Greenwich councillors met last night to decide on plans for new homes in Charlton.
Two adjacent plans were before the council’s Planning Board, comprising some of the first of an eventual 8,000 homes at the Charlton Riverside area.
Councillors decided to reject plans for 67 affordable homes at 5-31 Eastmoor Street and put off a decision on another plot until next week.
5-31 Eastmoor Street
This site was for a part four, part six and part seven storey building with 67 flats and two commercial units which I first covered in August 2020.
Revisions have since been made. Despite a borough waiting list of 22,000 and those in temporary and emergency accommodation reaching all time highs, earlier plans for 6-8 floors have been reduced to 4-6. That results in fewer affordable homes and more people housed in expensive overnight accommodation, which is currently costing Greenwich Council and taxpayers tens of millions a year.
The plot would see “100% affordable housing” at London Affordable Rent. Rents for this tenure are around 50 per cent market rate have been set to rise above inflation at CPI + 1 per cent each year.
While higher than social housing, this is substantially less than the cost of temporary housing in the private sector.
Despite this councillors were split, and so plans were not approved. An appeal seems likely, given there’s little chance of cheaper rented homes with current funding stipulations and a severe need for homes at the cheapest possible level.
By rejecting, taxpayers will continue paying out large sums to private landlords, and other services cut to meet those rising costs. Greenwich Council are regularly having to pay millions for temporary housing above budgeted totals, as this example shows:
One major obstacle was that the masterplan calls for 3-6 floors, yet is a building as low as three floors in a major new development area in one of the world’s major cities that has seen 1 million more people over the past decade and located in an area some way from other homes?
The sharp increase in demand for low cost rented housing cannot be overstated given the increase seen in the past two years.
Various local groups described it as too tall and monolithic.
Here’s what the plan included in terms of funding for services:
As is normal, Network Rail did not comment on plans. Southeastern were not asked. TfL, however, did respond and requested “the need for further discussion in relation to a Bus Tariff payment”.
They request that Greenwich seek £188,437.50 from the developer for improved bus services.
In terms of walking and cycling, TfL state: “There is strong concern that the proposed dropped kerbs will create a perception that vehicle has priority in this area over pedestrians and cyclists, as such is contrary to the Mayor’s Healthy Streets approach.
Clarification was requested as to how the scheme supports the aspiration to create a more pedestrian focussed environment in Eastmoor Street. Improvements to the walking and cycling environment on the A206 Woolwich Road are proposed. The site should ensure that a strong connection with Woolwich Road is created.”
“Clarification is sought on whether the applicant is making a contribution towards wider public realm improvements. The walking and cycling environment both within the site boundary and to and from key trip attractors is essential, especially with the carfree nature of the development”
Parking is restricted to those with blue badges.
The Section 106 agreement proposes £201,000 for a “new East West route, Riverside Route; necessary improvements to Westmoor Street, including new footways and introduction of a new CPZ”.
It has been previously mooted that bus route 301 from Bexleyheath to Woolwich via Abbey Wood be extended to Charlton.
NHS London request that Greenwich allocate £77,338 with a population of 86. “However, if the larger figure of 146 additional residents is used the cost of mitigation is £141,297.”.
Yesterday I took a look at how Greenwich have been spending millions of income from developers in the latest financial year. They barely allocated any income to health care, with the Woolwich big screen TV receiving almost all the public realm budget – which was almost as much as the entire healthcare allocation. They also managed to collect the lowest amount out of any London authority from the Community Infrastructure Levy.
Greenwich Council have rejected the proposal for any money from Section 106 towards heath care from Section 106 income.
Instead “healthcare is to be funded via CIL. It is noted that the CCG has requested a financial contribution towards healthcare in order to provide increased capacity in existing GP surgeries pending the provision of a new health facility in later in the implementation of the Masterplan.
