Plans for a new 28-storey tower on the banks of Deptford Creek have been approved due to their “architecturally superior” design, amid concerns over its height and lack of “affordable” housing.
The Edition Group’s full planning application for Ravensbourne Wharf, which includes 129 residential units as well as office and cafe space, was approved by five votes to three by Greenwich Council’s planning board on Tuesday.
Of the 129 flats, just 26 will be available for London Living Rent – aimed at households with a maximum household income of £60,000. The 20 per cent of units classed as “affordable” falls well short of council’s policy of 35 per cent, something raised repeatedly by both public speakers and councillors.
Addressing councillors, a spokesperson for a group called the Greenwich Planning Alliance voiced concerns over the mix of affordable housing in the project, with just four of the “affordable” units having three-bedrooms. 12 are one-bedroom, while 10 are two-bedroom.
“On priority waiting lists, homes suitable for families with children are top of the lists … it isn’t good enough,” the speaker added.
In explaining the levels of “affordable” housing in the project, a representative for the applicants said initial plans had seen the total number of units increased for the project to be financially viable, leading to the ratio of flats for London Living Rent decreasing.
The spokesperson also emphasised it was a “build to rent product”, saying: “You could argue that every single unit here is affordable.”
Build-to-rent projects mean all units will be owned and managed by one landlord, and have been introduced in an attempt to stop rogue landlords gouging tenants.
In recommending the proposal for approval, council officers said it “would contribute positively to the character of the surrounding area”. Councillors were also told how the second floor would include a gym, fitness studio, and library, available to residents through a “buy-in” plan, while a play space, residents’ lounge and roof garden would be open to all without charge.
However, public speakers also expressed concerns about how local medical services would deal with an influx of young professional couples. “One thing they all do when they come in, is they all get pregnant,” one speaker said, highlighting swelling maternity services at Lewisham Hospital.
However, she was quickly pulled up by planning chair Sarah Merrill, who said although she was “telling the converted” about medical services being under pressure, it wasn’t a “material planning consideration”.
Ultimately it was the building’s appearance – which council papers say consists of a “contemporary design” including balustrades, and a mixture of concrete, planters and mesh on the outside – which ultimately won favour with councillors.
Merrill, the Labour councillor for Shooters Hill, said she was voting in favour on “architectural merits alone”.
“I have maintained an open mind and I know in terms of what it delivers, in terms of housing, I think there are issues … but what the scheme does do, I think is architecturally superior to anything that has come before this planning board before,” she said.
“I’m voting in favour of building on architectural merits – I do completely understand comments about supply of housing, but we are where we are.”
Among those against it were Linda Bird (Labour, Eltham North) who said “28 storeys is too high for me”. She added: “It’s too dense, I can’t approve a building so tall in such a small place. I don’t think at this point I can support it.”
Abbey Wood Labour councillor Clive Mardner praised the design, but said it needed greater levels of “affordable” housing. “The design is a good design, and I applaud the people who put it together … but the issues about parking, accessibility, density … this development in terms of offering ‘affordability’ is not something which will benefit [the whole Greenwich community],” he said.
The majority of councillors however agreed with the project, meaning the development will go ahead as proposed.
Lachlan Leeming is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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