Abbey Place
A view of the site from the developer’s original 2016 application

A councillor has criticised a developer for attempting to build home in Abbey Wood that residents “will only be able to look at”.

Abbey Wood councillor Ann Marie Cousins argued with the developer over the type of housing being put forward for a major development of 21 and 12-storey blocks at Felixstowe Road, close to the border with Bexley borough.

Developer Abbey Wood LLP asked Greenwich Council to allow it to change the level of “affordable” housing in its scheme for more than 240 homes.

The scheme was originally only for 10% “affordable” homes – at discount market rent, which is typically 20% off private rents and aimed at households earning under £60,000. The remainder would have been private.

But Tuesday’s meeting saw the developer propose that all the homes would be “affordable” – this time split between 51% London Living Rent – which council officers estimated would be 30% less than market rents – with the remainder as shared ownership. Housing association L&Q is to buy the site.

Cousins, who spoke to address her fellow councillors, said what was being offered was still not good enough for Abbey Wood.

‘We are not doing any social housing’

She said: “It bothers me that in an area where at the moment a lot of people are workless – in that area we are not doing any social housing.

“For intermediate housing you have to be offering well in excess of £40,000, that’s not happening in Abbey Wood.

We have residents who can see the development but only suffer the consequences and none of the benefits. They can only look at it, they do not benefit from it. Profits are being put above social housing provision.”

Greenwich aims for a mix of “affordable” housing in new developments, split between 70 per cent social/”affordable” rent and 30 per cent intermediate housing.

By offering 100 per cent “affordable” housing, the developer would not have to pay as much community infrastructure levy – cash given to councils and the London mayor if a big development is approved.

Planning permission was granted in 2017 for the development, meaning councillors were only deciding last night on the technical housing change.

Felixstowe Road
The view from Felixstowe Road, taken from the 2016 application

Speaking on behalf of the developer, Steve Sanam said it was a positive change for Abbey Wood, claiming residents would be able to afford the houses.

“Since this was granted we have been revising the scheme, working closely with the GLA and L&Q,” Mr Sanam said.

“Given the location, and successful regeneration, we believe this would be very positive. The maximum income for London Living Rent can be up to £60,000, and given the sheer number of units we have in the scheme I believe residents would be able to afford them.”

Including socially-rented housing would push the scheme, which was already technically “unviable”, into further deficit, councillors were told.

Conservative councillor Nigel Fletcher said it was only a good thing that “affordable” housing was being increased.

“I can’t believe the hostility of some of my colleagues here,” Fletcher said, “Think of the number of times we have had schemes approved with a certain number of ‘affordable’ housing and they come back asking to reduce that.

“Here we have a developer with permission that was granted with less than 10 per cent ‘affordable’ coming back saying it’s 100 per cent ‘affordable’.

“Why can’t we say to them ‘thank you, you’re doing something that makes the scheme unviable to provide ‘affordable’ housing?’ Is that not something that surely we want more of?”

The change was approved by the planning board, with an abstention from councillor Clive Mardner, one of Cousins’ fellow Abbey Wood councillors.

853 note: “Affordable” housing is always presented in inverted commas in stories on this website because it has so many different meanings.

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Tom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Scheme is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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