Greenwich Millennium Village’s final phase approved despite NHS funding worries

GMV phase 4 render
The “neighbourhood square” inside the next phase of GMV

Greenwich councillors backed the last major phase of Greenwich Millennium Village almost without question last night – despite worries from local GPs that health services would struggle to cope with the new residents.

Plans to build 489 homes, shops and work space on two adjoining parcels of land facing Bugsby’s Way were approved unanimously in less than half an hour by Greenwich Council’s planning board.

The land, once part of the huge East Greenwich gas works, has sat largely unused since at least the 1970s. To the north, 135 flats are currently being built on land recently used as a plant nursery, while a planning inspector last year approved a 13-storey block next to Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park – the controversial Plot 201 which opponents feared would block light to the park. Two other nearby blocks have also been approved.

GMV phase 4
The new housing will face Bugsby’s Way

Last night’s meeting came just over 20 years after the first residents moved into the earliest phases of GMV – the first major housing development on the peninsula, which will have over 2,800 homes when finished. It was called a “significant milestone” by Chris Genner, the project director of Greenwich Millennium Village.

Just 20 per cent will be “affordable”, under the terms of an outline planning permission agreed in 2012. 73 will be for London Affordable Rent (a form of social rent that is about half market rent) while 26 will be shared ownership. Most of the “affordable” homes will be in a block facing the busy Bugsby’s Way, with no improvements to crossings to reach the nearby retail park.

GMV phase 4
The new housing as seen from Southern Way (with balloon over Ikea)
GMV phase 4
The current view from Southern Way (with car parked on pavement)

That nine-year-old outline planning permission, which allowed blocks of up to eight storeys on the site, also left the local NHS unhappy with the amount of funding on offer. A report before councillors said that the South East London Clinical Commissioning Group had said there was “insufficient capacity to accommodate the uplift in population and that a contribution should be allocated to address this”.

But because the new development was within the 1,746 homes given outline approval nine years ago, no contribution to the NHS could be ordered.

Peartree Way, 1 February 2021
Peartree Way on a locked-down Monday: Transport for London pointed out flaws in GMV’s parking arrangements

Transport for London did not object, but raised concerns that GMV’s streets were “dominated by car parking”. Council officers said this was “symptomatic of the historic nature of the outline planning permission” which allocated one parking space for every three homes.

Neither point was brought up by councillors, whose only quibble was with all the “affordable” homes being concentrated in a single block. Genner said this was to simplify matters for the housing association managing the homes.

“This is one of the last chapters in a 20-or-so year history, we strongly believe we’ve created a strong, thriving and sustainable community on the peninsula,” he said, adding that he was proud that 42 per cent of homes would be aimed at families, with three bedrooms or more.

“We’d like to thank the residents who have waited patiently as the site evolved around them and will evolve as in the years to come.”

The new residential blocks will be separated from the commercial units by a new open space. While GMV can still return and apply to build on the open space, Genner said the plan was to create a “retail cluster” around a public square.

GMV phase 5
The commercial block will face the Peartree Way roundabout
Peartree Way
The site of the commercial block now

Upstairs floors in the five-storey commercial block, which would be on the corner of Peartree Way, were likely to be let as affordable workspace, he added.

No members of the public or residents’ groups spoke, and only one written objection was received. The only point of disagreement was on concentrating the “affordable” housing in one block. Former council leader Denise Hyland – who was in charge of the council’s regeneration portfolio when the 2012 permission was granted – said: “We don’t want to land social housing tenants with big service charges.”

West Parkside
The third phase of Greenwich Millennium Village is already under construction

But her fellow Abbey Wood Labour councillor Clive Mardner spoke up for “pepper-potting”, spreading the homes around the development, saying: “I don’t think it’s beyond their ability to make it work.”

The two separate applications were both passed by seven votes to none.

After more than two decades, just two other GMV-related applications are left to come before councillors in the coming months – a separate application for Plot 201, this time for a 12-storey block, to replace the taller scheme approved by the inspector last year, and a related proposal to provide a new gatehouse for the ecology park.

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