Plans to build 82 new council homes and 70 car parking spaces on green space on the Kidbrooke-Eltham border have been criticised by neighbours who say they will lose their community if the proposals go ahead.
Greenwich Council wants to build 51 houses and 31 flats, along with the parking spaces, on the Brook estate, either side of Rochester Way. The construction plans are part of the borough’s biggest council house building project since the 1980s, but neighbours fear their estate – made up of suburban semi-detached homes – will be permanently damaged by the new additions.
One planned development – of 37 houses, 14 flats and 48 parking spaces – would wipe out a whole area of green space at Ridgebrook Road, close to the junction of Rochester Way and Briset Road.
Another scheme would see five houses, seven flats and 12 parking spaces replacing green space on the other side of Rochester Way, at Bournbrook Road. Further west, at Halsbrook Road, nine houses, 10 flats and 10 parking spaces are planned.
The council says the project is badly needed to help address a 19,000-strong waiting list for housing, but residents say the project will completely change the character of their neighbourhood, which has already lost its community centre and the Rochester Way Social Club, both of which have been replaced by projects from the council’s spin-off housing company Meridian Home Start, which offers homes at higher rents than ordinary council housing.
Over 500 residents signed a petition against the proposals, while 90 people attended a consultation meeting last month. However, the council’s response to the petition, which will be heard at Wednesday’s full council meeting, simply reads “the chronic shortage of council rented homes gives rise to a pressing need to utilise these under-used green areas for new housing provision”.
Claire Fraser, from the Save the Brooks campaign, told 853: “The density of their proposals will change our environments from an open community of single family homes with a variety of green spaces, which are each used in a different way – one area for the little children, one for the teenagers and one for dog walkers – to a high density community which lacks place for our children to play within sight of their parents.
“We think we will lose our community. So many more children will create disorder as they will not have open places to interact in a healthy way. And the new homes will change the look and feel as their design is very different from the heritage that is the Brook Estate single family design.”
853 has seen a leaflet handed to residents telling them that “Eltham and Kidbrooke have the highest provision of publicly accessible green space per 1,000 people” in the borough, comparing it with Woolwich and Thamesmead as well as Greenwich town centre.
Fraser said there were fears for road safety because of the extra cars coming into the estate while there were also worries about subsidence as the Halsbrook Road is on an ancient orchard and existing bungalows have had to be rebuilt, and the Bournbrook Road site is bordered by the hidden Lower Kid Brook river.
She added that residents felt that the council planned to split residents into haves and have-nots by encouraging the Kidbrooke Village development on the former Ferrier Estate, where 62% of homes are planned to be private.
“It is clear that they are trying to create an affluent area at Kidbrooke Village and a council estate in the Brooks – we are proud of being a group of residents who are primarily council tenants or owners through Right to Buy,” she said.
“But we are very surprised that a Labour council is so blatantly separating rich from poor and giving away grey land to build properties for those with strong incomes while using the remaining green areas for council housing – ours are the only large green areas in Greenwich borough designated for new-builds.”
Residents have also complained that the former Thomas Tallis School site – earmarked in 2018 as a possible site for 400 homes – is not included in the council’s plans, while they face losing their green space. They have also claimed the town hall is selling the Tallis site, although the council firmly denies this.
“We see it very important to build more homes for those in need. But council tenants should not be second rate citizens. Greenwich has a lot of grey land that should be used before taking away these last green spaces. These green spaces are used heavily by the community, it is part of who we are and how we live. Taking them away from us will seriously impact our lives.”
Residents are also unhappy about the way the developments have been handled, Fraser said. “At first they separated the three developments, only reaching out to small groups of residents whose homes directly impacted the builds. For quite some time they kept things separate – clearly in the hope we wouldn’t realise they were destroying all our greens.
“They have also been quite antagonistic – we have tried hard to keep things fair and sensible, but we have clearly been a thorn in the side of the council and they have been quite specific that it is not up to the community to influence the process or its outcomes.”
They also feel unrepresented, with Fraser saying there is no point in seeing local MPs as they “have to support the build”. Council representatives “were explicit in saying that nothing we did or said would stop them from building all of the properties”.
However, Fraser did welcome council plans to spend £750,000 on improving remaining communal spaces on the estate.
A Greenwich Council spokesperson told 853: “The council is dealing with a housing crisis as a result of successive governments and now that decades of government housing restrictions has been lifted, we are now embarking on one of the most ambitious council home-building schemes ever seen in the area.
“As a landlord, we aim for excellence in providing high-quality homes at social rent and we are planning to build at least 750 new homes to meet the needs of local people – there are over 19,000 people on the council’s housing register and every night over 1,000 people are in temporary accommodation. In line with the council’s declaration of a climate emergency, all new homes built will be carbon neutral.
“The council has identified locations across the borough mainly on brownfield sites as potential locations to build homes on. Regarding the Brooks site, whilst it is always regrettable to have to lose open space, the actual amenity and play space elements of this site will be improved alongside new council housing.
“This is a balance the council believes it has struck fairly with a commitment to invest over £750,000 to enhance the play and amenity space around the site. Many residents attended a public meeting on the proposals and made their views clear and some changes will be made as a result. However, in order to deliver new homes, it is necessary that this site remains in the council’s programme.”
On the Tallis site, the council’s cabinet member for housing, Chris Kirby, told 853: “The council can confirm it has absolutely no plans whatsoever to sell the site of the former Thomas Tallis School.”
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