Plans for a distinctive five-storey block of flats in the heart of east Greenwich were deferred yet again last night after it was revealed that the charity behind the scheme had bypassed planning officers and sent their latest plans directly to councillors.

Greenwich Council’s officers recommended the plans for a five-storey block on Woolwich Road with nine flats and a retail unit should be refused when they first came to a planning committee in January. 

Councillors deferred the plans so they could visit the site, which currently contains a barber’s shop and tool hire business, and then the plans were deferred again so revisions could be made.

The Estate Charity of William Hatcliffe, which owns several properties in the area, is behind the proposal, describing the block as a “small scale, free standing ‘urban palazzo‘”.

Hatcliffe charity block
Planning officers weren’t happy with the revised plans either. Credit: William Ratcliffe Estate Charity/Project Orange

The latest plans did not impress Greenwich’s officers, who said the building, opposite the Greenwich Square development, was still top-heavy, too bulky and did not contain enough homes. 

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

While Luke Sapiano, a senior planning officer, said the new proposals were an improvement, he said that both national and London planning rules called for the “efficient use” of land. 

He criticised the size of two large flats upstairs – even using exclamation marks on his Powerpoint presentation, saying they did not “even consider severely oversized balconies at this level!!”.

Screengrab of powerpoint screen with two exclamation marks
Planning officers made clear how much they disliked the scheme. Credit: Greenwich Council/The Greenwich Wire

But when Andrew Blundy, the chair of the charity, said he had sent members of the planning committee new drawings that dealt with some of the issues raised by Sapiano and a leaflet about the charity’s 400th anniversary. 

“I don’t think that creates any particular difficulty,” he said.

“Can I ask why they were not provided to the case officer?” responded Gary Dillon, the chair of planning. 

“So, how would you expect myself as the officer to take those into account?” Sapiano asked. 

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

“You are sending us drawings, which should have formed part of the official bundle for officers to make their assessments,” Dillon added, proposing that the application be deferred again.

“We don’t wish to trespass unnecessarily on you and your colleagues’ time,” Blundy said. “If the officer’s comments on the drawings are necessary and I can see that is quite a persuasive point, then I suppose we would reluctantly agree to a further postponement of this application.”

Councillors voted by 3-1 to defer the proposal, with Dillon warning Blundy that it was “not correct” to write directly to councillors on the committee without copying in the planning department.

• Plans to revamp a nearby Irish pub, Hardy’s Freehouse, were also deferred last night so councillors could visit the site. A developer wants to build an extra floor on the pub, on Trafalgar Road, to accommodate 10 “apart-hotel” rooms for short-term stays.