Plans for 1,290 homes in Greenwich on the site of a car park serving Ikea and Odeon plus the land B&Q sits upon have been submitted.
This major development – now branded Peninsula Gardens – has been followed closely on this site throughout consultation.
The plan would see housing built on stilts above much of the existing car park, with spaces remaining for shoppers.
One difficult factor with the site is adjacent approach roads for the Blackwall tunnel, and in future Silvertown tunnel.
Because Greenwich Council never revised rates in 2018 that developers pay the authority to fund services as previously committed in 2015, a large sum of income will now not be available for local services from this development.
London Square are behind the development. They must be happy having to pay relatively little in funds for local services due to Greenwich council’s action (or lack of).
Setting such a low levy on developers in 2015 – then failing to revise in 2018 – is a huge loss for improved services and infrastructure. Greenwich levy one of the very lowest rates in all of London, and had the chance to potentially go much higher in zones 2 and 3. For whatever reason they’ve refused to state, they never did.
If they had, dire street layouts in much of the area could have been radically improved in areas such as Bugsby’s Way. What the plan does present is far more limited that what could have been achieved. While some parts on the site look good, it’s connections beyond that is a key test.
Throughout consultation one thing I was keeping a close eye on when looking at documents and online sessions is connections to existing shops, amenities, services and communities in east Greenwich and Charlton.
Consultations were not particularly enlightening. The developer didn’t appear too aware that many shops and services were a short – though not pleasant – walk away.
And yes, you’ve guessed it, neither the developer nor apparently Greenwich Highways paid any interest in ensuring quick, direct walking links to numerous nearby shops to the east and upgrading crossings on the most direct route for pedestrians.
There’s little sign either have a clue about the area as it exists, nor what future residents are likely to do. They keep referring to an aspirational crossing north of the site to Greenwich Millennium Village.
A little tip guys (and it’s normally men responsible for these basic mistakes and rarely women), many residents won’t or don’t want to walk north to an area with few amenities, but east to an area with many, many shops on Bugsby’s Way. Supermarkets. Cafes. Many of them.
This should be bread and butter stuff but almost every application in the borough fails the most simple test when it comes to improved resident links to public transport, shops and amenities.
That’s not to say a crossing to the north of the site isn’t welcome, but it’s far less relevant and important than one heading east.
As things stand they want residents moving to the north of the site near the tallest buildings to use an unsafe “crossing” if taking the most direct route or take a detour. This fails every test and claim in their recent reports on encouraging healthy living and encouraging walking and cycling for short journeys.
Documents in the application don’t get off to a great start when by page 11 of the very first Design and Access statement document (it’s divided into 10 sections) I’m seeing errors already appear. Predicted housing totals at nearby Greenwich Peninsula and Charlton Riverside masterplans are too low. Both were revised up in recent years.
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In terms of “affordable” housing, the plan will bring “35% by unit (37% by habitable room) will be affordable comprising a tenure split of 71.5% London Affordable Rent and 28.5% Shared Ownership”.
Design and Access statements always give a good overview of a development, but so often contain errors.
The applicant has talked with Ikea throughout and extensive car parking for their shoppers will remain – though with reductions.
It always seemed a bizarrely regressive move to permit Ikea in its current form, with a large retail barn permitted and built in zone 2 when approved in the mid 2010s. Already we see effects of that with high density housing now planned around the shop.
The reason given – as so often – for the retail shed was jobs. Yet mixed-use development comprising retail and housing creates many jobs – if not more with commercial space – with the added bonus of aiding with housing shortages.
Who knows, maybe Ikea will eventually leave as they’ve just announced closure of a major store in Tottenham. In turn Greenwich Ikea will become mixed-use – as it always should have been under what should have been a long-reaching masterplan in the 2010s.
For now though a car-centric Ikea hampers design with much housing and communal space on stilts.
The plan does state “The V-shaped columns provide large structural spans, making the car park suitable for a wide variety of uses. The podium deck has also been assessed and allows for the potential for light wells to be created, bringing natural light into the car park.”
Any future changes will not be cheap should Ikea leave, and it’s hard to picture any long term use for the underground parking space if they did.
Resident parking is possible perhaps, which would lock in congestion. There’s mention of light wells and underground markets being possible one day, but it screams of scrambling for possible future usage due to constraints after allowing a giant retail shed in the mid 2010s; a concept that belonged to the 1980s.
It was one thing many picked up at the time, but Greenwich kept stating “jobs” ignoring short term and long term impacts on wider growth.
It’s far from the first time they’ve adopted short term thinking under the guise of jobs which in turn impacts areas for many years, which in time cost more than they gain. See Woolwich changes in the previous decades.
Buildings at the proposed development will top out at 20 floors, with the tallest centred around a square roughly where B&Q now sits beside the bus-only road outside.
Many buildings have the dreaded tin shack shed stuck on top. Of course, they’re in dreary old grey metal cladding. This almost never looks good. Why do some architects persist with it? If you want pitched roofs there are other ways and materials to do it.
In renders it’s often half-decent. Upon completion on a grey day they’re often nasty.
The development’s main square leads to a through-route for Greenwich Millennium Village and Bugsby’s Way. As I’ve recently covered though, GMV’s latest design revision turns its back on Bugsby’s Way with a big mound of earth lining the road (already existing) and behind that car parking and building alterations.
All quite odd.
As stated earlier, what would be a great benefit is an upgraded pedestrian crossing leading to shops in Charlton at the roundabout between the site and Bugsby’s Way.
There is a signalised crossing halfway down Peartree Way but for those living closer to Bugsby’s Way under this proposal, the far more obvious and direct route to shops is via this shoddy and unsafe crossing across lanes of traffic:
No matter how many thousands of homes are built in the area, Greenwich have never come up with a strategy for connecting various parts. Whether it’s Greenwich Millennium Village, this site, Morden Wharf, retail parks in Charlton or the huge Knight Dragon Greenwich masterplan, it’s atomised with each operating in a silo.
Not so bad within the confines of a site, but so often lacking as soon as leaving to head anywhere else on foot.
While housing, shops and communal space is a far, far better use of land in zone 2 some homes will be rather close to the Blackwall Tunnel approach – and in future Silvertown Tunnel’s approach.
The design has altered throughout pre-application discussions due to this issue. The plan states: “The buildings of the southern edge of the scheme were designed as a continuous physical barrier in response to the high levels of noise and pollution from the A102, with the minimum height set by air quality and acoustic consultants.”
That then changed:
At the pre-application meeting with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, officers commented on the scale, proportions of public spaces, ground floor and parking arrangements of the proposed scheme and questioned the necessity of the barrier massing along the southern edge.”
There’s some decent detailing on some buildings and the site is a decent use of land instead of car park, though it faces an uphill battle given the wider site context. Approving Ikea over the last decades set in stone major issues now coming home to roost and there’s may questions over pedestrian connections into the wider area.
Sitting beside a major road in the A102 that will see further traffic from the forthcoming Silvertown Tunnel is another factor that doesn’t make this site easy.
The big shame is that if Greenwich Council had set a higher level of levy on development, income would be available to combat – though not remove – many of these issues. Unfortunately many improvements will now not be possible.
Click here to view the full application.