There’s something stirring down near Greenwich Yacht Club – the sound of home-building. After the project stalled for a few years, the next stages of Greenwich Millennium Village are under construction at the far eastern end of the peninsula, just before you get into Charlton. Eventually, there’ll be housing on both sides of Peartree Way, all the way up to the ecology park (of which more in another post) and the rest of GMV.
Some serious work’s already been carried out – Peartree Way has been closed, the yacht club’s car park moved and a new access road’s been slapped down around the building site. And the Thames Path signs have been moved, and placed in the wrong direction so tourists can go their own little urban safari. (I did my bit and told the council a few weeks ago, but they still point in the wrong direction.)
But this isn’t the most obvious of sites for new homes. Because right next to them are Angerstein and Peartree Wharves, where heavy industry still takes place. Aggregates dredged at sea get loaded into wagons, which are dispatched by train up the Angerstein Wharf branch line, which once served the old gas works which dominated the peninsula. If you’ve ever been sprayed by sand while walking along the Thames Path, that’s where it’s from. These industrial uses are protected by law.
The new blocks will back onto the wharves, screened to protect them from noise. But a residential block and major industrial plant are going to make awkward neighbours, whatever measures you take.
Between the new block and the wharves is what’s left of Horn Lane, the old road down to the Thames. This is where things start to get even more unusual for the new blocks. New neighbours will include traveller families, who have camped out here for many years. They’ll also include Murphy’s Waste, a “fully licensed waste transfer station”, which has also been here for decades.
Once again, this is dirty but important work – each morning, great queues of lorries come to dispatch skips full of waste to be sorted and recycled or otherwise dealt with. It’s occasionally smelly work, too – I pass this daily and have sometimes found myself gagging on the whiffs coming from what’s being delivered. It’s a far cry from the peaceful residential oasis depicted in the developers’ artwork.
This all got planning permission from Greenwich Council in February 2012. Of all the most duff developments in the Greenwich area over the past few years, this phase of GMV is looking like a runaway winner. I can only imagine that this is mostly going to be aimed at faraway buy-to-letters, purchasing off-plan, who’ll never visit the site and won’t be too bothered as long as the rent keeps coming in. Anyone who does come to visit probably won’t be asked to come at 11am on a weekday, when the Murphy’s lorries queue up.
Some may see it as inevitable that heavy industry will be forced out of London’s riverside – but these firms create jobs, which are in desperately short supply in all the plans for the riverside in Greenwich and Charlton – and are an important part of the fabric of this part of the capital. It’s going to be an interesting few years up Peartree Way. Let the buyer beware…