Plans for new homes in Woolwich at the site of Morris Walk estate have finally been submitted after outline permission was granted on 2 April 2015 – and discussions begun 13 years ago. Greenwich Council own the land and have partnered with private developer Lovell Homes.
Morris Walk north of the railway line will see 304 homes – doubling existing numbers of 152. This post will focus on that area alone as I realised it was becoming an extremely long post. Not only is there much to cover, but there are many mistakes and contradictory statements in this plan I’ve delved through. Morris Walk south will follow.
Firstly, a major issue with the overall site is that it’s dissected by a railway line through the middle with few accessible and welcoming places to cross. There is no attempt to bridge this severance in the new plan.
An existing narrow underpass below the railway and a narrow 1960s footbridge some distance away are supposed to suffice.
This is despite a major increase in homes and density beside rail lines. There is no sign of this site – on public land and a joint venture including Greenwich Council – taking on board a pedestrian focus as highlighted in continual council reports. We just do not see evidence for it in application after application.
The lack of action to remove severance is bizarre given one image in the plan gives the impression there should be a crossing from a main square in Morris Walk North across the lines. See the green lines below:
Aspects of the design such as a the location of the square and commercial units also suggest a crossing should be there. Was it pulled late on?
Images show a gap in fencing but no bridge. What’s going on here?
The site would be an ideal location for a new Woolwich Dockyard station given increased density both here and with 8,000 homes coming to Charlton Riverside nearby. It would solve the 10-car limit at existing station. I never expected it though, yet I though they would at least put a new pedestrian bridge in. Apparently not even that unless I’m missing something. I keep thinking I am. But then images like this show nothing to link each side:
It’s telling that most renders downplay the impact of a railway through the site.
Even more odd is they state they will “establish better visual connections” each side of the line. So you can see shops and bus stops the other side but not quickly access them.
They state there is a “constrained pedestrian access under the railway” and a need to “improve permeability of new neighbourhood and create good walking and cycling routes” yet suggest no improvements.
Maybe the expectation is many will drive. 144 car parking spaces are provided.
There is a large reduction in truly affordable housing compared to the former Morris Walk estate. The new Morris North redevelopment will see 87 “affordable” rented and 42 intermediate homes. Of the overall number of homes on site, just 42% is “affordable” – a poor level given the land is already in public ownership. To compound that, the “affordable” tenure split is 67% rented and 33% shared ownership – which given the need for a mortgage, rent and then a service charge is anything but affordable to many.
The reduction in social housing will see costs passed onto taxpayers when it comes to housing people in emergency accommodation owing to a lack of council homes. Millions are now having to be spent each year by authorities above and beyond budgeted numbers, placing ever more strain on existing finances.
It’s this issue that is playing a large part in Bexley Council’s current severe financial problems – and Greenwich are regularly having to find additional millions.
The planning application is severely outdated when it comes to planned housing numbers across the borough. It states just 900 homes are planned at West Thamesmead to give an example, yet plans due to be decided last week – but deferred – are for 1,750 homes.
It states Woolwich is to see just 650 homes outside the Arsenal area. This is miles below actual levels. There are more than that number at Spray Street alone (750), let alone Armorers Court opposite above the eastern end of Crossrail (500 homes) and British Land plans on MacBean and Beresford Street (622 homes).
It states Charlton Riverside will see 3,500-5,000 new homes. This is now 7,500-8,000. Greenwich Peninsula is to see 15,000 according to planning documents. It’s actually more than that on Knight Dragon land alone (revised this week to 17,000+) and including other sites takes the total above 20,000.
Mistakes are widespread. It’s as though it were drawn up five years ago and never updated. Granted some sections are more up to date, but major errors on opening pages in important documents such as the Design and Access Statement are inexcusable for such a major development.
This matters as forecasts on pressures across a number of public services and transport can be underestimated. The Thamesmead application is to provide TfL with just a third of totals they think are needed – £500,000 against £1.5 million. The NHS is also forecast to see much less than they feel is needed.
The applicant has paid £57,000 for processing costs associated with the development. Hopefully that goes to staff who pick up the numerous mistakes and present a report to councillors with accurate figures. Let’s also hope councillors who are to decide the application don’t skim read planning documents full of mistakes.
There is a green buffer proposed along a dual carriageway running past the site (Woolwich Road) which currently has a temporary bus lane. There was supposed to be a dedicated cycle lane along here but TfL financial problems mean an uncertain future.
Renders appear to show little thought for this. Narrow paving would prohibit a cycle lane here. If it was located on the road then that’s a loss of either a general traffic lane or bus lane. Either way public transport users lose out – or there is no cycle lane
Was this all drawn up years ago after Cycle Highway 4 was curtailed at Greenwich and before detailed plans for a cycle lane from Greenwich to Woolwich were later revealed?
It’s similar to a major development in Woolwich at Macbean and Beresford Street. No attention appears to be paid for providing cycle lanes:
The aspiration we are constantly told is to make cycling more appealing and encourage less driving. Then plans like these appear and do neither.
In terms of car parking, there are 144 spaces for 302 homes. The transport plan states “no overspill is expected to occur onto the surrounding streets. It has been noted that opportunities for overspill parking are very limited in any event and it is unlikely that residents would seek to park on-street”.
This is despite no controlled parking zone in surrounding areas and examples of parking problems at numerous recently built developments borough wide. Pavement parking is common around Morris Walk. Failing to plan for parking overspill through controlled parking zones appears to contradict the latest report from Greenwich about reducing emissions.
The transport report in this application states “A number of pre-application discussions have taken place with RBG planning and highways officers to agree the details of the masterplan including access arrangements, road layout and widths and parking provision. Detailed feedback has been provided on these matters, which has been incorporated into the proposed masterplan including the number of car parking spaces that is appropriate for the site.”
Council staff appear to be unaware of parking issues in the near vicinity. A parking survey was taken – yet during the pandemic.
Morris Walk was the UK’s first housing estate to use the Danish
Larsen-Nielsen building system. Prefabricated concrete panels adorned buildings
among extensive green space. All blocks had a Danish related name.
The extremely drawn out process with squabbles between Greenwich Council and Lovell saw residents mostly move out – and then property guardians move in as work ground to a halt. For years a few residents remained in an estate crumbling around them.
It’s now finally coming down. If new plans are approved work should begin next year…perhaps.
A follow up post on Morris Walk South will follow.
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