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.
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.
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.
Remember, this land is already completely demolished and vacant.
The new submission reveals plans for distinctive flat iron buildings have been dropped.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New housing sees the philosophy of the 1960s erased, with ground floor levels no longer entirely given over to cars and garages.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
“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.
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?
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?
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:
- Taken so long to be submitted
- Been delayed again and again
- Will not commence for many years