Blackwall Lane pocket park: Greenwich Council ignores objections and sells to developer

Blackwall Lane open space and flats
Greenwich Council’s cabinet agreed to sell a “pocket park” off Blackwall Lane to a developer on Wednesday night, despite 54 complaints about the plan.

Councillors agreed the plan to dispose of the open space to the company building flats on an adjacent plot of land that had formerly been used as a car wash.

The vast majority of complaints came from streets close to the open space, which has been tended to by council street maintenance staff for many years.

Most of the complaints were about the potential loss of open space, while 38 were concerned about increased noise and air pollution levels at a site which is close to the Blackwall Tunnel approach.

They were all given the same reply: “The planning process deals with local consultation and issues relating to the potential loss of public open space and the impact of any new development.”

The cabinet was asked to consider a quick sale because “a decision in September 2015 will be too late to enable the Royal Borough [sic] to seek to secure the best possible receipt”, according to documentation released earlier this month.

The sale price was not made public, but the council says it is trying to address concerns by ensuring that 20% of the receipts would “be used for the purpose of environmental improvements to other areas of public realm in the vicinity”, to be decided by regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe and senior council officer Pippa Hack. No role is mentioned for the area’s local councillors or residents.

The cabinet paper adds: “There may also be an opportunity for further public realm improvements to be secured under any section 106 agreement linked to a planning consent for redevelopment of the site.” This will also be something for local residents to stay vigilant about, as section 106 deals in Greenwich are usually used to fund borough-wide projects.

The other 80% of the sale cash will go into the council’s general funds. Wondering where that’s going? Well, Wednesday night’s cabinet meeting also agreed a £12.2 million budget for a scheme to build a cinema in Eltham High Street, and heard that the latest budget for the 2017 Tall Ships race is £1.8 million.

12 comments

  1. rewind11

    Glad Greenwich has its priorities right after being made redundant they still haven’t processed my housing benefit claim after 3 months due to a backlog. My 16 years here maybe coming to an end

  2. fromthemurkydepths

    rewind11 – sounds like its worth getting onto your MP to speed that up if you havn’t already. Wasn’t this weeks Greenwich Time boasting about homeless services…

    One benefit to take from this sale is the 20% going to local public realm, which must surely be the terrible pedestrian and cycling links on either side of Blackwall. If scrolling through google streetview you can see some obstacles and barriers to pedestrians were put in around 2010 forcing them onto the road. I have no idea why Greenwich Highways Department were moving against the prevailing trends in London and other UK cities.

    Most other councils in London have long spent a decent percentage of s106 developer contributions on improving local streets and public realm so locals gain. Trees, parks, attractive spaces to help business etc. As noted, Greenwich council would very often throw much, if not all, into a central pot so local people saw no improvements, save a new bus stop or something equally insubstantial. Better public areas often seemed at the bottom of the list. As with some other things seen since Chris Roberts left, is this a change in the right direction that will apply more widely (albeit in this case via a very controversial sell off of a park)? There’s a very long way to go yet. With all the large developments on the Peninsula the past 5+ years, the income from these should’ve resulted in far better public realm in many areas.

  3. Barbara

    I’m inclined to reserve judgement until I see the developers plans for the site, their environmental impact and what the council will permit the space to be used for. I can’t believe that the developer hasn’t already had substantive discussions on that point though and whatever has been planned has been agreed in principle.

    However, what on earth is the council funding a cinema for to the tune of £12m???? It can hardly be called “arts” and such developments should be entirely privately funded and run as commercial businesses from the start, with the possible exception of funding to redevelop a heritage building. I dread to think what will become of the old Arches pool site.

  4. lucyneville2013

    Think any environmental improvement is usually a very woolly thing as far as planning is concerned. But locally available open space is open space – it’s what makes living in London bearable – and loosing even pocket-sized provide the greenery is usually a detriment. Take a look at the GLC’s groundbreaking habitat surveys from the 1980s – that will probably show that we are loosing small sites like these just because they are small – rather than any definite gain of green public open space nearby.

  5. Darryl

    Barbara – worth pointing out that what what is now the Greenwich Picturehouse was built by Greenwich Council in a similar deal in the late 1980s. (“Built by this council [displays rarely-used council logo] for your enjoyment” before every film.)

  6. fromthemurkydepths

    I believe Greenwich will fund then lease units, possibly at below market rents? Given ‘market’ rents (which are manipulated to stay high) in London are now at crippling rates in many areas (along with housing) then is it such a bad thing? Businesses have to charge silly prices to customers in some areas due to these excessive rents, which is way in excess of what many people can afford. This has hurt a whole number of businesses’ viability. The population’s wages and disposable income havn’t kept pace with commercial rents, so what were viable businesses, end up failing.

    Lower rents > more businesses succeeding > thriving communities, facilities & lower cost of living. Like so much in London and the UK it comes down to land values being elevated, propped up by constant government intervention on behalf of land owners and developers, rather than business and communities.

  7. Darryl

    I don’t really want to be distracted by the Eltham cinema issue, but the cost comparison was made to point out that this isn’t a sale brought upon by austerity – it’s to pay for other projects elsewhere.

  8. Neil C

    I wonder which other pocket parks are at risk of being sold at short notice? Suppose I should submit a question to the council…

  9. Chris

    What a splendid night it was in Woolwich on Wednesday — for property companies.

    Best of luck re-wind. Certainly reckon it’s worth a line Matt Pennycook who is on the Blogroll on the right.

  10. EssKay

    Democracy in action again in the “Royal Borough” – I’m beginning to think the only way forward for Greenwich residents interested in local issues is to campaign for a boundary change/devolution and break free from the shackles of Woolwich…

    btw Chris – Matt Pennycook makes the right noises on a lot of issues (Ikea, Silvertown, Cruise Liner terminal etc) but he hasn’t actually been able to influence any of them has he? and before anyone points out that these are council decisions – this is a Labour MP selected by and closely aligned with a Labour dominated council

  11. Pingback: Greenwich town centre to see millions spent from 2016 | fromthemurkydepths