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.
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.
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.
Placemaking is suffering too due to cuts.
The water feature in Cygnet Swuare was first reduced in size after approval – and now every time I visit is switched off.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.