What happened to Ikea’s promises for their Greenwich store?

It’s a number of years now since Ikea opened in Greenwich and little by little numerous promises made before plans were approved have been left by the wayside.

Remember the roof terrace? Good luck getting up there now. It never seems open.

Ikea’s roof terrace is barely if ever open

The ecology garden? Well, that was falling apart within weeks of opening. Even back in 2019 it was unloved.

And all those claims about local sustainable deliveries using cargo bikes didn’t last long.

Litter-strewn grass passes for an ecology garden

One of the biggest loads of PR nonsense was the sustainability claim. A car-dependent retail barn in Zone 2 London is not sustainable development. It just isn’t despite whatever hogwash they claimed.

You could tell that when they stuck all the cycle parking round the site out of sight around the corner in an area of low footfall and a green light for thieves.

No use.

But beyond design choices for the shop itself, this site should always have been part of a masterplan for truly mixed-use development bringing much needed housing.

The failure to produce a masterplan covering this retail park that pushed for mixed-use did nothing to help what we ended up with. It’s easier for Ikea to install a cut and paste box. It takes a bit of imagination for a mixed-use site. Never happened and now we have more demand for housing than ever costing everyone huge sums. It was all so predictable too.

The number of homeless households has sky rocketed in Greenwich borough in recent years. A mixed-use development with 35 per cent “affordable” housing above an Ikea shop would have been far more sustainable, and could well have seen a few hundred social homes included.

This retail shed also ensured any future development in the area was hampered. there was a plan for new homes next door at B&Q but that’s been scrapped. Trying to build with a massive car park mainly used by Ikea customers made it a very tough site to develop.

Building homes above an existing car park not a great prospect

So that’s hundreds more council homes as part of ore than 1,300 planned now on hiatus. The actual total of bone fide social homes that would have provided was 324.

With more than 20,000 people waiting for social housing in borough, thousands in insecure private rentals and 1,611 in Temporary Accommodation and 865 in Emergency Overnight accommodation they crises is clear to see.

Rapid increase

That’s a rapid increase since the shop opened, but the crises was already becoming ever more apparent when approved.

Even the modest amount allocation for local street improvements wasn’t enough to ensure better crossing than this.

Pedestrian crossings near Ikea little more than guardrail among fast traffic

The project is one of the biggest failures in many years in the borough for a sheer lack of forward thinking or acknowledging demand for housing before it was approved. To have no planning strategy for this area which should have pushed mixed-use retail and residential by permitting more retail barns in inner London was short sited in the extreme, and Lord knows Greenwich have more than there fair share of mistakes when it comes to planning.

I recall Greenwich councillors praising new jobs derived from the new shop, as if a mixed-use development wouldn’t provide new jobs both during construction and once complete. Mixed use isn’t about losing commercial space but combining with residential.

Mixed-use development in area the model to follow

Ultimately the development is a failure not just on its own terms as a “sustainable” shop but what could have been. Almost none of the improvements directly related to the store lasted. And yet many knew it at the time but Greenwich planners and councillors seemed hoodwinked.

It also cost the potential for many new homes and the area is still utterly vehicle dominated. In the run up to approval many said it would happen. Sure enough many of those fears have happened.

Running a site alone takes time and a fair bit of money. Adverts are far from enough to cover it and my living costs as a private renter.

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Many thanks

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.

    7 thoughts on “What happened to Ikea’s promises for their Greenwich store?

    • It was 1990s thinking for the mid 2010s. Outdated but then much of RBG thinking seems stuck decades behind the times.

    • Agree with all of this. Wondering what, if any, powers the Council have to enforce those broken promises.
      As for the entire ghastly area – it seems beyond improvement. Best to demolish the lot and start again. In our dreams.

    • Whilst I agree with the sentiment; developers should be held to account for promises they’ve made & the borough does need more homes. I think this would be a terrible location to build them, they’d end up being cheaply constructed boxy flats (see every other development in the area) right next to the black wall tunnel approach with it’s constant noise & stench of diesel – this would not make for nice homes.

      Better to leave it as retail & parking then look elsewhere for home building space, that whole industrial area along the river towards the barrier would be much more suitable for housing. Having some houses built in the area not just flats would be nice too.

    • Not forgetting that the Ikea store replaced an eco-friendly Sainburies store, which was lit by sunlight and had a green roof. Ikea was a step backwards in many ways.

    • The £1.6m paid in business rates by that ikea and the jobs it creates, should go some way to offsetting some of their impact. The site is an appalling location for housing, and it’s not the reason why temporary accomodation demand is an issue.

      On the point of landscaping and sustainability, both Ikea and the Council should have and should do better. But it’s Ikea – the idea that more than a limited number of people are going to shop there and utilise bicycles was always far fetched.

      • It’s a suitable location for housing if the area was masterplanned.

        Instead we have piecemeal development and retail sheds in inner London. It is certainly a factor in homeless households as mixed use development would have provided hundreds of homes at social rents alongside many more easing housing pressures more widely.

    • Knock the Ikea down and put a nice green park area there with a fountain and a food stall with umbrella selling their meatballs and chips. Lovely.


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