Thursday, April 27, 2017
Call for Sadiq Khan to reject Woolwich Crossrail gateway development

Call for Sadiq Khan to reject Woolwich Crossrail gateway development

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SADIQ Khan is being urged to reject a development over concerns it will “significantly alter” listed buildings, overshadow residences and provide no affordable homes.

Calls have been made for the London Mayor to not back Greenwich council’s planning permission for Berkeley Homes (BH) plans to revamp Grade II listed Building 10 and 11 as part of a scheme to create a gateway for the Crossrail station on Woolwich Arsenal. The plans also include 146 homes, the new Royal Carriage Square and commercial units.

Residents say the application breaches national and local policies in a number of areas and that the community’s views were not taken on board by the council. A campaign has been launched to to lobby Mr Khan as the scheme cannot go ahead without his final approval.

Resident Robyn Waite says a key concern is the “significant alterations to two listed heritage assets” and that the 11 storey block on top of one is to close to East Carriage House and will block light from a large number of homes.

She said: “The daylight studies for some of the homes show it will be below the national recommended guidelines and some will be plunged into darkness. People are also concerned that all the homes on the side of the building which will be most affected are the social housing ones.”

“A lot of people from the community came together to make objections. There has been a lot of issues and concerns that the plans are in breach of national and local policies. There is concern over the two listed buildings as developments around them must be given special consideration in the planning process”

She said: “Despite our efforts the community perspective was not adequately represented throughout the council’s consultation process. The entire process was wrought with lack of transparency.” The community are also concerned over the lack of affordable homes planned.

A spokeswoman on behalf of Royal Arsenal Residents, told The Mercury: “BH also claim that they cannot build any affordable homes within the new block. In fact they have exploited a loophole used by developers all over London to avoid building the recommended quota of affordable homes within luxury developments and are giving Greenwich council £1m towards a few houses which will be built elsewhere.”

The council report noted that BH had presented an independent financial report that showed affordable homes would not be viable due to the high cost of restoring dilapidated Building 11 which would only be partially subsidised from the residences in Building 10. The council also commissioned a third party review of this and BH have agreed that the issue can be revisited. The developer has also now introduced 12 “discount market homes” into the scheme.

Karl Whiteman, divisional managing director at BH, said the scheme “will retain and restore two further Grade II Listed buildings, opening them up to the public for the first time in 40 years. One of these buildings, the former Officers’ House (Building 11), was already on the English Heritage ‘at risk’ register when Berkeley acquired it in 2011. Since acquisition, Berkeley have worked to reduce the physical risk to the building and focused on securing a long-term sustainable future use.”

He said the scheme, also provides an interchange for Crossrail which is to open in 2018 and “Berkeley will also be making a £2.7 million contribution towards infrastructure and local services, including affordable housing within the borough.”

“The proposals were developed through extensive consultation and fully supported by Royal Borough of Greenwich, Historic England and Crossrail. On approval, the Council’s planning board took into account all relevant planning considerations. The application meets local and national objectives to deliver new homes on previously developed land and is an important step towards enabling the completion of the Heritage Quarter at Royal Arsenal Riverside.

Reporter | Resident of Lewisham for more than 25 years and studied sociology at Goldsmiths. Previously worked for many years as a picture researcher for book and part work publishers and joined The Mercury after studying for a NCTJ at Lambeth College. Big yoga and walking fan – not just in the country but also along the River Thames. Love South East London and wander around Lewisham town centre, Deptford High Street and Greenwich Town Centre at least once a week. Mandy has worked for the Mercury for 14 years.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that the community is not opposed to plans to restore building 11. We all recognise the plan will “retain and restore” the building and are looking forward to using the space once again. However, building 10 is a completely different story. It is currently in use and not “at risk”. The introduction of an 11 story tower block on top of this beautiful heritage asset is completely unnecessary and damaging to the grade II listed building, the conservation area, and existing residents. Note that the only justification Berkeley Homes gives for building this tower block is to offset the meagre £1.8m cost of restoring building 11 – a building that they acquired knowing it would be in need of restoration. Surely there are alternative ways Berkeley could offset the cost….perhaps through anticipated profits from the many new builds in progress and planned within the same royal arsenal development? Or how about instead of compensating the Council £1m in order to get out of providing affordable housing in the tower block, you keep the change and source £.8m via the introduction of commercial units within the existing structure of building 10? The viability assessment presented for justifying building this tower block and including 0 affordable units out of the 146 proposed is very weak, and makes one think perhaps the only benefit of the proposed tower block is Berkeley Homes reported anticipated return of £6.8m.

    I would also like to note that given this development is taking place within a conservation area, and is in relation to 2 listed buildings, according to policy and case law, decision makers must pay “special attention” and have a “strong presumption” against granting permission that would harm the character or appearance of the area. Given this planning application was approved on the basis of a weak financial case, said policy and case law were not appropriately applied in the making of the decision to approve this planning application. Also worth noting here, the experts on this – the Greenwich Conservation Group – registered their objection to the proposed tower block at the Nov. 22, 2017 planning board meeting.

    Let’s turn our attention to how this tower block will impact existing residents. The main issue here is impact on daylight and privacy. The proposed building is just over 14m away from the existing East Carriage House (national recommendations for good practice is no closer than 18m). Berkeley Homes’ own questionably methodologically invalid report indicates 77% of units facing the proposed tower will be below the recommended national criteria for access to daylight. Those living in Bentham House (a retirement building) will also be negatively impacted with reductions to access to daylight. Note that these two existing buildings on either side of the proposed tower block are both predominantly social housing. That means that despite policy indicating that attention should be paid to protecting vulnerable populations, this planning application most negatively impacts vulnerable populations.

    I feel like I could go on and on. There have been so many issues in this planning application raised by the community that they are hard to keep track of (and I would bore you to death if I kept going). Either way, the point is that these are real concerns grounded in policy that should be taken seriously. As a community, we have impressively mobilised around this issue. Over 100 residents submitted letters of objection to the Greenwich Council. Those that did not engage throughout this process, or mocked us for doing so felt like it was a waste of time and effort. Frankly, such a sentiment being so deeply engrained in some pockets of this community speaks volumes to how people perceive Berkeley Homes’ relationship with the Council. We are not opposed to development, but we are opposed to inappropriate development that prioritises corporate interests over communities, and which fails to meaningful engage with the people affected.

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Call for Sadiq Khan to reject Woolwich Crossrail gateway development