Plans for 619 new homes north of Kidbrooke station are to go ahead after London’s deputy mayor for planning, reversed Greenwich councillors’ rejection of the scheme.
The Kidbrooke Station Square scheme, which is being promoted by Transport for London and the housing association Notting Hill Genesis, was thrown out by Greenwich Council’s main planning committee in July, against the advice of the council’s own planning officers. London mayor Sadiq Khan then called in the scheme to decide himself.
Councillors said the scheme, which includes a 20-storey tower, was too dense and lacked sufficient transport connections. While close to it, the project is separate from the Kidbrooke Village development, which is being built by Berkeley Homes on land south of the station.
Half of the homes will be “affordable”. In reality, this means a quarter will be for social rent and a quarter will be for shared ownership.
The Eltham MP Clive Efford, who has long backed a DLR link to the area, told the original hearing: “It would be irresponsible to encourage further development without insisting on improvements on local infrastructure, especially public transport.”
But at a new hearing at City Hall last Thursday, Jules Pipe, deputising for London mayor Sadiq Khan, firmly backed the scheme, which is part of a London-wide programme of homebuilding on land TfL owns.
‘Exactly the kind of site need’
Pipe, a former leader of Hackney Council, said the site was “an underused piece of brownfield land in close proximity to a rail station”.
“It is exactly the kind of site we need to intensify to deliver the homes that Londoners need,” he added.
“The council’s own planning policy encourages high-density, residential-led mixed-use development. And this represents not only a significant contribution to not only the borough’s supply of housing, but also a significant contribution to affordable housing.”
Pipe said that he agreed that transport issues needed to be addressed. However, he added: “This should be through metroisation to improve rail transport through this part of London” – City Hall jargon for increasing the frequency of train services. Transport for London has long promoted “metroisiation” as a benefit of it taking over SE London’s mainline services, something the Conservative government has so far refused to allow.
He added: “Based on the evidence before me, I consider that this development would not have a significant impact on the public transport network.”
Referring to complaints that the “affordable” housing was anything but affordable – the July planning hearing had heard that buyers of the shared ownership homes would need incomes of £49,000 – Pipe said: “The affordability of the intermediate [shared ownership] housing is in line with Greenwich’s local requirements.”
Pipe said he agreed that there would be “less than substantial harm” to views from Blackheath – but said the “affordable” housing units and potential for regeneration outweighed this harm.
(Video from the hearing can be seen here. Pipe’s verdict comes at 3 hours, 5 minutes into the video.)
The decision from City Hall is the first major knockback for the council’s new-look planning board. After years of being packed with cabinet members and even the council leader, bring the council into open conflict with residents, Danny Thorpe banned cabinet members from the committee when he took over the council in May 2018.
New planning chair Sarah Merrill has taken a noticeably tougher line on developers than her predecessors. But her committee’s deliberations have exposed gaps in their knowledge of planning policy – much of which was set under the leaderships of Chris Roberts and Denise Hyland – with one developer representative observing that councillors seemed to be “making up policy as they went along”.
There was a sense of vindication at Woolwich Town Hall when Sadiq Khan called in a proposal to build 771 homes on the Charlton Riverside which councillors had thrown out, only to throw it out himself. After the developer appealed to planning inspectors, a 12-day public inquiry into Khan’s rejection begins on 19 November at The Valley.
Another high-profile rejection was of a 27-storey tower block in front of the Tesco store in Woolwich. Khan raised no objection to this, but developers have also appealed. This public inquiry also begins on 19 November, this time at Woolwich Town Hall. Residents’ group Speak Out Woolwich is holding a public meeting from 7pm on 7 November at St Peter’s Church Hall, Woolwich New Road, to discuss the issue.
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