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Woolwich estate redevelopment at Morris Walk submitted

High density around railway line

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.

Former estate seen from passing train

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.

Courtesy Google. Line runs through the site

An existing narrow underpass below the railway and a narrow 1960s footbridge some distance away are supposed to suffice.

Narrow underpass

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.

Current narrow underpass. No attempt to improve connections on each side of estate in 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:

Green arrows suggest middle crossing by main square. Underpass on left

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?

Odd gap in fencing

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:

No bridge

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.

Click to enlarge

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.

Affordable homes

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.

Recent overspend on emergency housing

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.

Planning mistakes

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).

MacBean Street plans

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.

Armourers Court. This application vastly understates development in borough

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.

Transport

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

Wide green buffer and narrow pavement. Cycle lane space?

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?

No cycle lane on renders. Guardrail remains – you rarely ever see that on modern development renders given known dangers they present

It’s similar to a major development in Woolwich at Macbean and Beresford Street. No attention appears to be paid for providing cycle lanes:

No cycle lane and relatively narrow paving in renders at Woolwich project

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.

Within 100 metres of Morris Walk

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.”

Morris Walk to rear

Council staff appear to be unaware of parking issues in the near vicinity. A parking survey was taken – yet during the pandemic.

History

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.

Buillt using Danish system – hence names on estate relate to Denmark

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.

 

12 Comments

  1. G

    Maybe we can get a campaign going to move the Dockyard station?

  2. Tony G

    Wow, this is pretty shocking…There are just no improvements on the apparent design failures of council housing of 60s and 70s. Lovell Homes are a pretty budget volume housebuilder though so I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised there. But policy failures are probably worse.. goddamit!

  3. Roy

    Morris Walk….the underpass under the railway joining the 2 estates together….
    Don’t know if any readers ever lived or walked in that area but walking through the Underpass at night always had the possibility of some issue…in fact both parts of the estate weren’t exactly as safe as houses even on a good day…
    Safety when living in an area appears to be a concept that Greenwich Council don’t seem to be aware of yet when you have young children its often a No 1 issue…
    As I have mentioned in the past…we see innumberable Council estates being demolished after a 60 year life which seems to indicate something seriously wrong with the Council….I don’t see many private residences being demolished as being unfit for human habitation
    Cars and car Parking still as far as I am concerned are an important issue for anyone moving to a flat or house…whereas I get the impression with Greenwich Council that they have a Control Agenda over transport and peoples life as in some Disney scenario and divorced from reality

    • Underpasses are a bad move anywhere.

      The estates now being demolished might have lasted longer had councils maintaned them. A number of the current developments are slums of the future and Murky covered the projected demolition of flats built in 2006 here – https://www.fromthemurkydepths.co.uk/2020/10/19/london-development-of-1000-homes-built-in-2006-may-be-demolished/ Further, who knows how the cladding problem will shake out. It may be cheaper to demolish than retro-fix all the problems.

    • Tim

      I think that parking is only an issue if the council allows a free-for-all with the on street parking when people are moving in. If the council bring in a CPZ before they’re built and say that the flats don’t qualify for permits then I’d think it would be okay – people would be aware they couldn’t have a car when they’re looking to move in. Even better if the council say that three or more of the spaces in the development are for car clubs. Once the flats are built and the residents are using on-street parking it’s too late to bring in a CPZ.

  4. Bev Castle-Barnes

    There used to be another crossing there before the estate was built (about where the middle one is in these plans)… it was a level crossing like the one at the bottom of Charlton Lane.

  5. DWW

    Looking more like a futuristic horror story every day!

  6. CDT

    Murky you are not missing anything. Your are far too good and intelligent.

    I am not surprised at all how outdated a lot of the information is and the amount of mistakes that are in the document when it comes to the amount of homes planned for the Borough.

    Sadly I have also come not to be surprised by the amount of truly affordable homes on the Morris Walk Development and other developments around the Borough.

    So it is impossible for RBG to properly plan for new amenities and transport improvements for the Borough with such outdated information. Surely plans we will now need to be urgently reviewed along with budgets for front line services We simply will not have enough GP Surgeries/Health Centres, Schools etc. Public services and public transport was already overcrowded pre-covid it will never be able to cope with out further infrastructure investment. Once these home start to be built. ULEZ starts from October 2021.

    I am very concerned as rightly stated by Murky “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” I am also concerned no new bridge is planned over the railway lines. Residents safety must be paramount.

    Some good posting and views as always,

  7. Raymond

    I submitted fairly detailed issues in regards to how inaccessible the area is, the footbridge etc – in response to the consultation exercise. What even happens to concerns raised? I thought that was the whole point of consulting with local people – to receive feedback. I can’t find any trace of it, received no acknowledgement and, as you highlight in the post, the developers just plough on ahead with no plan, or hint of a plan as to how the area will all link up…

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