Quintain plan for Greenwich Peninsula

Imagine if your local council had begun the process of allowing a massive new development of luxury housing, exclusively for the affluent, towering over the skyline. Imagine if that development included its own private school, and a luxury hotel.

And imagine if it’d decided to renege on its past plans to create mixed communities, where people who wanted homes for social rent or affordable housing would have a fair shot at living in new developments.

What’s more, imagine if it’d approved plans to shunt the non-affluent into a plot half a mile away, creating a little ghetto as far away from the luxury homes as possible? And what if it never asked you about it?

This is social cleansing – and it’s beginning to happen on the Greenwich Peninsula as Greenwich Council yields to the demands of private developers.

Controversial plans for the peninsula were backed at a planning meeting held in public at the end of February, but it went completely unrecorded at the time, save for a few lines posted in comments on this website.

Now residents on the peninsula are threatening legal action against the council for ignoring its own policies on redevelopment.

Quintain plans for Peninsula Quays site

February’s meeting saw councillors agree to reduce to 0% the proportion of affordable housing to be offered at Peninsula Quays – the development planned for land just to the south-west of the Dome, surrounding the northern end of Tunnel Avenue.

Quintain plans for Greenwich Peninsula

In the past couple of years, land here has been cleared and decontaminated and roads rebuilt. No planning application’s gone in yet – a small exhibition was held a month ago, showing tower blocks and plans for up to 1,638 homes (see a business plan) – but this is an adjustment to the masterplan which covers the whole peninsula.

The plans include a private school, “high-end private residential” units at Drawdock Road, and a four/five star hotel at Ordnance Crescent.

Effectively, the council’s planning board approved the idea that a development which will sit opposite Canary Wharf should be built in Canary Wharf’s own image – exclusively for the affluent. It’s envisaged this will be up and running by December 2019.

To make up the difference, new developments to the far south of the Dome – around where the City Peninsula tower now sits – will see levels of affordable housing shoot up to between 54% and 58%, mostly for social rent rather than shared ownership. These developments were also given permission that night, and will be completed by December 2017.

Greenwich Council says that overall, the 11 plots considered together will be 25% affordable – but all those properties will now be pushed to the south, towards City Peninsula and Greenwich Millennium Village.

There was no consultation on this change – pushed through so developers can grab £50m in grants. Residents at City Peninsula and GMV are furious, as they expected levels of affordable accommodation to be even across the peninsula. They’re now threatening to force a judicial review of the councillors’ decision, accusing them of railroading the change through.

Ordnance Crescent
“Peninsula Quays” as it is now

A letter to Greenwich Council seen by this website brands the councillors’ decision as “unfair”, adding that the new plans don’t offer enough family accommodation and contradict both local and London-wide planning guidelines.

So far, they’ve had no response from the council – but the residents are sure of their case.

This aggressive development follows Hong Kong billionaire Henry Cheng investing £500m into the project last year through his company Knight Dragon, teaming up with existing developer Quintain.

At present, if the Knight Dragon/Quintain proposals go through, they’ll destroy the dream of the peninsula as a stable, sustainable community, as promised when Greenwich Millennium Village was conceived in the late 1990s.

Indeed – and the planning documents hint at this – it may all be one long hangover from the construction of the Millennium Dome itself, with central government keen to recover the costs it spent on infrastructure back then.

While by most accounts GMV (which remains separately developed) is a fine place to live – and the river-facing homes at City Peninsula look like fantastic places – it still suffers from being physically isolated from the rest of the area by dual carriageways. But it’s developed into a mixed community, and people seem to rub along fine.

Greenwich Council’s frustration with the pace of development on the peninsula is well-known. In 2004, it expected 500 homes a year to be built over the next 20 years. In fact, only 229 homes have been built since then.

