Thamesmead flounders as Peabody cut back

Grand plans for Thamesmead still appear far away as Peabody have announced they will cut back on building homes.

Those in Thamesmead and Abbey Wood may wonder how much further they can cut back given so little has been built at various sites since Peabody took over various plots from Gallions Housing Association almost a decade ago.

Vacant land after Peabody knocked down homes along Harrow Manorway. No building anytime soon

I recently paid another visit to what should be the beating heart of a rebuilt Thamesmead at the former Tavy Bridge site. This is a short walk from Abbey Wood station and numerous rail and bus services.

It’s now almost a year since many commercial units around Cygnet Square completed with the vast majority still vacant. There’s simply little passing footfall as Peabody demolished surrounding plots featuring hundreds of homes without building any replacements.

Ghost town

Only one unit was occupied and that was by TACO!

Go support them if you can. The library also opened last week after damp issues delayed opening. It remains to be seen how that does.

Peabody promises

Placemaking is suffering too due to cuts.

Original plan saw substantial water feature

The water feature in Cygnet Swuare was first reduced in size after approval – and now every time I visit is switched off.

Shop units empty

To one side of the square at the former Binsey Walk site there was supposed to be hundreds of homes underway by now. Nothing is happening.

Peabody timeline missed

That site, named Phase 2, was due to start on site in March 2021.

Peabody finally submitted plans last year behind schedule but Bexley Council have yet to make a decision.

Binsey Walk being demolished four years ago. No building has begun

Every month I think surely it will be decided this month. This month – like others since last year – sees no decision to be made at Bexley’s Planning Committee meeting.

It should also be noted these sites see a substantial reduction in social housing compared to what stood before.

The other side of Cygnet Square at Coralline Walk closer to Abbey Wood station also saw homes demolished back in 2019. We’ve not even see any detailed applications yet submitted. No preceding consultation on detailed plans undertaken.

Homes brought down four years ago

It’s an extensive area that even back in 2020 Peabody stated would take 20 years (!) to build out. Up to 2040. Perhaps now 30 years to build?

All that was before interest rates rose alongside inflation. It’s the latest excuse from Peabody but they’ve been doing little but evict residents and knock down buildings for a decade since taking over Gallions Housing Association.

Expanse of land after homes demolished. No plan to build anytime soon. Note homes behind also boarded up

The pandemic? They did little before that for years too.

But it’s not just the famous post-war concrete blocks of Thamesmead that Peabody have failed to replace after demolition. There’s egregious examples such a small parade of shops and homes seconds from Abbey Wood station they knocked down for a sales centre.

Residents opposed and hung banners outside. People lost their jobs here and families were forced to move – and all so Peabody could flog homes. That’s despite possessing many, many other sites under their control they could locate such a facility given they had no plan to build on them.

White box is sales centre. Note substantial vacant land to left

That really was an incredibly shameful move from any business, let alone a housing association with a proud history like Peabody.


In certain area such actions would gain broadsheet attention but it’s outer south east London, so it didn’t.

Another site within close proximity to Abbey Wood station is the former Harrow Inn pub. Long demolished, yet again it’s a plot Peabody have sat on for years.

Same old story. Hearing them say they’ll cut back building makes people who know how they operate in the area laugh.

Seconds from shops and station

They actually have planning permission for this site but it means little. Years wasted. If they won’t build on sites so close to the Elizabeth line when and where will they?

Again we’re not even talking about many social homes here. It’s just 35 per cent “affordable”. It’s no more than your average private development.

One unit occupied in square

This again simply highlights that handing so much land to one organisation is a very risky decision – particular when such an organisation simply doesn’t build as it undergoes numerous mergers that appear to distract from their core tasks.

Some Peabody plots such as this beside the Thames won’t be built for 10+ years

Despite presiding over years of failure for such a flagship project Peabody has a powerful chair in Lord Kerslake. Formerly head of the Civil Service and CEO of both the Department for Communities and Local Government and Homes and Communities Agency, he was appointed by Mayor Sadiq Khan to look into how to boost housebuilding.

It’s beyond parody.

This though may explain why political pressure to halt the tide of failure in much of Thamesmead for 10 years is barely heard.

Areas in yellow flattened years ago

A decade of Peabody has seen far more homes demolished than built and what has been built is at real risk of failure given it’s marooned in a sea of derelict plots.

The organisation is also pushing for better transport to the north of Thamesmead as it wants to build thousands more homes – or so it claims – yet cannot build within seconds of the Elizabeth line after a decade in control and being given support via Housing Zone status.

The sad thing is what’s been built is generally decent with some good design despite cut backs post-approval.

Yet the failures far outweigh the benefits so far –  and many families and businesses are paying the price.




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J 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.

    6 thoughts on “Thamesmead flounders as Peabody cut back

    • When given these contracts, why is there no penalty clause for if/when developments not completed within a time frame, otherwise subject to delays caused by current economics. At the moment the old equation for developers both small and large is a 3 way split. one third land cost, one third buildings costs of materials and labour, one third developers/builders profit. Currently the one third building costs have escalated hugely, but final housing values dropping 5-10% (depending on who you believe). And so it’s not a good time to build. Hence, little building going on, they’re all biding their time, no incentives provided by Govt to step in and encourage builds. Meanwhile, councils should obtain a commitment from Peabody and the like that they give a guarantee of timescales. If its 30 years, then community should have access to the land for 30 years with councils assisting use for local food production (i.e allotments!!)
      It’s a sector hugely in demand with food costs escalating and little security of food production from UK sources. Also the rise in organic foods from their interest for health reasons. It’s a ‘no- brainer’, use the land productively!! Forget the concrete, we don’t need it. We DO need healthy food cheaply!

    • Peabody do whatever they like
      Bexleyheath never set any Conditions
      The fault lies with Bexley

    • Part of his frustration, he says, is that the cost-of-living crisis is preventing his company from building much-needed affordable homes. According to research by Heriot-Watt University, the UK needs 100,000 new social rented homes a year: government figures show that in 2021-22 only 7,528 were completed. The crisis will make the situation worse, says McDermott. “It has an effect on the extent to which we can plough our resources into new homes rather than actually tackling the problems of our current client base. Tackling inequality in society is really the most important thing.”

      Hmmmm …. our 30 year old block appears to be riddled with dam and mould, gutters not cleared (nor roof checked) in at least 20 years, if not since the building was first occupied in about 1991/2

    • Peabody are just as slow in other areas. They even failed to act on reports of the death of one of their tenants in Peckham for over two years. They are shameful.

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