Fantastic news from Woolwich Town Hall last night, as Greenwich Council’s planning board unanimously rejected developer London & Regional Properties’ proposals to pack an extra 246 homes onto the Lovell’s Wharf development, increasing the height of the buildings from 10 to 13 stories.
Council leader Chris Roberts was the first on the panel to reject the scheme, and the others followed suit, with residents heading to the Pelton Arms (playing host to a surprise Glenn Tilbrook show) to celebrate afterwards. Huge credit must go to local residents for a tenacious campaign – see the video above – and it’s notable that Labour parliamentary nominees Matt Pennycook, Len Duvall and David Prescott all swung their weight behind the campaign. A few council candidates will have slept more soundly last night, but questions must be asked about why council planners recommended approval in the first place.
A more telling decision, however, took place a few hours earlier, when an overview and scrutiny call-in committee decided to take no action on Roberts’ personal decision to spend at least £2.5m of money the council had suddenly discovered on various pre-election schemes. This is without having to go through the council’s cabinet, where awkward questions could have been asked of the proposals.
So Greenwich Council complains of being skint when it suits it to not spend a five-figure sum, but when Roberts wants to spend a seven-figure sum without scrutiny, it’s all okay? Something’s very odd there.
And that’s the rub of the bullying culture at Greenwich Council. It’s not just about Roberts swearing and threatening his fellow councillors – it’s also the institutional refusal to engage or explain what is going on. Will the Labour nominees be as frank on this obvious issue as they were on Lovell’s Wharf? We wait and see.
Of all the developers who have come into Greenwich in recent years to make a few quid, possibly the most overtly cynical has been London & Regional Properties, which has been smashing up the riverside at Lovell’s Wharf for a good few years now.
It doesn’t have to be this way – there are other developers in the area that actually listen to their neighbours. Not so with London & Regional, which destroyed a chunk of the Thames Path and didn’t bother reopening it for three years, while remaining content to leave much of Lovell’s as a hole in the ground for much of that time.
Now the development has been given yet another rebranding, as “The River Gardens – Royal Greenwich“, which will probably go down well with overseas speculators most of London’s newbuilds seem to be going to, yet goes down like a cup of cold sick in in SE10.
Of course, London & Regional’s plans are anything but green and pleasant. As reported here earlier this year, it’s trying to increase the height of the development’s towers from 10 to 13 stories. The developer wants to increase the number of flats in the development from 667 to 913 – with the extra 246 flats all for private sale. Non-residential uses have been scaled back as the developer tries to pack homes into the site.
Even the current buildings loom horribly over Banning Street – heaven knows what 13-storey towers will feel like. But despite this, Greenwich Council planning officers are recommending approval. And worryingly, there are precedents – approved proposals for Enderby’s Wharf include 16-storey towers, while Woolwich will get 21-storey towers on the park at Royal Arsenal Gardens.
Thankfully, though, neighbours are fighting back against a scheme which will overwhelm the streets of old east Greenwich. They include current residents of the blocks which have already gone up, who complain developers have reneged on past pledges not to build higher, and say their children have nowhere to play.
Thanks to Laura Eyres for the picture of a protest against the plans which took place on Saturday morning. A petition against the scheme has already got over 630 signatures – and the residents will be out in force for the planning meeting next Monday, 21 October. They’d appreciate your support.
For years, its cut-off Thames Path stood as a reminder of the poor relationship between developers and locals in Greenwich. Now the firm which is developing Lovell’s Wharf and neighbouring Pipers, Granite and Badcock’s Wharves – under the uninspiring Greenwich Wharf banner – wants Greenwich Council to back plans to pack more homes into the site, taking the blocks from 10 to 13 storeys high.
The Greenwich Phantom’s already discussed this, but it’s worth restating what’s planned. The developer wants to increase the number of flats in the development from 667 to 913 – with the extra 246 flats all for private sale.
There was a consultation at the end of last year – it doesn’t seem to have had much effect, though.
Plans for a hotel and offices are axed in the new scheme, along with nearly all other non-residential uses. The original plans, approved in 2007, included a health centre, some shops, and a rowing club.
Reading through the planning documents (Greenwich Council’s new planning website is a mess, unfortunately), you could be forgiven for thinking that the developers saw the approved proposals for adjacent Enderby’s Wharf included 16-storey blocks, and thought “we fancy a bit of that”.
But even the current, more modest buildings are looming horribly over Banning Street – the new proposals look less like community-building, more like a quick money-making scheme, packing people in with fewer facilities and no investment in local transport to help them get in and out of the area.
One of the first big barneys on this site was over the closure – well, destruction – of the Thames Path at Lovell’s Wharf in Greenwich, and the council’s subsequent grovelling to developers after that.
Of course, the developers then downed tools after finishing the first phase, leaving a flooded hole in the ground where the future developments promised by the council’s propaganda weekly should have been.
But work’s recently recommenced, and nearly three years after the fences came down and people realised the path had been destroyed, Durkan Homes has finally replaced it. It actually opened on 11 January, and huge credit must go to local councillor Mary Mills, who cut the ribbon that day.