But in the long term, is it really worth junking the benefits of building a mixed number of homes just to get developments back on the move again? Greenwich Council’s and developers’ desperation to get things moving again could have long-term, disastrous consequences for the regeneration of the area. This is a complicated tale, but one to watch closely over the next few years.

Update, 13 April 2013: The minutes from the planning board meeting are now available, which show the proposals criticised by local residents, local councillors Dick Quibell and Mary Mills, and planning board member Hayley Fletcher (who isn’t named).

44 replies on “Social cleansing: End of the Greenwich Peninsula dream?”

  1. The first intention, in Greenwich’s plans for the Peninsular, was, I was told, to build affordable housing close to the Aggregate yards at Murphy’s and Angerstein; a nice little buffer. Then came the wonderful idea of putting them close to the gas holder, but health and safety considerations put paid to that. I don’t believe that there was ever any real intention towards inclusion.

    That part of the devlelopment that is planned for Peninsular West, to the west of the tunnel approach, includes land which remains a Safeguarded Wharf and Greenwich appear to be ignoring this, even though Mayor Boris’ office has pointed out that they may not do so. I think that the Port of London Authority may have a say in this, they have very good lawyers and can afford a judicial review.


    Safeguarding resulted from action by John Gummer – now Lord Deben – and required Government intervention to change.

    Your readers may also be interested in Greenwich’s intention to drive housing through Strategic Industrial Land at Charlton Riverside, and so destroy jobs – once again in the cause of gentrification, social cleansing by another name. This is being fought, again, by the PLA but also by local people with the aid of graduate students at University College, London. Some Charlton residents may think how nice it would be to get rid of all this nasty industry but it would also get rid of a lot of local goods and services and, of course, local jobs. Loosing jobs is just another method of marginalisation and helps to spread local hopelessness and, perhaps, crime.

  2. ”it’s developed into a mixed community, and people seem to rub along fine”

    This is from your website a year or so ago:

    “We are a group of disgruntled residents and owners living in the Greenwich Millennium Village. Over the years, we witness the village going from an exclusive development of working professionals and peaceful families to a council estate overrun by hordes of feral kids, gypsy camps, violent social residents and people who visit them.

    “We fall victim to our neighbors stealing our mail, stealing our bicycles, vandalising public spaces, peeing and defecating in the lifts and corridors and disturbing the peace. We can’t even park cars on the road, but gypsy encampments are being left alone by parking wardens happy to issue £120 tickets to anyone who parks with a tyre touching the kerb.

    “We are tired of council tenants turning the Greenwich Millennium Village into a council estate and driving the property prices down.”

  3. I would suggest, then, that you sell up and move somewhere more convivial, Kensington and Chelsea, perhaps? It’s the only sensible solution because, sadly, I know, the effluent have forgotten the requirement to keep away from the homes of the affluent and, even more sadly, to touch their forelocks when people like you pass them.

    Are you a senior banker, perchance? Or are you some other kind of parasite?

  4. Nice try, Tony. That’s not from my website, it’s from the now-deleted gmvsucks.com, mentioned here two years ago: http://8https://853london.com/2011/03/17/trouble-in-the-millennium-village-or-just-troublemaking/

    Funnily enough, most of the GMV residents attested to it being a decent place to live, so I’m happy to take their word for it. I’ve been sceptical about the place before, but whatever its failings, it’s a far better plan than the Knight Dragon/Quintain scheme.

    Interestingly, one of the trolls on that thread just tried to post on here about “pikeys” and whatnot. Funny how mentioning the peninsula brings out the idiots.

  5. I didn’t write that, nor do I live in GMV – I was merely reproducing one of Darryl’s own pieces which shows that not everyone finds living in the GMV ”mixed community” so rosy.

  6. Yes that post was originally from that forum, but it was reproduced on here (which is where I cut and pasted it from).

  7. It’s best the area is a mixed in regards to social class, it brings benefits to the less well of and also not making the town with a lot of rich people seem like a dormant town. If let’s say, the middle class moved out then why bother redeveloping North Greenwich only to have another council estate of welfare claimants that have no intension of working, I’ve met lots of these types of people.

