Woolwich tower plan
Meyer’s tower would be entirely for private sale

Two public inquiries started this morning which could have a big impact on the future of some of Greenwich borough’s biggest development schemes.

A seven-day hearing into Greenwich Council’s refusal of plans to build a 27-storey tower in front of Tesco in Woolwich began earlier at Woolwich Town Hall; while a 12-day hearing into London mayor Sadiq Khan’s refusal of plans for 771 homes off Anchor & Hope Lane on the Charlton riverside is now under way at The Valley.

Both inquiries will put Greenwich Council’s planning policies to the test, and are the highest-profile appeals since the council lost an appeal in 2010 into plans to build a boutique hotel in Greenwich Market, a scheme that was later abandoned.

At first sight, the council could be on weaker ground on the Woolwich appeal – with decisions made under the reign of controversial leader Chris Roberts, who ran the council for 14 years until 2014, possibly coming back to haunt his successors.

Woolwich tower plans
Meyer Homes’ plans were rejected by Greenwich Council

There, Meyer Homes wants to build a 27-storey tower of entirely private homes – along with three other blocks of between nine and 16 storeys behind the store, providing 804 flats in total. When refusing the scheme, planning chair Sarah Merill said the development would cause “substantial harm to Woolwich town centre and Woolwich as a whole”. The council’s own planning officers also said that the proposal was “unacceptably dominating and overbearing to General Gordon Square and the surrounding townscape”.

However, back in 2007, when Greenwich Council gave permission for the Tesco store, the outline plans included a 27-storey tower.

Last year, planning officers insisted that permission had lapsed. Meyer insisted that it hadn’t lapsed, because it applied to extend that planning permission in 2015 – and no decision had been made when councillors rejected the detailed scheme in November 2018. The application to extend the original 2007 planning permission was “disposed of” in February, without the council making a decision or Meyer making an appeal.

Community group Speak Out Woolwich, which has gathered a 1,700-strong petition against the scheme, is representing local residents at Woolwich Town Hall. Its submission, which was due to be presented this morning, says: “Woolwich already has a historical town centre centred on General Gordon Square and Beresford Square and leading along Powis Street. There is no need for a tall building to ‘anchor’ it. Rather, Woolwich needs proposals that respect its heritage assets and important open space whilst retaining a human scale.”

For its part, Meyer says the scheme is “a high quality residential-led mixed use development that would assist [Greenwich Council] in meeting its aspirations for redevelopment of the Appeal Site for a mix of residential, retail and/or business/employment uses”.

Rockwell Charlton Riverside
Neighbours of the Rockwell scheme fear the development will tower over their homes

Meanwhile, Greenwich Council’s masterplan for thousands of new homes on the Charlton Riverside is under scrutiny at The Valley, where developer Rockwell is appealling against Sadiq Khan’s rejection of a housing scheme its neighbours say will loom over two cul-de-sacs close to the Thames, Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens.

The scheme was first rejected by Greenwich councillors in July because it did not conform with the masterplan, but was then “called in” by Khan, who then rejected it himself in January. At the time, Khan said: “I am clear that we must deliver good growth, not growth at any cost, where people have more of a say and don’t feel excluded from the process. I have listened carefully to the concerns of residents and considered the substantial amount of work done on the Charlton Riverside Masterplan. I consider that this is the wrong development for the site.”

However, Greenwich’s planning officers had originally recommended the scheme be approved. It was the first plan to come forward for the Charlton riverside, and residents fear that if Rockwell’s appeal succeeds, it will swing the balance in favour of developers on the major development site, repeating mistakes made elsewhere.

In a statement submitted ahead of the inquiry, David Gayther of the community group Charlton Together, said the scheme was too dense. “At the Rockwell level of density, the site would take over 19,000 homes, rather than the 8,000 maximum proposed in the current London Plan, and 5,000 in the local [masterplan]”.

The final decisions on both schemes will be taken by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and are not expected until well into the new year.

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