was a reduction of the main tower which seemed the oddest reason for refusal given a negligible impact from Blackheath.
On issues such as forecast traffic congestion increases after Silvertown Tunnel and the impact of nearly 500 car parking spaces there was absolutely no discussion, and on rail no changes submitted in terms of discussions with relevant parties – and a fair few mistakes made by Cllrs on how rail operates. Berkeley’s revised transport submission was lacking detail.
On affordable housing no one questioned that London Affordable Rent is higher than social rent either via council homes or housing association levels. Placing all affordable housing in one block remains. Stephen Brain (Labour – Peninsula) did mention that a site visit had changed his view.
So then, in conclusion 1,302 new homes will now be coming to Kidbrooke as part of the overall Kidbrooke Village masterplan comprising more than 5,000 homes. That excludes around 600 homes now underway to the north of the station, and over 100 at the former Thomas Tallis school site. There is still no confirmed public transport increase including rail.
For this post I viewed the entire 90 min planning meeting & read hundreds of pages in the planning submission cross checking details across the meeting and documents. If you can support me and the site it’s a big help. Click here to do so.