Thamesmead redevelopment: Plan for nearly 2,000 new homes submitted

Peabody have submitted outline plans for nearly 2,000 homes in a new Lesnes Estate in Thamesmead after a long delay.

The site partly formerly comprised of housing alongside Harrow Manorway including the Barge Pole pub, alongside housing to the east that still stands. A long section facing Harrow Manorway saw residents evicted and demolished over recent years.

Demolished

New homes across the site will total 1,849 according to the submission from Peabody, though being an outline plan does not include full details of building design and that number could change to 1,950.

Harrow Manorway buildings now demolished
Evicted

An outline plan had already been approved five years ago for part of the area. Since then residents have been evicted though no subsequent detailed plan was ever submitted.

Peabody are once again showing just how incredibly slowly they intend to build in a housing shortage, as the first homes may not complete until as late as 2026.

First phase construction period

Remember, this land is already completely demolished and vacant.

The new submission reveals plans for distinctive flat iron buildings have been dropped.

Massing

A block overlooking a school has been removed over fears people could see the playground.

A small square has been slightly rejigged, and that’s really about the extent of changes since 2016.

An intention to integrate 2016 approved layouts with other new housing is now stated, though there’s little here that appears to justify such a long delay.


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The design philosophy of the “updated” outline plan is similar with a quiet street linking from Abbey Wood station starting past the BP garage through the site to Southmere Village square and Southmere Lake.

2021 design overview

Earlier this year Peabody stated it could take until 2039 to build on certain plots along Harrow Manorway despite evicting families from shops and homes in recent years from an area they do not intend to build upon for 15 years.

Yarnton Way
Transport

One idea is for space along Yarnton Way for a possible bus rapid transit in future – though there’s no funds for it. The rest of the road will be narrowed.

Greenwich Council have long harboured dreams of a rapid bus route from Abbey Wood to north Greenwich. It was cancelled in 2009, and the last news was it being curtailed to Woolwich.

From Greenwich report dated 29th January 2020

Bexley also want their own route, and have considered a route towards Erith. If they ever are built, both would likely converge at Abbey Wood station.

Old flaws

New housing sees the philosophy of the 1960s erased, with ground floor levels no longer entirely given over to cars and garages.

Draft idea for street

That was deemed necessary due to the risk of flooding at time of design and construction. The great 1953 flood was fresh in the memory when the former Erith marshes was becoming a new town within London.

Since then many ground floor garages have been converted with cars parked on cluttered streets and squares.

Low rise element. Poor street design

New homes will generally be in podium blocks with a mix of on-street and undercroft parking.

It may speak to how slowly Peabody have operated that a photograph of the wider area within the planning application do not include Sainsbury’s supermarket and adjacent housing completed around five years ago just outside their plot.

It’s part of the Thamesmead Housing Zone announced back in 2015. Six years on and most sites in Thamesmead still lie empty.

Housing Zone sites from 6 years ago. Very few developed

The first half of the Design and Access statement is pretty vacuous for the most part, featuring paragraphs that have been seen dozens of times in just about every Thamesmead document for the past 20 years.

When new information is included, it’s sometimes wrong. What is the “Queen Elizabeth Line“?

They call it that a number of times. There is no “Queen” in the title. Pedantic you may think, but errors creep up and having read many documents on the area over the years, they regularly feature mistakes often giving little confidence that those behind them understand the town.

Another error states that an Abbey Wood tower only has outline permission, when it had detailed permission granted in 2018 and is now actually rising, as seen in this picture taken last week:

Abbey Wood 22-floor tower now rising

There’s nothing as bad though as seen in the crucial document guiding the future of Abbey Wood and Thamesmead from the Greater London Authority earlier this year. That was laughably bad – or would be laughable if it wasn’t so important.

In that document Greenwich Council didn’t even respond to offer feedback. A current Bexley Council consultation seems to think Thamesmead is in Abbey Wood. It’s all a bit of a shambles. The area has long suffered through a lack of clear direction from local authority.

Idea for new blocks on site. Images are very poor quality

Peabody intend that the new development will comprise 35% “affordable units”, of which 57% is social rent and 43% shared ownership. We need to wait until the full application, but this is likely to mean no net increase in social homes and possibly a reduction. Given an element of Bexley Council’s recent financial troubles is a lack of social homes and thus paying millions for emergency housing, this will not address that burden.

