Greenwich Council have selected a development partner to build a new leisure centre in Woolwich to replace Waterfront alongside 500 new homes.
The Hill Group have won the contract, and the announcement confirms that with 27 households due to be evicted from council housing on site at Troy Court, just 24 additional new council homes will be built out of 500 homes.
It appears little has changed since previous rounds of consultation in terms of limited numbers of social housing.
The authority are portraying it as a big boost to “affordable” housing.
In 2007 Greenwich Council agreed to sell land beside the Thames containing the Waterfront leisure centre car park to Berkeley Homes. They have just started the construction of the third of six towers on site.
The plan as things stand is for Greenwich Council to next sell land housing the existing leisure centre.
Revenue from both spots is to help with the new centre and housing, though with just 24 additional council homes in Woolwich, it doesn’t make much impact on over 20,000 on the borough’s waiting list and 1,400 households in emergency and temporary housing.
Greenwich Council’s Cabinet member for Housing, Cllr Anthony Okereke, stated:
“Like every other borough in London, we are facing an unprecedented housing crisis and we are doing everything we can to tackle it. Our Woolwich Leisure Centre Scheme will deliver hundreds of much-needed flats and houses in a range of sizes, including homes for families.
Some will be for market sale, as well as affordable housing including 51 social rented homes for local residents, on leases from the Council.
We selected Hill, a family-run business, as our development partner from a wide range of responses due to their excellent experience delivering high quality homes for a range of councils and their strong sustainability credentials.”
It remains to be seen whether Hill will build and sell most housing on the public site, gain the typical 20 per cent profit margin and provide a low level of new council housing.
If that is the business model – and it’s one seen elsewhere – it’s good for them and poor value for taxpayers and those in need.
Funding award this week
Why Greenwich will see relatively little from the Mayor in this round of funding is not yet known. Did they bid for more to boost low levels at projects such as Woolwich leisure centre?
If not, why not?
If they did, why did the Mayor ignore them?
The level of just 24 additional council homes has however long been baked into plans and reported in council reports for some time.
In addition to the total number of council homes appearing to be set in stone regardless of recent funding awards, a video of the new centre’s design appeared to leak a few months ago while the consultation was ongoing. It was discovered on Youtube and has since been taken down.
Was the consultation likely to ever change anything in terms of low levels of council housing and the leisure centre itself?
Regardless, the major issue of more families in poor quality and expensive temporary accommodation will not be met through this scheme, and neither via the low number of homes the Mayor has agreed to fund.
A secondary issue with the shortage is families not in emergency housing living in private rentals, which cost the taxpayers far more in housing benefit than social housing. Across the UK it’s heading towards £10 billion per annum.
A big benefit of the project is much needed new homes on a site largely comprised of car parking and low-rise buildings.
The existing buildings date from the 1980s, with the site was set to become a shopping and civic centre before that, though 20 years of talking achieved little until the current Viscount House was built housing a Gateway supermarket. Wilko have vacated the site.
The Tram Shed is also to be retained and renovated.
The leisure centre will be located in an area of high footfall compared to it’s current location.
However Greenwich are partly at fault for problems at the current site. Pedestrian access is via a hostile dual carriageway. They’ve ignored chance after chance to improve it and entice people on foot as new builds line the area.
Access from Powis Street was via the ever more decrepit Hare Street. Some buildings were crumbling away and ignored by landlords. Greenwich never used legal powers to force improvements.
That in turn that put off business wanting to move into the area and attract shoppers down from Powis Street.
Poor town centre management certainly hasn’t helped Waterfront thrive for some time.
Now they think moving it will solve all ills – though without better town centre management and better design the town will not thrive as well as it could, and should.