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New Woolwich leisure centre: Council to agree on removing existing tenants

Wilko are to close Woolwich branch

Greenwich Council’s Cabinet look set to next week approve a process to move existing tenants out of housing on a site earmarked for a new leisure centre.

Tenants would have one year to move out from Troy Court which is located to the rear of Viscount house housing Wilko on General Gordon Square. Troy Court houses residents aged over 50 in social housing.

Overview of site – Troy Court is on the right

The new development is expected to be mixed-use given it’s prominent town centre location beside excellent public transport links.

Woolwich Waterfront

Once built, the existing Waterfront will close. A  council report states residents will be able to move back to the site after completion, though there is an “if”:

“A guaranteed “right to return” to a new property on the site of the Woolwich Leisure Centre Scheme if council-owned Social Housing is developed there provided the requirements of the allocations policy are met.”

This goes against the consultation which stated:

“If the scheme is agreed, the Council will be offering each of the present tenants
of Troy Court a flat in the new development when it is completed (The right
to return) This flat will have the same or larger floor area and will be offered
as a secure Council tenancy at a Council rent.”

It would be quite the scandal if a large town centre site owned by Greenwich Council does not include social housing given the long housing waiting list, the number of people registered homeless and amount of money that is having to be paid to house people in emergency accommodation. Next week’s Cabinet meeting also reveals £26 million is to be spent this year alone on homeless issues, with upward revision likely.

Site overview from earlier report

Their are options to do so, as an announcement was made in October 2018 that borrowing limits on councils to build housing would be scrapped and the authority also possess the ability to use their Meridian Housing arm to develop the site, which would permit a set number to be sold at market rate to cross-subsidise council homes on site. This would provide more social housing than selling the site or partnering with a private company who require substantial profit margins limiting social housing. Berkeley Homes for example, operate on a profit margin of 20-30 per cent per home. It’s similar for most private volume housebuilder. Direct building allows that margin to be retained and reinvested in truly affordable housing.

Greenwich Council have sold buildings such as Riverside House rather than develop – will that change?

Residents could also pay higher rent in future:

“If you move to a new build property or a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) property, it is likely that your rent could increase. We will work with any tenants affected to understand the financial impacts of any move and how it compares to their current
circumstances.”

The report states some residents were confused when they signed a petition against being moved. It states:

“During the consultation, a petition was sent to Jamie Carswell, Director of Housing and Safer Communities; this was received on 14 September 2020. The petition was signed by 15 of the 23 residents. However, on further discussion during the consultation exercise, some residents said they had not understood what they were signing. Accordingly, given, for example, the telephone calls carried-out officers have concluded that the majority of tenants (57%) were generally supportive of the approach. This is correctly representative of the consultation result rather than the petition.”

Viscount House. Tram Shed will now be retained

The report then states much of the opposition comes from people not wanting to move during the current pandemic.

An earlier council report stated the Tram Shed will now be retained. Viscount House which houses Wilko will not, and is only around 30 years old. I recently looked at the history of the site, which alongside General Gordon Square was in line to be a shopping centre, major council centre and library.

Post war plans

The new site could open by 2025 – which is many years after the original plan. Waterfront could then either be sold, or utilised by the council for housebuilding.

7 Comments

  1. Roy

    Whenever i see Greenwich Council Plans my mind also wanders back to all the recent demolition of Council Housing…Kidbroke…Thamesmead…Blackheath Hill….all built by the Council 60 years ago…all abysmal…all demolished and being redeveloped for housing of various forms. Strikes me that on previous form…the Council are clueless when it comes to any form of Housing which is user friendly and built to last 100 years.
    Having spent time on all 3 estates…I would not have let a dog live on any of them…I think the word for whoever planned them would be ” anti-social….”

    • Steven Norris

      Hi Roy, I agree with you about the concrete jungle ( Thamesmead), this was supposed to be the planners dream of the future, the dream may have been a good idea, but using concrete an steel blocks meant that they leaked an rotted. If you look at the abbeywood estate, old fashion bricks an mortar, with lots of trees an grass areas for people to use it shows how good housing can be. It also shows what a council estate can look like ( although it is also is partly owner occupier).The problem here is Greenwich council is the landlord so it costs them money to run an service. An not much gets done i the way of pruning the vast amount of trees, an fixing the broken brickwork around the flowerbeds.

    • anonymous201486

      @Roy: it is the failure to maintain that is the problem of many post-war estates and not necessarily the quality of the original build.

  2. Roy

    Troy Court…….looking at the area….not only do we have a large parking area behibd Wilko but quite a lot of grassy area….I will be wondering where either will exist once Greenwich Council have finished….
    General Gordon Square is not exactly an Environmental Dream…
    The existing car Parking in Woolwich is abysmal apart from the Tesco facility and we can already see an anti car Agenda throughout Greenwich.
    Imaginative…..not exactly a concept seen in Greenwich Council……
    When the Architect Establishment consider the Tesco building an eyesore…no need to expect too much

  3. CDT

    Although i welcome the new Leisure Centre which will be more centrally located in Woolwich over looking General Gordon Square to replace the old Waterfront Leisure Centre.

    The Council do need to include more homes for the over 50’s along with more sheltered accommodation for elderly and disabled residents needing extra care as part of their on going council house building programme around the Borough.

    We have seen a decline in sheltered accommodation and homes for people over 50’s in the last few years across the Borough,

  4. @themurkydepths: the scandal is Greenwich council’s spending £26 million on homeless issues. It could build on it’s own land or requisition a plot where land is proposed to be sold.

  5. CDT

    Greenwich Council lost an opportunity by not developing Riverside House themselves for Council Housing. But as Murky said himself we will just have to wait to see if this changes in the future,

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