Berkeley Homes have submitted an application to reduce commercial space and change design at a building currently under construction in Woolwich.
The Royal Carriage Factory – also known as Building 10 – is a listed structure, though Berkeley Homes gained permission for significant changes which would see 146 homes mainly via a block built on top.
They now seek to reduce commercial space and convert some proposed shop units facing a proposed inner courtyard into residential units.
Three units facing a future Windsor Square would become eight flats if approved.
Berkeley state the retail market has changed, which is of course correct, though the coming of Crossrail should lead to a large increase in footfall.
A proposed number of residential buildings directly east would see residents pass this location to reach Woolwich Elizabeth Line station, and is set to see an increase in flats above already consented plans after revised plans were revealed in 2020.
This neighbouring block is known as Armourers Court, and I covered revised plans last year. Berkeley’s arguments about footfall do not mention this uplift in homes nearby. 500 homes are now included. Berkeley Homes are involved there too in a joint venture with TfL. Do they know something about delays?
Back of house space at the approved retail units is also double height, which could be more profitable converted to double floor housing.
It is of course hard to state what impact it will have on remaining units. It may help or hinder, as the critical mass of units reduces in turn possibly reducing the appeal to visit.
Recent history of site
This development is only happening as Berkeley Homes sought to entirely demolish listed Building 11 nearby. When that was opposed, Berkeley Homes proposed refurbishing Building 11 (known as the Officers’ House) and in turn being allowed to build a block on top of Building 11 with shops at street level.
Building 11 has in turn been refurbished and seen extensions to the rear and above:
This site was the first to report plans to demolish the Officers’ House back in 2014. Many reasons for demolition they gave back then turned out to be completely wrong.
I took a look at the completed scheme in 2019. Claims the building and squares either side couldn’t function together have been shown to be incorrect.
Given the history of both building 10 and building 11, wariness is perhaps wise.
Berkeley make a big play of the site’s heritage but had no qualms about demolition when it suited, nor about placing a large block above a listed structure.
While retail has seen a massive impact, this area located among thousands of new home sin a characterful courtyard seemed an area that could thrive. Places that allow those working from home to pop out for leisure, or those who work from home to sit with a laptop, could have worked. The courtyard showed real character, and it does seem a bit short sited to not even give much of it the chance to succeed as a place to sit, enjoy and perhaps work.
There are Young’s pubs nearby that can function as places for those working at home to settle, though personally I find their corporate feel dull and sterile. Interesting independents would really appeal and offer a nice alternative. But that would mean offering reasonable rents to encourage smaller scale start ups, which is possibly the real issue here.
Easier to just put in homes at the expense of vitality and variety?