Proposed Hatcliffe charity block
Greenwich planners say the proposed block is too bulky Credit: William Hatcliffe Estate Charity/Project Orange

Update: The decision was deferred on January 31 so councillors could visit the site, and was deferred again on February 28 so alterations could be made to the plans.

Plans to knock down two shops in east Greenwich and replace them with a distinctive five-storey block could be thrown out week after council planners recommended they be rejected.

The block on Woolwich Road currently houses a barber’s shop and a tool hire business. But the landowner wants to replace them with a ground-floor retail unit with arched windows and nine flats, with balconies and pre-planted window boxes jutting out. It describes the block as a “small scale, free standing ‘urban palazzo‘”.

Greenwich planners say the proposed building, from the Estate Charity of William Hatcliffe, is too big and too bulky. They also criticise the large size of the two upper flats, which are spread over two floors – saying that more housing could be provided.

Developments of ten or more units are supposed to include “affordable” housing – such as shared ownership or discounted rent – or the money to provide this elsewhere. With nine flats, the Hatcliffe proposal falls just short of this national rule.

The two flats have been submitted as four-bedroom flats, though planning officers say a study room in one of the flats should be counted as another bedroom. They also say the height of the individual flats, which are opposite the Greenwich Square development, means it is the equivalent of a six-storey block.

There were 19 objections to the scheme, including one from the East Greenwich Residents’ Association, which said losing the two shops would be a blow to the area and “entirely out of keeping with the area. It has no reference to any surrounding buildings and looks incongruous in the context of the busy Woolwich Road streetscape.”

Hatcliffe block on Google Streetview
The Woolwich Road block as it is now Credit: Google Streetview

One of the local councillors, Maisie Richards Cottell, also referred it for consideration by a planning committee.

Planning officers said in their report: “The proposed building covers all the available space on the site and due its excessive height, scale and bulk when compared to the existing building on the site and that on the opposite side of Commerell Place and Armitage Road, results in unappealing narrow sidewalks at the junction of these streets with Woolwich Road.

“While the design principles underpinning the proposal are broadly understood, the submitted scheme reads as too bulky and monolithic within its immediate surrounding context.”

The Estate Charity of William Hatcliffe was founded by the keeper of King James I’s horses in 1622 and owns 130 homes in east Greenwich. It uses the income from these to fund almshouses and grants for local people in need.

While councillors usually heed officers’ advice to refuse developments, there have been exceptions: earlier this month plans for a nursery in the Royal Arsenal were approved despite officers recommending refusal because it would be based in an industrial unit.

The final decision is due to be made by the Greenwich area planning committee next Tuesday evening.