Greenwich rose garden sale: Council backs down after over 100 residents object

Tunnel Avenue pocket park
In 2015, councillors agreed to sell to the developer of adjacent flats, but nothing happened

Greenwich Council has abandoned plans to sell open space close to the Blackwall Tunnel approach after more than 100 residents sent in objections – despite the town hall stopping them from emailing their views.

The old rose garden, at the junction of Blackwall Lane and Tunnel Avenue in East Greenwich, soaks up pollution from the nearby dual carriageway, which is due to see more traffic under London mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to build the Silvertown Tunnel.

Three weeks ago, the council placed a public notice in a little-read freesheet, Greenwich Weekender, announcing plans to dispose of the land, with residents only able to write in by post to object. The council had planned to sell the land for development.

However, news of the sale spread rapidly after former councillor Mary Mills drew attention to it on social media. Her successor in Peninsula ward, Chris Lloyd, offered to print out residents’ objections and include them with his own written representation.

Some 54 of his constituents took him up on his offer, while Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook also made his objections public, stating he was “at a loss to understand why” the council wanted to sell “one of the few pockets of urban green space in the vicinity of Blackwall Lane”. There was also opposition from the Conservatives, Greens and residents’ groups.

A previous attempt to sell the land in 2015 was approved by the council’s ruling cabinet – despite 54 objections – but the sale did not proceed.

A council statement published yesterday said: “The council first considered the disposal of the land back in July 2015 and had more recently considered it as part of a number of opportunities identified across the borough for affordable rent and / or intermediate housing development. In response to the consultation the council received over 100 representations from residents opposing the disposal of the land.

“The decision to not proceed with this disposal comes at a time when the council is experiencing significant housing pressure, and the council will be continuing to explore what other opportunities there are in the borough to address the housing needs of its residents.”

Pennycook later tweeted that it was “the right decision”, while Lloyd said: “I am so grateful to all the local residents and groups that have supported this cause. I’m also massively grateful to our council leader [Danny Thorpe] for listening to my concerns with a fair and open mind. The right decision was made.”

Anti-Silvertown Tunnel sticker
The green space soaks up pollution from the nearby Blackwall Tunnel approach

The sale would have come despite Greenwich Council declaring a climate emergency, emphasising the need to keep green space; while a Tory motion to go to a full council meeting tomorrow pointed out that it also broke council policy on open space, including one objective that states: “Where there is a shortage of open space, informal green spaces should be upgraded to diversify their offer providing opportunities for informal play, sport and nature conservation.”

It would have opened up council leader Danny Thorpe to charges of hypocrisy. When Bexley Council undertook a similar land sale last year, Thorpe condemned its cabinet member Louie French – who stood in Eltham in the general election – as “a Tory who thinks profit is more important than people”.

The identity of the buyer was not officially confirmed, but a council document published last week indicated the “disposal of land at Tunnel Avenue to Pocket Housing”, to be discussed by its cabinet in November. Pocket Living specialises in one-bedroom flats which are little bigger than studio flats, which are then sold at a 20 per cent discount on market rates, meaning they qualify as “affordable” housing. The company is financially supported by Sadiq Khan’s administration at City Hall, while former Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford sits on the board.

When news of the sale emerged last week, Greenwich Council did not respond to or acknowledge a media enquiry from 853 – despite the opportunity it would have had to put its side of the story.

The few readers of Greenwich Weekender, meanwhile, are likely to be left in the dark about the council’s change of heart about the sale first announced in its pages – the paper scrapped its news coverage in 2017, after Greenwich Council objected to “negative” stories and considered withdrawing its advertising, which keeps the publication afloat.

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