Plans for a distribution depot in Greenwich near the future Silvertown tunnel have been approved.
The green light for a number of units on Tunnel Avenue brings further conflict into view as thousands of homes are approved and built within a short distance including 1,500 homes at Morden Wharf a short distance away.
Earlier this week the site looked at a new hotel that has opened in Greenwich among squalor. There was much dumped rubbish left for months if not years.
That can be cleaned, but deeper problems exist with poor public realm presenting major obstacles for residents – old and new – accessing public transport and amenities between east Greenwich and Greenwich Peninsula.
Those resident numbers will only grow as more sites are built out, and as of yet after 25 years of development many areas have seen no change in streetscape.
The addition of hundreds more daily HGV and van movements to the area is yet another issue adding to the pile.
This area straddles a Opportunity Area for housing development and a Strategic Industrial Location – with a new road tunnel thrown into the mix.
All that ensures it’s more crucial then ever for the local authority and TfL to come up with a plan for the area that can bridge the gap between industrial use and residential.
It’ll be far from easy but many millions incoming from new developments paid to Greenwich Council can assist – and so far there’s no sign at all Greenwich Council are willing to do so even in areas in their control – which is 95 per cent of the Peninsula and east Greenwich.
You almost can’t move for new plans in the area. One comprises 472 homes with the applicant stating they will start on site soon:
The “mitigation” funding the council will receive from Silvertown Tunnel work is also not due to be spent in Tunnel Avenue, and in the grand scheme it’s chicken feed. Less than £1 million from a £2.2 billon tunnel. A modest development brings that much via a developer levy.
To give a comparison, a 100-home block on the Old Kent Road I was recently looking into will bring Southwark more than the entire mitigation funding for Silvertown Tunnel.
A new footbridge is planned – which doesn’t look too enticing – and means little if approach streets on either side are so poor.
The homes keep rising
Development of thousands of homes at Greenwich Millennium Village also hasn’t seen much in the way of improvement in the wider streetscape.
Hundreds more homes at GMV are now completing and ready to be occupied before the end of the year – as covered in February.
A recently submitted plan for 1,300 homes at the adjacent Ikea car park and B&Q site also ignores key pedestrian routes such as improved crossings on the roundabout leading to Charlton retail park’s units.
Giant roundabouts in the area are lined with guardrail blocking pedestrians from convenient crossing locations.
Each development in the wider area often focuses on pedestrian and cycling links within the site, but all too often designs fall apart when leaving the immediate development to reach other areas.
This is a failing from Highways Officers and Planning Officers to raise the problems and ensure allocation of funding during discussions with developers.
Millions are paid from developers to Greenwich council at each developed plot – and almost every time no money is in turn invested to improve local connections.
At Ikea’s car park the council seek to spend £1.5million at their job brokerage GLLaB – which takes enormous sums time and again – with just £250,000 for public realm upgrades, and even then much may never reach Tunnel Avenue and improved active travel links if the past is any guide.
There’s a huge range of benefits in investing funding towards improved pedestrian and cycling links across the wider area. For one it encourages people to exercise and reduces congestion in a heavily congested area.
At attractive streetscape can induce pride in an area and reduce endemic flytipping – which reduces costs to the authority.
People will be more likely to walk to council services such as Greenwich leisure centre if it were safe and pleasant to do so – which will benefit the authority financially.
Even before covid the centre were losing many members despite thousands of additional residents moving in within walking distance.
If reaching the centre is via isolated, dingy, meandering routes then why bother?
Improving links will also benefit local business from additional footfall. Successful shops and shopping areas ensures more income for the authority. A closer community too if people aren’t driving away to shop elsewhere.
None of this appears to resonate however with Greenwich Council’s current departmental and political leadership and hasn’t for many, many years.
They put up “shop local” banners but havn’t the faintest how to encourage that. There’s certainly little investment in improved links to achieve it.
The fact is this area will remain an uneasy mix of residential, leisure and industrial due to various plans approved and planned in addition to strategy documents designating industrial and residential usages. Even if a site like the new depot is rejected the overall picture remains.
With that in mind, what are authorities doing to create a safe and attractive environment for all? The money is there – and the sooner Greenwich sort out their Community Infrastructure Levy mess to gain further revenue the better – but isn’t being spent.
Basic things like cleaning and enforcement against numerous lorries blocking paving will help in the short term.
Beyond that, serious investment is essential. In some cases it will pay for itself, but is the leadership of Greenwich up to it? They’ve shown no ability to do so for years now.
Whether it be a new school for 1,600 pupils constructed opposite located another primary school, a masterplan for over 20,000 homes or approving retail parks, nothing changes to thread the wider area together time and time again.