However, in view of the scale of the proposal, it is not considered that the impacts of the development would be such to justify a financial contribution in addition to CIL (notwithstanding the fact that the current affordable housing scheme would be exempt from CIL). As such officers are not satisfied that such a contribution is necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms.”
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However, as noted in my post yesterday Greenwich are not only plum last out of any London authority in collecting CIL income according to TfL by some distance, they are not spending it either. So far in five years since CIL was introduced they have not spent a penny on healthcare. They state they are sitting on it for Woolwich Crossrail station costs. The station is supposed to see 50 per cent of income and not the entirety. Will healthcare ever see anything, and if so, how many years away?
Council job and training scheme GLLaB does see an exact figure in terms of income at £72,244 from S106. Off-site public play space contribution totals £145,161.
6, 61-81 and Coopers Yard, Eastmoor Street and Nos. 6 & 10 Westmoor Street
Discussion was deferred for this site and will be held next week.
Again, housing numbers have been reduced from 250 during consultation, to 199 in August 2020 and 188 now.
This development would “introduce two new areas of public realm linking Eastmoor Street and Westmoor Street, and providing new pedestrian routes to the adjacent park”.
Commercial units are planned: “The northern block would provide three commercial units at ground floor level which would be either dual or triple aspect with frontages on Mirfield Street, Eastmoor Street and Westmoor Street and the new green link.
The southern block would provide five commercial units at ground floor level”.
This will act as a focal point not just for the two plots but future development in the area.
Network Rail awoke from their clumber to comment. A sight seldom seen. They state: “the rail network is projected to become congested if it does not receive funded enhancement.
Would welcome continued engagement with the Royal Borough of Greenwich to Issues relating to transport and infrastructure contributions”.
Greenwich won’t be happy with that. Rail, TfL and health providers now stating income for services is needed due to pressures. That’s less money for pet projects like big screen TVs.
For now though, they’ve ignored it and no money is allocated to station improvements. How long they can do that as more of the eventual 8,000 homes arrive remains to be seen.
Southeastern didn’t respond.
TfL sought: “Contributions towards pedestrian/cycling improvements; and the payment of the TfL Bus Tariff were also requested.”
The NHS states: A developer contribution is requested which would be used to increase health infrastructure capacity to meet the needs of the new residents, through the provision of the new health and wellbeing centre, or if the development completes in advance of this then the expansion of existing facilities.”
£564,000 allocated to east-west route which should eventually include bus routes. It also supposed to include “necessary improvements to Westmoor Street to facilitate public transport access (including pedestrian and cycle improvements in Westmoor Street) and the introduction of a new Controlled Parking Zone” however experience shows when they include public realm improvements in general areas like they have here they don’t tend to happen.
£528,750 is to go towards funding new bus routes such as the proposed 301 extension.
The council’s favourite – GLLaB – takes £199,410.
Despite TfL calling for improvements for pedestrians it again appears to be overlooked, with just £40,000 explicitly stated for public realm and park improvements.
They’ve again ignored the NHS and allocated zero for health care from Section 106 income.
When I cover new plans there is always the same old questions that get pretty tiring. What about doctors, dentists and other services. I always reply with much of this comes from central Government and if they do not provide adequate funding for services it often doesn’t matter if new homes are built or not, as the wait for a doctor will take weeks anyway. Rural areas see strain with far less new homes. However, when money for local authorities is not spent on services, it’s hard to counter on that front.
Greenwich Council continue to ignore the NHS when it comes to funding requests. They often ignore TfL and they usually completely overlook improving parks, nearby estates and streets from new developments. Pet projects keep gaining funding. Now it seems to be the Digital Cities project alongside GLLaB.
Some people will always object to change, but some will go along if they see tangible improvements in their local environment and local services. In Greenwich this rarely – if ever – happens in various towns from huge levels of development.
In terms of next week’s meeting, it’d be ironic if councillors approve a plan for a development with 30 per cent “affordable” housing (which includes shared ownership hence “affordable”) when they reject one that is 100 per cent affordable.
Video of the meeting can be seen here.