Ikea exhibition

Greenwich Council’s planning board will decide whether Ikea can build its east Greenwich store next Monday, only four months after details of the scheme were first made public.

Planners are recommending the board, which includes council leader Chris Roberts and regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland, approve the scheme, subject to conditions, calling the site “a sustainable out-of-town-centre location”.

The council’s decision to rush the application through comes as the 20th Century Society asks English Heritage to list the 1999 Sainsbury’s store which currently sits on the site. A petition against the demolition of the supermarket, lauded at the time for its eco-friendly credentials, has reached 915 signatures.

If you’ve a strong view on the scheme, the planning board meeting starts at 6.30pm on Monday 3 March at Woolwich Town Hall. If you want to speak at the meeting, get in touch with the council.

Two things are striking about the council’s decision to decide the application early – its speed, and the lack of consideration given to potential traffic issues. The council has already decided an environmental assessment isn’t needed, despite high existing levels of air pollution in the area. Ikea has claimed its development will improve air quality.

Notably, the planning report talks up Ikea’s home delivery service – but without citing its cost, and it does not make offering free or even discounted deliveries to local homes a condition.

As discussed here last year, a plan to build an Ikea on a more suitable site which really is out of town – next to the A20 at Sidcup – was abandoned after a City Hall report criticised its potential to clog up the local road network. That report was written under Labour mayor Ken Livingstone – his Tory successor, Boris Johnson, will have the final say in this scheme.

Even in this scheme, Transport for London calls Ikea’s claims for the number of people who will use public transport to get to the store “ambitious”.

Greenwich Council conditions include financial contributions to try to improve traffic flows in the area, but little more concrete than changing signs so drivers leave the site at the exit closest to Greenwich Millennium Village and cash for public transport improvements.

Ikea planning paper

But why so quick? Well, Sainsbury’s does want to vacate the site next year. The sister application, to rebuild the Sainsbury’s store in Charlton, took 16 months to progress from public announcement to planning decision, with a planning application going in after six months. That level of consideration is simply not taking place here.

While planning decisions are officially taken on a non-political basis, that’s frankly not going to happen when a nine-strong planning board includes the council leader, the regeneration cabinet member and chief whip Ray Walker. Fellow cabinet members Sajid Jawaid and Steve Offord are also on a board whose decisions often split on party lines.

The other planning board members are Tories Geoff Brighty and Dermot Poston, and Labour backbenchers David Grant and Clive Mardner. The latter two’s votes are likely to be critical.

It’s likely that outgoing leader Chris Roberts will see the 400 jobs on offer as a legacy, while a conscious decision to back a scheme which will increase traffic – particularly from north of the river – would, in some minds, make the controversial Silvertown Tunnel an easier sell, although the crossing is not mentioned in the planning document. That said, any scheme which increased traffic on the A102/A2 could kibosh council dreams of the DLR on stilts to Eltham, which would take away some road space.

The decision to rush the scheme has meant councillors have had very little opportunity to comment on the scheme – and denies new councillors, who will be elected in May, the chance to shape what happens.

But with the application in to list the existing Sainsbury’s store, and significant bewilderment locally at just how Ikea’s plans for the site will work in practice, the decision to rush the scheme through could yet backfire on the council.

The planning board meeting is at 6.30pm on Monday 3 March at Woolwich Town Hall. The application can be viewed at Greenwich Council’s planning site by entering reference number 13/3285/O.

7 replies on “A week to go: Greenwich Council rushing through Ikea scheme”

  1. No planning decision of such impact should be allowed to race through the system. This disadvantages any community groups to adequately mobilise against it.

    The application itself appears thorough, and world require at least the remaining time to through examine.

    I will particularly find time you read the retail assessment and the traffic report.

    I have seen planning applications from both sides and the machinations from developers, councils and opposition groups have little difference.

    Such haste usually does rebound. The planning process is rarely pure and never simple. The glib 8-12 weeks had been known to stretch into months, if not years. Sometimes with no result for anyone.

  2. what about the current European Commission’s launching legal proceedings against UK failing to reduce excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution from traffic, despite 15 years of warnings and several extensions and postponements granted to the government. The UK faces fines of up to £300m a year and embarrassing court appearances.
    See The Guardian 20 February 2014: “Air pollution: European commission launches legal action against the UK”
    I understand that neither IKEA or Greenwich Council acknowledge the IKEA store on the Sainsbury site will incur increases in traffic and the subsequent nitrogen dioxide increases, but surely the fact that UK levels are already deemed too high by EU standards and that the UK has not complied with european rules on the levels, does in itself indicate that the UK – and Greenwich Council in example – are pushing ahead with projects that might well increase traffic levels without carrying out studies to ascertain whether traffic levels will increase.
    Sainsbury state their reasons for moving to a bigger site are because they cannot stock as much as they’d like at the current site, which implies that a bigger customer base is expected at the bigger site, i.e. more traffic/nitrogen dioxide. Surely there must be data about the levels and amounts of traffic / nitrogen dioxide Sainsburys of the size at Greenwich does generate? And can this be compared with the amount of traffic an existing IKEA site of comparable size to the one intended at Greenwich will generate? (I understand both the Sainsbury site and the Comet site will be used for the IKEA site store at Greenwich).
    A study of comparison should at least be put into action (I have no idea what body carries out these studies). It cannot be suffice that IKEA merely states their store “will improve air quality” ! This statement must be clarified further at least.
    Have we no powers whatsoever to appeal at this stage for full traffic/nitrogen dioxide levels study to be carried out? With Sainsbury moving to a new site NEARBY and increasing it’s size considerably, and IKEA moving into the existing Sainsbury + Comet site, anyone can perceive an increase in traffic is guaranteed! How many people take home DIY furniture on the bus? And have you seen the buses serving the peninsular – not exactly empty!
    About 21 years ago air quality was measured along the Trafalgar Road and found to to have severely high levels of nitrogen dioxide, also the area had the highest incidents of childhood asthma in the UK (the study was carried out despite Greenwich Council not complying). The existing power station at Greenwich intended to generate more power so as to sell off excess on the National Grid, but the parents and governing body of the Meridian School, which is situated in the shadow of Greenwich Power station, decided to oppose the plans and were able to prove that the air quality along the lower part of Greenwich was some of the worse quality in the UK. It was found that under certain prevailing weather conditions the air lying along the Thames corridor at Greenwich (the low-lying land), did not manage to dissipate/ climb the hill, and a lethal cocktail of dangerous toxins prevailed. Despite two decades passing the same problem of trapped toxic air prevails due to the sheer volumes of traffic that generate the nitrogen dioxide levels.
    Greenwich Council know full well what an air-quality study will find. They want big business in the borough and the more and bigger the better for them – because of the business rates generated? Quality of life for those of us living here has never been part of their agenda.

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