    The problem with council estates is that problem people are all moved in together and this magnifies the issue. Also, I don’t think someone deserves housing if they don’t respect the area or the other residence.

  8. Aside from the sensational “social cleansing” line, putting all the social tenants in the same place is a bad idea. I speak as a Moat tenant in GMV, they should split us up.

    Some of us are fine, others make very bad neighbors. By putting everyone in the same place you create what is likely to be a bad neighborhood with too many problem families in one area.

    If they spread council houses thinly enough the impact on an area is minimal.

  9. As a GMV resident, I can also attest that it is a great place to live. It doesn’t come without its issues, as many new developments seem to have, but these have been tackled over the years by residents who are committed to ensuring that the community is one that can thrive without problems and ASB caused by the minor few.

    The concerns around the Knight Dragon/Quintain scheme (on top of Greenwich Council’s blind support of a Silvertown tunnel) of piling social housing at the lower end of the Peninsula while keeping the upper end for the more “affluent” will essentially go against everything that the Greenwich Peninsula was developed for – mixed tenure residential developments across the land – as well as the hard work taken by residents (and the Residents Association) at tackling local issues experienced by existing residents. And it all sounds somewhat fishy that this was pushed through pretty darn quick to grab access to the talked-about £50m in grants.

  10. Its a tricky balance for the council to strike. If they try to insist that lots of social housing should be incorporated into a scheme then a developer will (quite rightly since profit maximisation should be their only goal) push back and in an area that is struggling to attract investment this could result in nothing being built. Wouldnt the council be accused of cutting of their own nose to spite their face in this instance?

  11. Nothing at all wrong with mixed tenure in a development when its done properly. Social tenants, in contrast to short term private renters, at least have some stake in their neighbourhood as they will presumably have long term assured residency at heavily subsidised rates. Shared ownership is also a great way onto the ladder, though the peninsula is now too expensive for the scheme to really work for anything other than a 1 bed flat as the maximum household income limit set by the council is relatively low.

    However as we saw on GMV a few years ago, a couple of bad families can really ruin the experience for countless other residents. The system is stacked in favour of incumbent residents even when it is clear that they are destroying their neighbourhood and the property they have been given. The toothless (and generally useless) housing association was only eventually able to take action when provided with stacks of documented evidence from the owner-occupiers who cared enough to compile it and push for action over a 12 month period. Touch wood it has been far better around here since then, which probably explains the demise of GMVsucks (incidentally it appears that domain name was registered to one of the social units – make of that what you will!).

    Finally I don’t understand how the developers hope to sell the other 40-45% of non-social units in the new proposed buildings. Having pocketed a big grant I don’t suppose they will really care if they end up selling them to the council at a knock down rate. I recently heard from a surveyor that this happened at a development in Thamesmead, leaving the few private buyers that did fall for the marketing stuck in the middle of a run-down estate with enormously negative equity.

  12. There is another route, get planning consent and then sell the land on, at a profit.

    There is little attempt mad to understand the infrastructure requirements of wall to wall Thames side housing development. Local transport is already unable to cope with the morning and evening rush and planning laws don’t even require consideration of drinking water and sewerage. Immediate profit appears to be the only concern – oh, and the myth of providing housing for Londoners. Which Londoners?

  13. My husband and I own a flat in Metcalfe Court, which we’re now renting out out of desperation. No, it’s not a nice place to live, it’s filled with people who lack even the basic knowledge of what respect and good mannerism are. These people are ‘contaminating’ the whole area with their bad behaviour rather than appreciating the chance they’ve been given to live in a residential area. One of the blocks of this building was particularly known for people vomiting in the lift quite regularly; I don’t consider that a ‘great place to live’. Do you??? I’d also like to add that when we bought it off-plan back in 2006, the 2 sales agents (who should really stay clear of me for the sake of their wellbeing) told us that the ground floor apartments were going to be allocated to ‘key workers’. When we enquired about the meaning of ‘key workers’ the answer was ‘you know, like nurses, policemen, etc.’. That was total rubbish! The place seethes with affordable housing, and whilst some of the tenants are really nice people, unfortunately the vast majority should really be relegated to ghettos as they don’t know, nor do they want to know, a different reality. Easy to say ‘sell the place and move somewhere else’. We tried that, our property was devaluated £70K!

