Altered plans for the next phase of the Kidbrooke Village development were passed by Greenwich councillors last night – with the chair of planning taking back his comments made three months ago that the scheme represented “backdoor ghettoisation”.
Proposals to build 1,306 homes to the south and east of the development, on land formerly occupied by the council’s Ferrier Estate, were thrown out in July on Peninsula councillor Stephen Brain’s casting vote as chair.
Berkeley Homes already had permission to build about 1,000 homes, but had applied to rejig the development by breaking up some of the blocks and making them taller – with one block going from nine to 17 storeys.
Councillors objected to the height of two of the blocks as well as the segregation of one block for “affordable” housing and the development’s impact on local transport.
Berkeley responded by reducing the 17-storey block to 15-storeys, and a 14-storey block to 13 storeys – replacing some three-bedroom flats with one-bedroom homes to keep the numbers the same.
But it refused to change the arrangements for the 151 homes (11.5 per cent of the total) at London Affordable Rent (about half market rents) by placing them all in one block at the edge of the development, saying that the site had already been approved to exclusively accommodate “affordable” housing. A further 352 homes (27 per cent of the total) will be available elsewhere on the site as shared ownership, which also counts as “affordable” housing.
At July’s meeting, Brain called this “backdoor gentrification”, but after visiting the site, he said last night that he had revised his views.
“I thought the block was going to be very isolated, but it’s not – it’s got one of the better aspects [onto Sutcliffe Park],” he said.
“Given I had a casting vote last time, it’s fair to say my site visit changed my opinions quite a lot.”
The reduction in building heights means the development will have less impact on the skyline from Blackheath, but Berkeley’s existing blocks can already be seen and Transport for London’s development at Kidbrooke Station Square – forced through by City Hall after Greenwich councillors rejected it – will soon join them. Architect Piers Gough said the new blocks would now be “barely visible from Blackheath”.
Geoff Brighty, the Conservative councillor for Blackheath Westcombe, said: “I certainly welcome the reduction in the height of building F, though in truth the damage to the skyline has already been done.”
Brighty also challenged claims that planned rail improvements meant that Kidbrooke station would be easily able to absorb the extra passengers, saying: “The platforms were extended some time ago and we’ve never seen a 12 car train, so I’ve no confidence this will actually happen.”
Charlton Labour councillor Gary Dillon also challenged the transport figures, asking if Berkeley Homes took into account other developments along the line at Lewisham, Bexleyheath and in north Kent. “I tend to get the feeling the line as a whole is not being discussed. They’re looking at longer trains, they might need even longer trains.”
But Andy Ford, of the transport consultant Arup, said it was for Greenwich Council to lobby for improvements. He also claimed that Kidbrooke Village had already led to “significant improvements” in local transport. “That’s really down to Network Rail and the Department for Transport to consider in route planning, we haven’t spoken to them specifically,” he said.
Former council leader Denise Hyland, who praised Gough’s work at the last meeting, said the architect had done “a blinding job” in making the blocks smaller, but called for the OneSpace community centre, which faces demolition to make way for the scheme, to be given new premises on the development.
Judy Smith, of the South Greenwich Forum, regretted the proposals included large blocks facing semi-detached homes on a narrow side-street behind the development, Meadowside. She also objected to the London Affordable Rent homes being in one block, rather than the development being “mixed tenure”, where social housing is spread across the development.
“I was objecting to the lack of mixed tenure at Kidbrooke, in 2011, and again in 2014, and so it goes on,” she said.
“I acknowledge part of the blame rests with housing associations who tell you it’s because of the service charges, but I don’t see why it has to have such an impact. [The council’s] policy is mixed tenure and rightly so.
Addressing Brain, she said: “I am concerned that we go on having, in fact, you, chairman, once said it was ghettoisation.”
But Brain had changed his mind. Summing up his views at the end, he said: “When I did the site visit, I was surprised how close the block was to everything, and how integrated it will be.
“I used the phrase ‘ghettoisation’, but I know Baltimore, and Brownsville in New York – I’ve been in both and I managed to get out alive, and this isn’t ghettoisation in any shape or form related to that.”
Labour councillors Olu Babatola, Brain, Dillon, Denise Hyland and Maureen O’Mara all voted for the development, with the sole Tory on the committee last night, Brighty, voting against.
Modular techniques were used for 22 “urban houses” to the west of Kidbrooke Village a decade later. Karl Whiteman, the executive director of Berkeley Homes East Thames, said the new phase of Kidbrooke Village would be “traditionally-built” and added: “We have no concerns over our own modular-built buildings.” (watch here)
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