Existing homes on site

Criticisms of existing homes in the application include:

“Wayfinding is poor among the low-rise homes. A series of squares and poorly overlooked public thoroughfares lack differentiation or hierarchy.

“Many households have switched their primary access to the rear, making navigation challenging. On top of that, adhoc extensions of variable quality have been added at the ground and on first floor galleries and a range of
replacement window types have been fitted, creating a confusing and irregular townscape.

Blank wall facing street

“The wall along Yarnton Way creates unused and poorly overlooked public spaces around the towers, with undercrofts and hostile anti-trespassing measures. The separation of vehicular and pedestrian routes has created segregated and impermeable public spaces. The towers are indistinguishable and their entrance areas feel neglected.”

The wall is a legacy of the 60s, with pedestrians expected to walk at first floor level along walkways and bridges. People often ignored that and sought the quickest route from A to B.

Elevated walkway

The application highlights a residents ballot but fails to mention private renters were excluded from taking part.

Peabody land ownership

Peabody have owned land at various plots across Thamesmead for seven years and still only completed 66 homes out of thousands planned. If the timescales given here are a guide, they do not expect to even start for another three years in 2024 despite clearing much of the land in 2020.

There’s little here to dissuade the idea that gifting so many plots of land to one developer in Peabody was a big mistake. Either they cannot, or will not, build at a scale needed given housing challenges locally.

If each of the half dozen or so plots had been given to different developers and/or authorities in 2015, would we still have seen so few homes?

Housing Zone land. Fenced off to public. No intention to build

There’s certain Housing Zone sites that Peabody have no intention of building on for many years – decades – such as beside the Thames near the Royal Arsenal Canal. This is a separate plot to that requiring a DLR extension which is further east.

There’s never been any consultation or the merest hint of any work. Given where plans are in motion we are looking at 15+ years, this could be vacant and fenced off for a long, long time.

Why gift them that land beside the canal if they seek to do nothing?

Another Peabody site at former Harrow Inn pub. Not in Housing Zone – but still extremely slow moving.

We can now expect another six months to a year before outline plans at Lesnes Estate are approved, then another year or two for detailed plans to be submitted and finally, maybe, builders may move on site in 2024 for homes to be ready in 2026. A full 12 years after Peabody took control, 11 years after the announcement of a Housing Zone and seven years after residents were evicted and previous homes and shops demolished.

You can view plans here though I’ll warn you now, reading hundreds of pages was an arduous task and this post has been a real slog. Perhaps naively after so long a bit more meat on the bones was expected.

Afterwards it’s a real struggle to see why this outline plan has:

  1. Taken so long to be submitted
  2. Been delayed again and again
  3. Will not commence for many years

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John Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

4 thoughts on “Thamesmead redevelopment: Plan for nearly 2,000 new homes submitted

  • June 21, 2021 at 2:50 pm
    Permalink

    Disgraceful that tenants were evicted from their homes before plans were approved. I resent the fact that planning law allows this to happen, along with land-banking. It shouldn’t be possible for a developer to simply evict and demolish people’s homes without an approved plan for immediate redevelopment. There ought to be a deadline for building to commence once plans have been approved and all appeals completed, along with a mechanism to ensure developers stick to a timetable for completion as part of their submission plan.

    Reply
  • June 21, 2021 at 4:33 pm
    Permalink

    It gets my goat that private tenants can be kicked out as if they’re nothing for “regeneration” and then peabody rub it in by stating people support when many couldn’t even vote.

    Peabody long ago stopped caring about housing people. All about £££. The mayor allows it to with his ballot policy.

    Reply
  • June 23, 2021 at 6:08 am
    Permalink

    Another great and iand very nformative article.

    I think it is Peabody that needs to be evicted here.They stopped caring about residents years ago and now it is all about profits.

    Thousands of socially rented homes are being lost by housing associations and local councils and are largely being replaced by shared ownwership properties (half buy half rent) which locally people just cannot afford. Why not just replaced them with new social rented homes at affordable rents?

    To evict people from their homes if the sites are not due to be redeveloped for years to come. Just does not make any sense.

    Reply

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