  14. Thinking back to the GMV Sucks post, I take it Metcalfe Court is where social tenants are concentrated in GMV?

    Seems to prove the point about spreading people around evenly.

  15. Thanks for the excellent article and bringing this issue to the attention of Greenwich residents and people beyond. Not only has the council agreed to lower the level of affordable housing provision across the peninsula, but they have also agreed to polarise its provision, whilst also agreeing to low or almost no family sized accommodation, in particular for the private units. The result is likely to be a divided peninsula, that is family “unfriendly” with the super rich living in the north, and affordable housing an high numbers of small sized units of private rented housing concentrated in the south.

    In addition to what has been agreed, many residents and local organisations and groups in Greenwich feel betrayed and misled by the council by the way they have gone about the decisions for these sites. The council agreed the three plots with high levels of affordable housing to go through to the planning board (and be consulted on), which many objected to. Then, just a week or so in advance of the board meeting they added the revised section 106 agreement (with no consultation) to the same agenda which effectively creates the policy for eleven plots across the peninsula – allowing no provision of affordable housing in the northern “peninsula quays” and high levels in the south,

    All us residents and other interested local groups are seeking is a genuine process on debate and engagement with the council on the future of their community. Instead we have, a radical departure from the orginal masterplan, pushed through rapidly (and over the Xmas period) without the chance for people to have their say. Thats why residents intend to seek a judicial review of this decision on the basis of it being unfair, and in comflict with the council and the Mayor’s own planning policies.

  16. Indeed Darryl. On top of being lied to when we bought the property, we also realised that when the plan to include affordable housing in residential building was approved, the other buildings in the GMV were already full. So, what do you think they did? They allocated to Metcalfe even their share! And when they knocked down the Kidbrooke estate, where do you think they ‘re-located’ the residents??? Sometime ago I found on the web the planning report PDU/0519d/01 entitled ‘Greenwich Millennium Village Phases 1C, 1D and Village Square dated of April 25th, 2006. It clearly states on page 4 that ‘The scheme has a total of 228 units in the three blocks. This contains 35% affordable units with a 70:30 tenure split between socially rented and intermediate [own comment: whatever that means]. All the units will be placed in the Metcalfe Court buildings. […]’. Need I say more?
    What’s really infuriating is that the flat we still own did not come cheap, and my husband and I used up all our savings to buy what we thought would have been our dream place. If we had known back then what GMV would have become, we’d have bought a mansion in Peckham for half the price. At least we would have known what kind of neighbourhood to expect…

  17. Darryl – nowhere in this do you say ‘tell your local councillors what you think about this’ – I would – as always -be very grateful to hear directly from people – on this in particular.
    However what has propelled me to add this piece in has been what Sam has said – Sam – please contact me about this. Or have you already spoken to the site managers – and if so, what did they say?? Over the past years we have been able to bring pressure to bear on the Housing Association concerned and have an ongoing dialogue with them – and of course also looking for ways to intervene with the bad behaviour from the tenants of lessees, Please come and talk to me about the problems with your flat – you should never. never, never let these things go by. (and that goes for everyone else who has a problem like this) – We need to know and we need to intervene and try to stop what is going on. That is what we are here for. – I know I don’t always succeed, but I will always try – so PLEASE don’t just put up with bad behaviour from other residents.
    and -ps – oh never mind – i shouldn’t go on about it

  18. What are the grants that the developer is grabbing? It’s certainly worrying to see how blatantly private companies seem to be controlling council policy in this case. I see that Greenwich currently has neither a valid UDP nor a local development framework in place, presumably perfect conditions for this kind of fudge to be deemed acceptable.

