DLR train
A DLR extension to Thamesmead has been mooted for decades (Photo John Ray via Creative Commons)

Extending the DLR to Thamesmead will be crucial for determining how many new homes can be built there – and whether Greenwich borough can meet its targets for new housing, a report to senior councillors says.

Transport for London has warned that the scheme is in jeopardy because of the financial crisis that has engulfed the mayor’s transport agency because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Greenwich has wanted an extension to the new town for more than three decades, and proposals for a link from the railway’s Beckton branch were outlined by mayor Sadiq Khan in 2016 as part of plans to make his controversial Silvertown road tunnel “greener”.

But no funding has been allocated to the project, and the collapse in fare revenue since March has seen TfL dependent on the Westminster government for money.

A housing delivery action plan to go before the council’s main decision-making body, the cabinet, on Wednesday says that the Thamesmead waterfront – on vacant land west of the town centre – “will become the most significant site in the borough in terms of overall delivery numbers”.

Housing association Peabody and developer Lendlease want to build 11,500 homes there – but their plans envisage a Docklands Light Railway station at its heart.

“Capacity at this site is dependent on the extension of the DLR to Thamesmead, and [the council] is already working with the Greater London Authority, TfL, Peabody and Lendlease to take forward the next stage of the business case for the DLR extension,” the report says.

The situation in Thamesmead mirrors what happened across the river at Barking Riverside, where approval of thousands of new homes was held back until a new transport link – in this case a London Overground extension – was approved. Originally the area was meant to be served by the DLR until that was scrapped by Boris Johnson in 2008 – Thamesmead-watchers will be hoping history does not repeat itself under Khan.

The action plan has been drawn up because Greenwich has failed to meet stiff City Hall targets for new housing – while it approved 22,000 new homes between 2015 and 2019, only 8,095 were completed; 2,645 less than the target set by Boris Johnson’s administration, which the council is blaming on big developers slowing down their schemes to cash in on market trends.

The targets set by Sadiq Khan under his new London plan are even stiffer – over 28,000 new homes over the next nine years, the third highest figure in London.

“Funding for the DLR is the biggest challenge to maintaining delivery levels over the long term in Greenwich,” the plan warns. “This is compounded by the Thamesmead area having the lowest residential values in the borough by some margin, and by far the highest levels of contamination likely at the waterfront site.”

Similar infrastructure issues are an issue on the Charlton Riverside, where a number of housing projects are awaiting planning approval. The council says it is working with City Hall and TfL to “bring forward public transport improvements in the early phases of delivery at Charlton Riverside” – although this is more likely to be a bus extension from Woolwich.

Delays to Crossrail have also hampered the Royal Arsenal development in Woolwich, the document says, adding that a new masterplan for Woolwich due for consultation soon will show “how the town centre can accommodate significant additional residential development”.

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