Greenwich Magistrates Court development
The original court building (right) opened in 1907

Council planning officers are backing a plan to turn the old Greenwich Magistrates Court and adjacent former school offices into part of a 293-room hotel.

The listed courthouse, on Blackheath Road, was closed in 2016 and sold for £12 million. Cases from the area are now heard in Bexleyheath or Bromley.

Now developers plan to turn the site into a hotel, with a bar, restaurant, café and spa. The former London School Board building on the corner of Greenwich High Road is earmarked for “flexible commercial use”.

Councillors on Greenwich’s planning board – its main planning committee – will decide on the application next Tuesday, with officers recommending approval.

The scheme replaces an earlier proposal which would have seen the corner building demolished and replaced with a tower. Now the facades of the old school buildings will be kept with new blocks of up to seven storeys built behind them.

It is the latest in a number of hotel schemes for the area between Deptford Bridge and Greenwich town centre: the new hotel would be between a Hilton DoubleTree in Catherine Grove and a Travelodge on Blackheath Road, while Staycity has self-catering apartments a few hundred metres away into Deptford.

The developer plans to allow community groups to use its conference facilities free of charge.

Greenwich Magistrates Court development
The view from the already heavily-developed Greenwich High Road

Objections have come from the Victorian Society, which is unhappy with the design and heights of the new buildings, and the Ashburnham Triangle Residents’ Association, which says there is “a saturation of hotels in the area”, it will add to traffic and pollution, and is “doubtful that there is any benefit from 295 hotel rooms to any of our local businesses and residents”.

Council officers point to other tall buildings in the area – including the 27-storey Distillery Tower next to Deptford Bridge station – and say the scheme will “enhance the character and appearance of the immediate street scene, the conservation area, and improve the setting and character of the listed [court] building”. Oddly, they refer to the Kidbrooke masterplan in their justification, rather than any plan for west Greenwich or Deptford.

Neighbours will see little direct benefit from the scheme – and it is proposed that the developer will pay for crossings on Blackheath Road and Greenwich South Street are upgraded, more parking enforcement, and £149,970 will go to the council’s GLLaB employment agency.

Greenwich Magistrates Court development

Abbey Wood flats backing

Council officers are also recommending approval of a scheme to demolish the closed Abbey Wood post office and replace it with 30 flats, with five at London Affordable Rent (slightly more than social rent) and one for shared ownership – less than the 35% “affordable” housing council planning policy demands.

The officers say that this takes into account a viability assessment, which will be reviewed, and a need to provide more homes at the affordable rent rate. A previous scheme was rejected for having no “affordable” homes at all.

Councillors will also decide on this scheme on Tuesday.

Another major scheme in this part of Abbey Wood, a development of 66 flats on the site of the old Harrow Inn – bulldozed by developers ten years ago – is awaiting a decision from Bexley Council.

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