Transport for London has forced developers to double the amount of money they are offering for new bus routes to serve a 1,750-home project in Thamesmead – but the £1 million on the table is still well short of what it originally asked for.
Councillors will decide next week on whether Berkeley Homes and the Peabody housing association, which owns the site, should be given approval for the Plumstead-West Thamesmead scheme on former industrial land off Griffin Manor Way, behind Plumstead bus garage.
The scheme, which includes blocks of up to 17 storeys high, had been due to be decided earlier this month, but was pulled at the last minute after TfL objected. Across the whole development, 24.5 per cent of the homes will be for social rent, with 15.4 per cent for shared ownership.
TfL had asked for £1.8 million towards buses in the area – the equivalent of providing five new services – to help meet demand. “Absence of contribution would result in full buses and longer wait times,” it said, noting the poor environment for walking nd cycling and the demand from residents to use the new Crossrail station at Woolwich.
However, Greenwich planners had only allocated £500,000 – with Berkeley and Peabody claiming there was “an element of existing spare capacity”. The money comes from Section 106 payments, which are made by developers to offset the impact of their schemes on the local area. TfL filed a strongly-worded last-minute objection on the same day the application was due to be heard – effectively suggesting that councillors should refuse their officers’ own recommendation.
“The £500,000 to be secured in the S106 will only cover one of the five additional bus services required, and will therefore not meet the demand for bus travel generated by the proposed development,” TfL said.
“A consequence of this is that passengers, both existing and those from the proposed development, will be ‘left behind’ at stops because buses are full. In the morning peak this is likely to impact those seeking to board a bus nearer to the end of the route or key destination such as the Woolwich rail stations, and this would therefore include people living on the proposed development.
“In the evening peak, the impact will be spread across all passengers including those from other developments who have made a justified S106 contribution.
“TfL will not be funding nor be able to fund any enhanced services to mitigate the demand generated by your client’s development in the absence of the appropriate amount of S106 funding. This should be taken into consideration by the planning committee determining the application.”
In response, Berkeley and Peabody are paying an extra £400,000 towards extra bus services – with £100,000 being cut from the £500,000 which was due to go to Greenwich Local Labour and Business, a council job brokerage which usually receives large sums from developers. GLLaB’s take is reduced further to £300,000 to fund another request from Transport for London, for highway and traffic signal works.
However, the £1,000,000 for buses still falls well short of the £1,800,000 the cash-strapped transport body has demanded. “There remains a difference of opinion between TfL and the applicant,” a report to councillors notes. The same report says that there are “significant viability constraints” preventing the developers from contributing more.
A review of the viability assessment for the project states that it is due to make a profit of £19.1m – just over 3 per cent profit, rather than the 15-20 per cent typically demanded by developers.
Another public body left disappointed by the process is the NHS, with the local clinical commissioning group asking for £2.6 million to cover improved health services to serve the development. Instead, it is in line for £1 million.
If approved, the developers would also have to give £5 million to an “investment strategy” for future projects in the West Thamesmead area, and £2.4 million for a Greenwich Council project to transform the former Plumstead Power Station into a business centre. Just over £1 million will go to carbon offsetting, £617,000 will go into the council’s highways budget while there will be £35,000 for cycle training and £30,000 for parking surveys.
Councillors are due to decide on the scheme at a planning board meeting next Tuesday. They will also examine a scheme for 32 council homes on the site of Sam Manners House, a sheltered housing block in east Greenwich, after deferring a decision earlier this month for a site visit in response to complaints from neighbours.
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