Greenwich Council’s pledge to build 750 council homes by the end of last year will now cost more than £110 million over its original budget, councillors have been told.
The first phase of the Greenwich Builds programme was approved in 2019, at a cost of £240 million, most of it to be met by borrowing. In 2021 rising costs forced an increase to £314 million, but now further increases have pushed the bill to £352.3 million – or £461,100 per home.
Most of the costs are being met by borrowing against the council’s housing stock – local authorities can take out loans at cheaper rates – but City Hall has also agreed to chip in an extra £8.6 million. The mayor’s office is paying £42.1 million into the whole project.
Total borrowing will now be £207 million – £55 million more than originally planned. Another £80 million will come from right-to-buy receipts, nearly twice as much as originally expected.
“It is increasingly difficult to predict costs due to the ongoing Brexit implications alongside the pandemic and the consequent impact on the supply chain lag,” a report to the council’s cabinet reads.
The increases are also blamed on “market volatility, staff resource shortage across many of the disciplines involved in delivering new homes [and] planning issues, eg. site-specific policies such as conservation or urban design/material requirements”.
Greenwich Builds was lauded as “the biggest council house building programme in a generation” when it was launched by Danny Thorpe, then the council leader, in 2019.
He had pledged to have work started on 750 homes by 2022, but the council fell slightly short of the target.
A report to councillors reveals that 738 have been given planning permission. Only 42 homes have been completed, with work under way on 344 homes. Contracts have yet to be let for 352 homes.
Of the final homes in the programme, two at Congleton Grove in Plumstead are awaiting planning approval while details of another 24 on the nearby Barnfield Estate have yet to be submitted.
This will lead to a total of 764 homes. Most of the new homes will be in a single development, on Kidbrooke Park Road, and this has recently been amended to include 13 more flats.
Most of the other homes are on “surplus” plots of land on council estates such as old garages – a process called “estate infill” – but in some locations there were objections to building on green spaces, including the Brook Estate in Kidbrooke and Gilbourne Road in Plumstead.
Thorpe pledged to build a further 1,000 council homes in the Labour manifesto for last year’s election, a policy which is continuing under his successor Anthony Okereke. These are not covered by the first phase’s budget.
More than a quarter of the second-phase homes will be on the Woolwich-Charlton borders with plans for new homes on the former Morris Walk, Maryon Road and Maryon Grove estates – all originally built as council housing in the 1960s but condemned to the bulldozer as part of a major regeneration scheme. Work began on the Morris Walk homes late last year.
A raft of other plans have been developed, with some neighbours also unhappy about schemes affecting the Woodville Estate and Richmount Gardens, both in Blackheath.
The council’s cabinet is set to approve the new phase-one budget next Wednesday.
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