Plans for 595 homes at the former site of Woolwich Poly school on Beresford Street and Macbean Street are set to be decided this coming week. The project will see a number of new housing blocks, shops and a new pedestrian link between Beresford Street and Powis Street. Legal and General are behind the project.
This site first covered plans in June 2019, when 650 homes were on the drawing board.
Crossrail is near the plot and public transport options are excellent. According to plans: “the proposal would be car free, with parking restricted to disabled persons parking and space for deliveries and servicing, with cycle parking provision in excess of the minimum number required.”
Car free and a large number of cycle spaces? That seems to encourage sustainable travel.
However when it comes to action in allocating Section 106 income from the developer, Greenwich’s lack of effort with encouraging walking and cycling is again evident. Greenwich’s officers have again opted to allocate a very small sum – just £32,000 – from developer income towards pedestrian and cycling improvements. While just £32,000 is to be spent on improve streets, Greenwich do manage to find £615,070 (to be index linked in line with the RPI index) for Greenwich Local Labour and Business (GLLaB).
People moving to new flats and hoping to travel sustainably will thus leave their new homes, and if on a bike, immediately meet this crowded dual carriageway.
Beresford Street is possibly the quickest way to reach a new cycle lane towards central London starting at the Woolwich ferry.
The proposed segregated cycle lanes from Greenwich end abruptly at Woolwich ferry thus dumping cyclists into heavy traffic at the ferry roundabout. This presents problems for those in new builds having to navigate unsafe roads to reach the development.
The alternative is via a busy, crowded shopping area along Powis Street. Navigating numerous shoppers isn’t a great solution.
There’s the third option of crossing Beresford Street and meandering around along the river to reach the planned segregated cycle lane – but that’s quite a detour, slow and who wants to do that when going to work?
That’s ok for a leisure trio, but using cycles to shop or commute requires direct links.
What will probably happen is the existing road will be narrowed thus slowing down buses – but only in a couple of years creating further disruption and using public funds instead of developer income.
The sheer number of new builds or rebuilds along Beresford Street is substantial and could have seen reworking for the benefit of all. It’s quite something that no moves have been made towards plugging the gap in safe cycle space from Plumstead Road to the east and the future cycle lane passed Woolwich ferry:
This is just the latest in a long line of substantial developments located alongside what will be a missing link between segregated cycle lanes from Plumstead to Woolwich and then Woolwich Ferry to Tower Bridge. Greenwich have failed to allocate money from Berkeley Homes’ towers on the former Waterfront car park, the Catholic Club rebuild, Premier Inn hotel and Sovereign House redevelopment. They also do not appear to have insisted upon it in plans for Spray Street with no mention n submitted plans and referenced discussions with officers. That’s six sites bringing millions of pounds without a penny to plug the gap. Cycle lanes only work if part of well designed, holistic networks, and not when fragmented with long gaps.
GLLaB do well each and every time when it comes to how incoming money is spent.
Health and education
Amounts allocated to health by Greenwich Council are below levels initially requested, with £200,000 to be spent. Education will see £250,000. While GLLaB does well, health and education join transport is seeing relatively little.
Council officers state: “It should be noted that the contributions agreed towards education and healthcare provision fall below the amounts requested following consultation, however due to viability constraints, noting the break-even position of the financial viability statement, it has been agreed that seeking higher contributions would result in the proposal being in a financially unviable position.”
So while it’s not viable to allocate sufficient sums to health and education, is is viable to find £615,070 for GLLaB.
The development will lead to: “1090 residents, resulting in an additional 56 additional patients per GP. The Clinical Care Group have advised that primary health care provision in the area is under pressure as a result of this development, and cumulatively with other developments nearby, and as such, a contribution of £200,000 has been agreed as appropriate and proportional.”
This is now a common pattern. We’ve seen similar recently down the road at West Thamesmead Gateway where 1,750 homes were recently approved. TfL, the NHS and transport spend all saw less than requested or required. Street improvements were dropped and the gyratory retained. GLLaB did well.
In addition to Section 106 income, Greenwich will receive an additional £4,789,843 in Community Infrastructure Levy income. Half will be spent on the Woolwich Crossrail box, with no information on where the remaining £2.37 million will be allocated.
The level of affordable housing is low at 24 per cent. To rent some of the “affordable” units, a one bed flat requires an income of £50,000.
The viability document states that it’s unviable to provide more – even at rent levels that high. One reason is “the relatively low value of the area due to its location and distance from central London. Essentially, the erection of large, high quality buildings in a comparatively low value area results in a compromised viability position.”
The site is very close to the new Crossrail station which will see Canary Wharf reached in 9 minutes and central London in 15 minutes.
The report also states: “the provision of 20% affordable housing negotiated between the local planning authority and the applicant does not represent a reduction in the affordable housing offer as a result of the high quality design required by the local planning authority for this important and architecturally sensitive site.”
A report into the proposal notes concerns about light levels: “the quality of accommodation site wide is considered to be acceptable, however it is noted that access to light for some properties, especially in Block C, would be limited.
In addition, by reason of its size and having regard to the relatively open aspect of the existing site, it is recognised that there would be some loss of light to neighbouring buildings, however significant loss of light is mostly restricted to non-residential buildings.”
Despite the concerns, Greenwich planners recommend approval. The final say rests with Greenwich’s Planning Board which meets this week.