Greenwich councillors poised to reject 109 flats on former New Eltham sports ground

Holland Gardens
Residents were still moving into Holland Gardens last summer

Plans for 109 flats on a patch of land meant for 23 houses are set to be thrown out by Greenwich councillors next week, with town hall officers saying they would harm the surrounding area.

Developer Linden Homes already has permission to build houses at Holland Gardens – the former Gaelic Athletic Association playing fields off Avery Hill Road, New Eltham. It has already built 112 homes, mostly houses, on the land.

But instead of building 23 houses at the centre of the site, it wants to replace them with four blocks of flats. Officers say the buildings are too big, are poorly-designed and would represent overdevelopment, while they lack private gardens or balconies for many residents.

Council planners also say that plans for 66 one-bedroom flats are excessive for its suburban location, which is on the borough boundary with Bexley. They are recommending that councillors reject the proposals next week.

Holland Gardens
The contested land is behind the far fence

The future of the land has been contested for three decades since the GAA – the body that runs hurling and Gaelic football – moved to Ruislip in 1992. Plans for housing were thrown out in 1991 and a proposal for flats was refused in 2007 after a lengthy appeal.

The current development – also known as Waterford Place – was rejected by councillors in 2015 but approved by a planning inspector on a technicality over housing supply in the borough.

Residents have set up an action group – Holland Gardens Planning Watch – to campaign against the changed development, saying that the developer had broken promises to residents by changing the nature of the scheme.

Linden told residents last year that it had a “contractual obligation” to the site’s previous owners to build a higher-yield scheme. There have been 93 objections, including from Eltham MP Clive Efford.

Holland Gardens "plan"
No CGIs have been submitted, but this is one image shown to residents last year

Of the 109 flats, 28 would be for London Affordable Rent and 11 would be for shared ownership – hitting the council’s targets. But the council says Linden did not discuss its plans with the town hall before submitting its application, which most developers usually do.

It has also not entered into a Section 106 agreement with the council – payments for schemes to help mitigate the impact of a development – which in itself can lead to a development being thrown out.

Linden and council officers even disagree on how tall the buildings are – with the planners insisting that the developer’s “2.5 storey” buildings are actually three storeys high.

Another unusual factor is that Linden has not supplied images of what the development would look like alongside its neighbours when built – just architectural sketches and early images given to residents at a consultation last year.

A 2017 sales document showing houses planned for the site
Linden Homes plan
The new plan. Avery Hill Road is to the top, Halfway Street in Sidcup is to the right, both off the map

“The proposed flats have a different design and layout to the existing / approved houses on Holland Gardens. If approved, the proposal would look disjointed from the surroundings,” council officers say, noting that the land is still designated as community open space.

Many of the flats would lack gardens or balconies, resulting in “significantly poor internal living standards”, the officers say, while the new buildings would block out daylight and affect the privacy of their neighbours.

“Whilst the provision of 109 new dwellings and affordable housing would make a contribution towards meeting housing need, it is considered that the harm resulting in this case leads, as set out above, to a proposal that would not create high quality buildings and places, or good design,” the officers conclude.

Councillors on the planning board will meet to discuss the plans next Tuesday.

They will also be asked to approve 40 new council homes at Orangery Lane, Eltham, part of the town hall’s Greenwich Builds programme to start 750 new homes by May 2022.

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