Virtual consultations fine for our new homes, Greenwich Council says

Sam Manners House site
Sam Manners House was demolished before lockdown. 32 new homes are planned

Greenwich Council has defended launching virtual consultations into two new housing developments, weeks after one of its senior councillors criticised developers for doing the same.

Last week the council launched two short consultations into developments at Well Hall Road in Eltham and Sam Manners House in east Greenwich.

The Well Hall Road development would see 20 new flats built on the site of garages, while 32 homes are planned on the site of Sam Manners House, a demolished sheltered accommodation block in Tuskar Street, Greenwich. The schemes are part of plans to start work on 750 council homes by 2022.

With the coronavirus lockdown preventing exhibitions from being held, locals were able to comment in two online consultations that lasted just three days.

But private developers were criticised last month by the council’s new cabinet member for regeneration, Sarah Merrill, for running similar exercises for their schemes.

Two weeks ago she told a cabinet meeting that she agreed with Conservative councillor Nigel Fletcher, who said he was “quite surprised” that developers had not paused their schemes.

“Given what pressure our planning officers are under it seems extraordinary to me that they’re not pausing that to at least give us a break –
not to mention that the consultation is not able to take place in any meaningful way,” he said.

Well Hall Road render
The Well Hall Road scheme is for 20 flats near the junction with Dunblane Road

Merrill responded: “I would wish to support developers delaying consultations – I agree with you that it’s not easy to do public consultations at the moment.

“The difficulty we have is that there is no provision in the emergency measures to allow us to, for want of a better word, enforce that. If developers insist on going ahead, then we have to accept that.”

The discussion occurred after Fletcher raised concerns over a 1,150-pupil boys’ school planned for the Mansion site in Avery Hill Park, which is being sold by the University of Greenwich. More than 3,500 people have signed a petition against the plans, which was the subject of a virtual consultation last month.

Other schemes include a plan for 230 homes near the Thames Barrier in Charlton and revisions to a scheme for over 600 homes in tall blocks at Macbean Street in Woolwich.

Sam Manners House
The Sam Manners House scheme will be close to existing council blocks

However, Anthony Okereke, the new cabinet member for housing, said it was “imperative” that the council continued work on its homebuilding programme, and it had to deliver homes quickly to get funding.

He told 853: “In response to the pandemic, many of us have had to adjust our usual routines and practices, including the council. The government introduced temporary planning application regulations on 14 May, and in line with these regulations, we are making use of online engagement methods for the Greenwich Builds programme.

“We are still in the midst of a housing crisis and Greenwich Builds will allow us to house those who are most in need, so it’s imperative that we continue to address this need. Also, Greenwich Builds is partly funded by the Greater London Authority and this funding is dependent on meeting the terms of delivery.

“We will continue to review all potential options to engage with communities and further consultations will take place until Covid-19 restrictions allow for a different approach. We are committed to giving local people a voice and opportunities to be involved in important decision making, which is why we place high importance on consultations and engagement. Despite the disruption caused by Covid-19, this commitment has not changed and neither has our resolve to deliver 750 new council homes for local people.”

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