Greenwich Council officers have recommended councillors back a 28-storey tower block next to Deptford Creek, despite City Hall branding the “affordable” housing on offer as “unacceptable”.
The Edition Group wants to build the block at Ravensbourne Wharf on Norman Road, in an industrial area which has seen residential blocks spring up in recent years.
Councillors have been advised to give the block the go-ahead, despite only 20% of its flats being officially considered “affordable” – and even then at the higher end of a definition that is becoming increasingly meaningless.
Of the 129 flats in the development, 26 would be priced at London Living Rent – branded by the mayor of London as “a type of affordable housing for middle-income Londoners” earning up to £60,000 and set at two-thirds of market rents. For Ravensbourne Wharf, the rents are benchmarked at £1,109 per month for a one-bedroom flat, up to £1,355 for a three-bedroom flat. All the other flats would be for private rent.
While City Hall supports the idea of the flats all being for private rent, the offer of “affordable” housing is given short shrift. “This is unacceptable,” the Greater London Authority says in council documents. Council officers say a viability assessment shows the “current affordable housing offers maximises provision and no additional contributions can realistically be made”, although it can be reviewed if circumstances change.
Greenwich Council’s planning policy, adopted in 2015, demands 24.5% of housing in new developments is for “social/affordable” rent, with a further 10.5% for “intermediate” (shared ownership or higher rents, such as London Living Rent) tenures.
Councillors on Greenwich’s planning board – its main planning committee – will hear the application on 7 January. While this development may well have sailed through under previous planning regimes, this committee – chaired by Shooters Hill councillor Sarah Merrill – has pushed back on schemes that offer little in the way of genuinely affordable housing, so approval for this scheme is not at all certain, despite what officers say.
The distinctive tower would sit opposite another development for private rent on the Deptford side of the creek. Essential Living’s Union Wharf development, misleadingly branded as being in Greenwich, is 23 storeys high and has 239 flats and opened its doors this spring. Developers want to build blocks of 26 and 30 storeys next door – and across the borough boundary – although this is still working its way through Lewisham planning.
While the very idea of tall towers so close to Greenwich town centre – and the conservation area around the listed St Paul’s Church in Deptford – will horrify some, this area has long been designated an “opportunity area”, and considered ripe for intensive residential development. Council officers concede that it will cause “less than substantial harm” but that the public benefits of 129 new flats outweigh this, even if they are all for private rent. The industrial site at Brewery Wharf – on the corner of Creek Road and next door to Ravensbourne Wharf – will remain.
The scheme would also include 791 square metres of co-working floorspace and a seeded educational barge, which will be operated by the Creekside Educational Trust. The developer also promises public access to the creekside. However, there has been anger at a lack of promised access to the creekside from new flats that have already been built.
It sits opposite the tatty Thornham Street Estate, yet there is just £7,500 for public realm improvements in the proposed Section 106 agreement (enough for about 75 bollards). £20,000 will go to Cycleway 4 at the end of Norman Road and there is £3,000 for moving some coach parking. Council employment agency Greenwich Local Labour and Business swallows up £129,550 from the scheme.
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