Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts is stepping into stop empty office space on the Greenwich Peninsula being converted into housing – although it’s unclear whether there are any actual threats to the office space.
The four-year-old 6 Mitre Passage development remains largely unoccupied, with its biggest tenant being Greenwich Council itself. Greenwich has two floors, one devoted to its Digital Enterprise Greenwich centre – which also houses the Sail Royal Greenwich company – and another suite of offices which the leader is believed to use for private meetings.
But most of the rest of the privately-owned building is empty, and plans to let out the bottom floor of for retail have failed. It is now to become a gym.
Now Roberts is planning to issue a direction removing the owners’ rights to convert the office space from business to residential use, for 6 Mitre Passage and another block, 2-4 Pier Walk.
It’s not clear whether there’s an actual plan to convert the two blocks to residential accommodation, but as the property market heats up it’d certainly be a temptation for owners – especially with the blocks’ close proximity to North Greenwich station.
A council report says:
“The revenue generated through business rates would be lost if the offices were to be converted to residential use.
“Both the comprehensive masterplan for the Greenwich Peninsula and RBG’s emerging Local Plan identify the potential for North Greenwich district centre to increasingly become a hub for business uses, forming a new commercial heart for the local area and wider region.
“The North Greenwich district centre has the potential to be the driver of future economic growth in the borough. Its role is highlighted in the Growth Strategy for the Royal Borough of Greenwich, which sets out a vision to drive sustainable and balanced growth: a new business district which at its heart aims to stimulate innovation and business growth, with a particular focus on the digital sector.”
Why the offices aren’t occupied isn’t explored in the report, but despite the closeness to the Tube station, connections with the rest of the local area south of the river are poor.
In particular, evening bus services out of North Greenwich are still regularly held up by traffic trying to get into the O2 arena’s car parks – with buses queueing back into the bus station, as seen last Thursday night ahead of comedian Micky Flanagan’s show.
And as for getting across the river, despite Transport for London’s Silvertown Tunnel consultation conceding that there is “a strong appetite for crossing improvements for cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users”, there are no plans to address this.
TfL is also resisting demands to put the Emirates Air Line cable car into the travelcard scheme, despite disappointing user numbers.
Cable car staff are now having to stand at North Greenwich station on event nights to try to drum up interest in trips across the Thames.
While Chris Roberts’ idea may be laudable in the long-term, in the short term, he’ll need Transport for London to urgently reassess its priorities at North Greenwich if the area’s ever to become a success.
In their own words
6. Legal Implications and Comments of the Head of Law and Governance
6.1 Government Planning Guidance (Replacement Appendix D to Department of
the Environment Circular 9/95) advises that local planning authorities should
consider making Article 4 Directions only in exceptional circumstances.
What is so exceptional about these circumstances?
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