Sadly, the application our community has been vigorously fighting was approved by the Greenwich Council planning board in January. For the sake of transparency, and anyone interested in the proceedings, feel free to have a listen to this audio file of the meeting. It’s quite enlightening….and the 20+ members of the community that spoke were ever impressive.
Despite the planning board approving the application from Berkeley Homes, nevertheless we are persisting! We have taken our concerns of multiple breaches of local and national policy up to the Mayor of London’s Office, and continue to attract media attention. Just today Mandy Little of the London News Online published this article on the issue, and last week Joe Dempsey compiled quotes for this article in News Shopper.
In response to these articles, I wanted to draw attention to the fact that the community is not opposed to plans to restore building 11 (or re-develop Woolwich in general). 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 loss attributed to 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 £0.8m 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 zero 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 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 report (questionably methodologically invalid) 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 ingrained in some pockets of this community speaks volumes to how people perceive Berkeley Homes’ relationship with the Greenwich Council.
We are not opposed to development, but we are opposed to inappropriate development that prioritises corporate interests over communities, and which fails to meaningfully engage with the people affected.
Robyn Waite – February 14th, 2017