Change is the only constant: 1,500 Greenwich homes approved on 6-5 vote

Greenwich Planning Board last night voted 6-5 to approve 1,500 homes at Morden Wharf on the western side of Greenwich Peninsula.

Well, not exactly 6-5 but it ended 5-5 so the Planning chair then voted again to approve.

Planning Board chair Stephen Brain (Labour – Peninsula ward) cast that deciding vote, and proclaimed “change is the only constant”.

The plan sees 35 per cent “affordable” housing by room, or 31 per cent by property, with a 70/30 split between social housing (at London Affordable Rent levels – around 50 per cent of market rates) and 30 per cent being higher rent and shared ownership.

Some take issue with London Affordable Rent being classed as social housing, though it’s the lowest possible level of rent now possible and accessible to those on the authority’s waiting list.

In total it’s 465 “affordable” homes out of 1,500, with 325 being social housing.

That actually far surpasses Greenwich Council’s own major scheme in Woolwich town centre covered on this site last night which includes a new leisure centre, which sees a net addition of just 24 social homes out of 500 total homes, as 27 existing social homes are being demolished and replaced.

True, there’s no leisure centre to be funded, but on the flipside two prime plots of riverside land aren’t being sold to assist as in Woolwich.

Despite this providing the most homes at the lowest rent levels it’s realistically possible to get, and the borough’s extremely high rate of homelessness, local MP Matt Pennycook has tweeted:

The “luxury towers” are providing more social housing than his party colleagues at Greenwich Council are proposing in Woolwich.

Pennycook isn’t just complaining here about inadequate services and issues that need addressing alongside new homes, but high density full stop in a major world city where the population has risen 1.1 million over the past 10 years and a borough where the electoral roll has seen a 24 per cent increase in 20 years – and where many more family homes are being converted into flat shares.

Pennycook is MP for part of a borough that has seen huge growth not only in homeless households but also those living in insecure private lettings.

Private renter increase from 2014 to 2020

In addition he’s shadow climate change minister. How he proposes a growing population is housed without urban sprawl is a major question.

He’s also wrong about the last point too, as we’ll see.

Opposition

A number of resident’s groups spoke at the meeting to oppose the development.

Height was one of the main issues. The tallest block tops out at 36 floors.

A precedent was set for heights in the area when outline planning permission was granted in 2015 for towers on an adjacent plot at Enderby Place yet to be built. Much of the rest of the Peninsula has also seen outline or detailed planning for towers.

Cruise terminal has gone. Tower plans remain. Modern Wharf located left of towers shown above

Some arguments centred around views from Greenwich Park. Current views of the western side of the Peninsula do lack towers from vantage points, though the 2015 approval would see them highly visible upon building, thus the impact of Morden Wharf would not be stand-alone.

Other arguments were made that Morden Wharf towers would rise above Enderby Wharf’s approved blocks, though that is intentional given a skyline generally works best with variation, and increasing heights to a peak rather than a monolithic wall-effect all along the skyline is common practice.

Local groups speaking out raised an issue that has gained prominence recently with the planning system, as people in the area have a voice when it comes to meetings, yet the households who could move into social housing from other areas of the borough are generally not represented.

How that balance is created is a tough issue, and councillors face a tough role in balancing both sides.

Up to 325 households moved from temporary and emergency housing will also greatly reduce cost pressures on a local authority, which currently hampers money being spent on other services.

Income

A large number of homes available to those on the waiting list in place of expensive private lettings is not the only cost-benefit to the council, as a development of this size brings in tens of millions from:

  • The Community Infrastructure Levy
  • Section 106
  • New Homes Bonus
  • Council tax

At a time of cuts and strained budgets, all will raise substantial sums.

A previous post looking in depth at this plan covered income so I won’t repeat it, but the main funding priorities are:

  • £4.8m contribution towards a new primary school.
  • Up to 1,400m2 of healthcare provision on-site, to be offered for use as a centralised Healthcare Hub for the wider area
  • £1.5 million+ GLLaB.
  • £2.5 million to alter bus routes (almost certainly the 108) in order to serve the development
  • £675,000 for Thames Clipper services
  • £250,000 for public realm upgrades to link to public transport nodes
Transport links

That last total is a real worry and again highlights how walking and sustainable travel is an afterthought at Greenwich Council.

Entrance to site. Surrounding public realm and link to tube station are poor

There’s 1,500 homes coming in an area with a very poor public transport accessibility rating and extremely heavy road congestion.

The site isn’t that far as the crow flies from North Greenwich tube station – yet walking links need substantial improvements.

 

Quickest route to tube station passes areas such as this

However Greenwich planners opted to allocate £2.5 million from Section 106 incomes towards diverting one bus service and £675,000 on a nice (but expensive and infrequent) river boat service with just £250,000 towards improving walking and cycling links.

One bus route is never going to cut it and neither are Thames Clipper services.

Labour Cllr Gary Dillon did raise concerns over 4,000 residents in the area (see the 3hr 36 mins mark). Is the issue to block housing despite great demand, or push for a major investment in walking and cycling improvements so that 4,000 can easily reach public transport easily and safely?

In his summing up, Dillon did not explicitly call for more income to do that, which Greenwich planners could do in discussions on allocating income, but instead to “scale down a bit”.

Car parking is to be built for the disabled.

The development lives or dies on accessibility via walking and cycling to amenities, shops and transport. £250,000 looks a low sum in that context.

A video of the meeting can be seen here. Morden Wharf discussion starts at 36 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

2 thoughts on “Change is the only constant: 1,500 Greenwich homes approved on 6-5 vote

  • September 8, 2021 at 10:47 am
    Permalink

    Shameful stuff from Pennycook. Clearly playing to the local NIMBYs rather than those in need.

    Of course it doesn’t provide what is needed but find me a single alternative that will provide this many council homes in the next decade in the borough. It aint happening.

    He’s also been highlighting refugees all week. I fully agree we need to help them, but unlike him I realise we need somewhere to actually house people.

    His stance is utterly hypocritical by stating lets help refugees but not build homes. What’s his plan for the many in the country needing housing before the refugee issue?

    End result of his stance – competition of the poorest in UK and those abroad who need help for homes for meagre housing provision and social strife. MPs of course earn enough to avoid that.

    To be honest with you I’m sickened by him. He’s basically calling for green belt building by opposing city centre building and throwing the poorest under the bus.

    I’m incredulous he’s a Labour MP with those views.

    Reply
  • September 9, 2021 at 12:04 pm
    Permalink

    Really Murky? You think this is actually going to live some quality social housing? Aside from the irony of building social housing next to what will soon be a motorway interchange after the Ellie Kisi-Debra case ruled that poor air quality is a cause of death, do you think these blocks are going to appear in our lifetimes? In case you’ve missed the news recently, there are no construction workers, the cost of building materials is rocketing and the chance of having anyone to deliver them is diminishing by the day, and the developer has shed about half its workforce in the last two years and has undergone radical financial restructuring. And most telling of all, sales of high rise flats have plummeted with the double jeopardy of fire safety defects and leasehold problems – so those four towers which would be subsidising the social housing are not likely to be out of the ground. However, a cynical person might think that a huge site with planning permission is worth a lot more than a derelict industrial site.

    Reply

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