Looking back at the original May 2010 post, mind, it’s striking just how many of the complaints – of poor communication and council arrogance – still ring true now, particularly in light of recent events. And that was just after an election…
Further up the path, there’s some dramatic progress along the remaining closed section of the path, between Delta Wharf and Drawdock Road, just next to the Dome…
The whole thing’s being rebuilt – including the river wall, and the slipway at the end of Drawdock Road. Might be a while yet. And before you ask, there’s still no sign of Delta Wharf turning into a beach for the 2012 Olympics…
But at least now most of the path is now open, except for that short section – should you be walking or cycling it westbound, keep a very close eye for the pathway that takes you back onto it (just beyond the oddly-pointless traffic lights at the top of the Blackwall Tunnel escape ramp).
All of which gives you the chance for a proper walk or cycle along the Thames, and to enjoy the work of the secretive Greenwich Guerrilla Knitters. Their creations are holding up well, despite the winter.
9.15pm update: A committee of councillors will be discussing a report into cycling along the Thames Path (that’s along the whole borough, from Deptford to Thamesmead) at 7pm on Tuesday 12 February, at Woolwich Town Hall.
There’s plenty of competition for the title, but Lovell’s Wharf may well be Greenwich’s worst development site. Not content with having destroyed the riverside path, developers London & Regional Properties now want to have 13-storey tower blocks on the site – similar to the original plans for the site, thrown out some years back.
From The Greenwich Phantom:
The developers of the site called Greenwich Wharves are proposing some substantial changes to
– increasing the total square metres from 94,825 by 12,695 sq.m – anincrease of 30%
– increase the number of new homes from 667 to 911 – about 37% increase
– change in the height of the buildings up to 13 storeys on the riverfront
– reduction in the commercial and office accommodation – no details provided about what or how much is reduced
The commercial and office accommodation were an important factor in the consented plans. Before consent there had been an outrageous original proposal for very tall buildings. The developers now appear to be trying to claw back what they were originally refused.
There are consultation meetings on Tuesday 11th December from 5pm to 9pm, and on Wednesday 12th December from 2pm to 9pm, at Rothbury Hall on Azof Street.
Much of the site was abandoned during the early years of the economic crash, although work is now underway on the second phase of Lovell’s. Nearby, there remains little sign of work on the much-vaunted cruise liner terminal.
PS. If you haven’t seen it already, take a look at the Phantom’s Advent calendar…
Ten minutes’ walk from here, the Duchess of Cornwall was being offered canapes at a Queens House reception. At the same time, flowers and candles were being placed at the site of Sunday’s shooting in Banning Street, while friends, neighbours and passers-by paused to reflect.
I’ve written about this area before. Behind these hoardings once stood Lovell’s Wharf. Some years ago, the industrial buildings were swept away, along with the riverside path behind it. Last year, the first housing on the site was occupied, and earlier this year other blocks were opened on Banning Street. It’s a mixed development – plush riverside homes on one side, opposite affordable and social housing.
But the rest of the site has been abandoned by developers London & Regional Properties and Durkan Homes. The riverside path has been destroyed, and behind those hoardings now lies a huge, unguarded, pool of dirty water. A bumpy, unfinished road curls through the development, with crumbling yards on one side and brand new housing on the other.
Terrible crimes like this can happen anywhere – it’s only a few month since a man’s body was found in a burnt-out car in a lane behind swish housing off Blackheath. What Angerstein Lane and Banning Street have in common, though, is that they are isolated corners.
The brochure at liveatlovells.com promises the “lightness and luxury of riverside living”, but older residents will know that riverside living, down by the wharves or down by the docks, had a darker side too. Sunday’s tragedy was an awful reminder of that.
Until the Lovell’s Wharf development is finished, and London & Regional Properties ends its neglect of the project, the area’s going to remain a favourite for shady dealings and those who’d like to stay out of sight.
With the weather looking good for Easter weekend, it’s come just in time.
A rock garden has also been built along the path – something else for the occupiers of the new homes to look out upon.
This now means the only section of Thames Path closed between Deptford Creek and the Thames Barrier is the stretch at Lovells Wharf, where the path has been routed past a sales office belonging to estate agents ‘King Sturge, and where London and Regional Properties is showing no signs of planning to restore the pathway it destroyed.
One other little bit of Thames Path news – Ballast Quay, where the Cutty Sark pub is, is now two way for cyclists only. Personally, I prefer to avoid the cobbles and ride direct along Banning Street and Old Woolwich Road, but scenic cyclists can now follow the river in both directions if they want to.
6:45PM UPDATE: One word of warning, though – don’t go expecting a sit down next to the Dome, where the Homes & Communities Agency has decided that while Greenwich Peninsula is “a place where you can”, it’s certainly not a place where it’ll bother emptying litter bins on its stretch of the path. Carrier bags are courtesy of the brand new Tesco Express. That’ll look lovely come Easter Monday…