  19. Mary, we had long discussions about this, the GMV website has numerous complaints about the housing association and on a specific resident in particular. My husband and I lived there for 6 years and although we’re grateful for all the help and support you’ve provided, regrettably is not enough. So many times we had to call the police, so many times we spent sleepless nights because one of the neighbour partied with the windows open till 6am (good for them to be able to live on benefits, my husband and I get up every day at 5.30am to go to work, and the thought that our taxes help these people to get away with their lazy lives is unacceptable) or because the ‘usual suspect’ might or might have not started shouting and swearing in the middle of the night. I have been in this country for 20 years now, and every time I applied for a mortgage they had to go through my papers with a fine tooth comb; and yet, you have a number of people living at the GMV who make you wonder how in the world they managed to get through the scrutiny of the housing associations… Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against them, I’m actually happy that people with less means have the chance not to be relegated in a ghetto but unfortunately you always have the other side of the coin, i.e. people who should ONLY live in a ghetto. I have my serious reservations about the monitoring put in place by the housing associations, and to be totally frank, I also have serious reservations about the variation to the Section 106 agreement. If this does go through we all know what it’ll mean, the rich ones living peacefully and undisturbed in the north side of the peninsula and the rest of us in the south side surviving in what is already becoming a council estates area. This is not what I signed up for, this is not my understanding of a mixed community. No offence, but only if you have lived there you may understand what it really means TO LIVE THERE.
    You want to help Mary? Then convince Mr Johnson to refuse to sign the variation to the Section 106 agreement. A number of residents have asked him in writing not to but none of us has actually received a reply. Thank you.

  20. I’m sorry – but I will see that senior management at the housing association get to see everything you have said and I’m sorry I haven’t been able to do more. The complaints have fallen off a lot recently and I had hoped their on-the-ground management had improved.
    Also – please don’t stigmatise all council tenants – or the many, many respectable people who lived on the Ferrier Estate. I don’t expect tenants on council estates to put up with bad behaviour from neighbours anymore than I expect you to. .
    However, I don’t have any influence with Mayor Johnson whatsoever – and I have seriously considered moving to GMV when I get a bit more sorted out.
    I will see this all gets taken up though.

  21. I would agree with Mary that complaints in general have been a lot less and that incidents are nowhere near the level that they used to be years ago. That said, I do not live in Metcalfe Court and so this may be a specific issue with that block rather than Village-wide. Residents who have had concerns have often come to the Residents’ Association Meetings to share these with them consequently being followed up. At these meetings is usually someone from Moat and Cllr Mary, and so can take up the necessary actions once concerns have been brought to their attention. This effort to bring down the number of incidences however, is a key reason why the Quintain places feel like a kick-in-the-teeth as it would be back to square one potentially with all these having to be dealt with again while the northern part, chills, sits back and enjoy their private area in front of the Canary Wharf view.

    Thanks in advance for ensuring that all these issues mentioned in this post gets taken up, and I look forward to hearing about any progress around these as I’m sure others would too.

  22. thanks Simon – and I should have said in my last bit above (written with someone talking to me and very late at night) that people who behave badly towards their neighbours come from all sorts of tenures – and that a lot of hard work needs to go into management generally to get everyone working together and dealing with problems quickly.

  23. I second Marys comment re stigmatising ‘council’ tenants. I lived, with my mum, in a council house near Woolwich Common for the first 20 years of my life. My mum worked 3 jobs to pay the rent and each and every one of her children (thats four of us) went out to work at aged 16 years. Other than being in council housing and clearly on a subsidised rent we all contributed and paid our own way until we were able to improve our lot and move away to our own homes. Not lazy, feckless or welfare benefits scroungers.

