Council homes get go-ahead for Royal Hill community garden site

Royal Hill proposals
Councillors voted unanimously to support the plans

Plans to build homes for adults with learning difficulties on the old Royal Hill community garden in west Greenwich were approved by councillors this week.

Greenwich Council is to build a house for four adults on the site, as well as four one-bedroom flats, plus a training office with a staff bedroom.

The awkwardly-shaped site was a police car park until 2016, when Greenwich police station closed, and was later taken over by residents as a community garden. The council took the land back last spring, saying it was being “unlawfully used”.

A small shared garden would be at the centre of the site, and residents would be allowed in at times to help maintain it. The homes will replace a building on Ashburnham Grove that has now closed.

Royal Hill site now
The land is on the site of a former railway line

Two previous attempts to build homes were thrown out by its own councillors, and these plans have been scaled back from an original proposal for up to 12 bedrooms. One of the councillors at Tuesday evening’s meeting of Greenwich’s planning board, Conservative Geoff Brighty, said the new proposals were a “vast improvement” on the past schemes.

More than a century ago, the site had been part of a railway line to a station on Stockwell Street, as part of an ill-fated scheme to compete with the line through Greenwich. Trains ran from Nunhead to Greenwich Park until 1917, and the cutting through west Greenwich was filled in during the 1920s.

The Greenwich Society had also supported the proposals, but the site’s history as a railway line was raised by a neighbour, Jeremy Button, who said he already had major work on his home – built on spoil after the railway was built in the 1880s – because of stability issues. He said heavy machinery on the site had already caused cracks.

“The old cutting is essentially a 90-year-old, 30-foot deep, unregulated rubbish dump, full of very heavy, nasty, toxic pollutants,” he said, warning that more heavy machinery would be needed on site, causing damage to nearby homes that would land the council with extra costs to rectify.

Royal Hill Community Garden
The site as a community garden

But councillors were reassured that any possible problems would be covered by the proposals and voted unanimously to back the project. Labour councillor Norman Adams said he “saw no reason not to” support the scheme.

His Labour colleague Olu Babatola said: “It’s needed for the borough, and the icing on the cake is for the disabled, and if we can make them a little bit happier, I will support it.”

Conservative Nigel Fletcher said: “I was reassured to hear the Greenwich Society find this a huge improvement. I think the quality of design is a great positive.”


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