Greenwich councillors have unanimously backed plans for 117 new council homes on the old Thomas Tallis School site on Kidbrooke Park Road – the biggest development of new council homes in the borough since the 1980s.
The scheme is part of the Greenwich Builds programme to begin work on 750 council homes before 2022, and include blocks of between four and 10 storeys.
Only part of the site – which housed the school between 1971 and 2011 – is being used; documents prepared for councillors two years ago stated that the entire site could accommodate 400 homes. The land was part of an RAF base until 1965 – only its allotments remain today.
The four-block development of flats and maisonettes includes 38 three-bedroom homes, 60 two-bedroom homes and 19 one-bedroom homes. All will be for council rent – which in Greenwich is about 40 per cent of market rents. The development will use solar power and air source heat pumps for energy.
Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe spoke to ask councillors to approve “the very best 21st century council housing”, possibly mindful of the fact that the last two Greenwich Builds projects did not have smooth passages through the planning board – one on Well Hall Road passed but was criticised for its appearance by councillors; a second in east Greenwich was deferred so councillors could visit the site.
Unlike those schemes, which will be built using modular methods, the Kidbrooke Park Road development will be traditionally-built and is due to be completed by spring 2023.
Adding that Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for housing, the former Lewisham Labour councillor Tom Copley, was watching the meeting, he said: “I’m here to represent the 1,419 households who Greenwich have responsibility for who will spend tonight in a home that doesn’t belong to them, the 1,195 families who live in a home that does not belong to them, and the more than 20,000 people on our waiting list.
“Not a single resident is here to object, a tribute to the extraordinary work done by our team to engage people in this conversation.”
There will also be a nursery and space to park 10 cars and 230 bikes; £240,000 will be set aside for improving the road junction at Henley Cross, by Kidbrooke station, to make access safer for pedestrians.
But both the Blackheath Society and the South Greenwich Forum, which both backed the plans in general, told councillors that clearer plans needed to be put into place now to take into account what happens with the rest of the old Tallis site and neighbouring schemes. There were also concerns about a lack of lifts.
Approval of the development comes a year after City Hall overturned Greenwich Council’s refusal of 619 homes next to Kidbrooke station; councillors had said that scheme, which includes a 20-storey tower, was too tense and lacked sufficient transport connections.
Councillors also pushed back on the next phase of Berkeley Homes’ Kidbrooke Village, on land formerly occupied by the council’s Ferrier Estate, rejecting plans for 1,306 homes in July before approving them last month. At present, that development is due to grow to over 5,200 homes.
Transport consultant Peter Wadey said that Transport for London had not asked for a contribution towards improving bus services as it was judged that the existing network could absorb the demand from the development. Asked by Charlton councillor Gary Dillon what conversations had been had with Transport for London about future transport uses, Wadey said that a lot of capacity issues would be “likely to be less of an issue because there will be more people working from home in the future”.
Architect David Morton said the development represented an “exceptionally high standard of public housing development”, while landscape architect Katharina Erne said the green spaces would represent a continuation of Cator Park, across the railway in Berkeley Homes’ Kidbrooke Village.
Former council leader Denise Hyland said she was “fully supportive”. “I’m very pleased to be on the planning board when I can put my hand in the air to support 100 per cent council housing,” she said, adding that Greenwich was “leading the way”.
“I understand the transport issues but I don’t have a crystal ball,” she said. “The more people there are the more transport will come, we know that with the Jubilee Line on the Peninsula and the DLR.”
Conservative Eltham South councillor Nigel Fletcher said: “There have been some Greenwich Builds scheme recently that we thought weren’t appropriate for their site, but we should commend the design team here.”
All 10 councillors – Labour’s Hyland, Dillon, planning chair Stephen Brain, Clive Mardner, Olu Babatola, Maureen O’Mara, Linda Perks and Norman Adams, and Conservatives Fletcher and Geoff Brighty – backed the scheme.
The project has now leapfrogged another major Greenwich Builds scheme on the other side of Kidbrooke – plans for 82 homes on green space off Rochester Way were criticised by neighbours earlier this year because the council was not developing the Tallis site.
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