  24. I don’t live in Greenwich and my concern about the proposed development along the river’s edge is not only that I am deeply irritated by the current fad for a bit of this (unaffordable) and a bit of that (affordable) multi-storey so-called housing (but really office blocks with balconies) plaguing South London at the moment but with the protraying of this kind of building as a local issue. This may be unthinking social engineering affecting Greenwich by the teaming up of non-dom financiers and their mates in building – but such large schemes have wider effects – the look, the displacement, the obscene rise in land values…..neighbouring boroughs will be directly and indirectly affected…

    And the rise in demonising of all those who live in social housing is deeply convenient for developers and conflicted councils in their pursuit of landbanking, or sniffing out sources of money from and for Londoners. For the record I would far rather subsidise my fellow Londoners who need my support (I don’t even mind the feckless in this instance – I have been “feckless” in my time too). I do mind the destruction of local communities, local character (natural and built) and public services.

  25. The new housing project along the Eastern side of Pear Tree Way backs onto the gravel and stone yards where they bring in materials from the sea and process it whenever it comes in, day and night, and send it off by train . It is a valuable activity for London but not good for anyone to live near because of the noise and flying grit. Who will ever choose to live there ; is this Ferrier mk II ? Peter Waugh

  26. Peter – there has been a LOT of work on sound insulation on Peartree Way – I am not sure what was finally agreed but if you would like me to find out please email me and i will see if I can get details.

  27. Agreed Peter, though they do seem to be selling at a reasonable pace and for higher prices than comparable existing units judging by the website. Those blocks will only have windows on one side and essentially act as a wall blocking off the aggregates site, but I can only assume that the buyers haven’t been down PTW during the week when it becomes a car park for the nearby waste management company’s trucks. Probably another case of the marketing teams being deeply economical with the truth.

  28. I’m surprised that the longer term residents of Millenium Vileage have not grown extra limbs and strange protuberances as they’re living on an earlier example of council and New Labour mismanagement.
    When the peninsular was cleared for Dome construction etc there were vast tonnages of highly polluted soil that had to be removed from the site. The contractors and sub-contractors were laughing all the way to the bank as monitoring was so abysmal that instead of taking trucks to landfill in Essex and returning with clean soil they were driving with their polluted loads to the nearest cafe for a couple of hours and then driving to the other end of the site with their “clean” loads.
    Grandiose bloated schemes lead to crimes of a similar scale from the top all the way down, but hey, memories are short and learning curves shallow.

  29. Either side of me live owner-occupiers. I am a social housing tenant and everyone has the right to enjoy the peace and quiet of his or her home when not at work, I would like the owner-occupiers child to stop shouting and the to of their voice. EG/Peninsula.

  30. As a resident in Metcalfe Court, I’d like to state that my experience is completely different to Sam’s (which sounds awful). From what I understand, of the 4 main ‘cores’ of the building, 2 are private and 2 are social housing (including a minority of shared ownership). I have a shared ownership flat and I am lucky to be surrounded by great neighbours on my floor, all of whom I stop and chat to. I make an effort to say hello to anyone I encounter in the lift and usually get a pleasant hello back. My main issue is with small children running around and making noise in the courtyard during the summer months, but that’s not a dealbreaker for me. I would be very upset if I felt I was living in a hellish council estate ghetto, but I certainly don’t. I find it a pleasant place to live – quiet, close to the river and the O2 and not far from historic Greenwich. I sometimes don’t know what people want from life.

  31. There are 165 flats in Metcalfe court. Core 3, with flats 70-125 are all Private.

  32. Elsewhere, Greenwich seems intent on removing social housing. Of course the Ferrier has now gone and Morris Walk, in Charlton, is next to be rebuilt. Apparently, areas of Woolwich are to follow but Greenwich doesn’t seem to have thought through just where to move existing tenants. The claim that Greenwich has a Labour council is risible!

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