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:
Incredulous that the Council’s Planning Board approved the Morden Wharf application yesterday.
The legitimate concerns of residents about luxury towers ignored.
The result: an entirely inappropriate scheme and an impending race for the skies on the adjacent Enderby Place site.
— Matthew Pennycook MP (@mtpennycook) September 8, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
That last total is a real worry and again highlights how walking and sustainable travel is an afterthought at Greenwich Council.
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.
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.