Revised plans for 374 homes on the site of the old Siemens factory on the Charlton-Woolwich border have been submitted – with only 15 flats available as “affordable” housing.
Developer U+I is behind the Faraday Works project to redevelop the former telecommunication works, which closed in 1968 and became an industrial estate three years later. It had originally planned to include 35 per cent “affordable” housing on the site – a catch-all term ranging from social rent to shared ownership.
But one of the buildings that was due to be demolished – 37 Bowater Road, a large block facing Barrier Gardens – has been listed by Historic England, a decision that has come at a heavy cost for the 23,000 households on Greenwich Council’s waiting list.
Now U+I says just 11 homes will be for social rent – this is more likely to be London Affordable Rent, about half of market rents and available to those on waiting lists – with only four for shared ownership; making a total of just four per cent “affordable” housing. If counted by rooms, the total rises to five per cent, as the rented and shared-ownership flats are two and three-bedroom homes.
The plans feature blocks of eight and ten storeys, retaining historic buildings like the currently-derelict wire factory to the north of the site, and turning Bowater Road into a pedestrian and cycle-friendly space. The saved 37 Bowater Road building, close to the Thames Barrier, will gain a roof extension and be turned into flats.
There will also be office, light industrial and community space. U+I has pointed to its Caxton Works development across the river in Canning Town, as well as the Old Vinyl Factory – the old EMI complex in Hayes, west London – as examples of what it wants to achieve.
The extremely low levels of “affordable” housing are likely to make the scheme politically toxic unless funding can be found to include more subsidised housing in the development – with councillors forced to decide whether a showpiece development that will bring in employment and revitalise dilapidated historic buildings compensates for the lack of help in whittling down the waiting list.
Greenwich’s own planning policies call for 24.5 per cent of homes at London Affordable Rent, with a further 10.5 per cent of homes for shared ownership – making a total of 35 per cent “affordable” housing. In May, councillors backed the 801-home Woolwich Exchange scheme with just 19.7 per cent “affordable” housing – a proportion cut from 35 per cent to pay for the retention of Woolwich Public Market, which had also been due for demolition until Historic England stepped in to list it.
The resubmission of plans for Faraday Works is the latest step in the troubled plans to redevelop the Charlton Riverside – currently largely industrial land – into a thriving new neighbourhood with thousands of new homes. Greenwich Council’s own masterplan for the area calls for lower-rise, lower-density buildings compared with neighbouring sites on Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Arsenal.
All three major redevelopment plans for the Charlton Riverside have been refused so far – proposals for 771 homes off Anchor and Hope Lane, with 10-storey blocks, were thrown out in 2019 and later rejected by both London mayor Sadiq Khan and a planning inspector.
But more recently two schemes closer to Faraday Works have also been rejected on height and density grounds: a nine-storey block on Eastmoor Street with 188 homes and a seven storey scheme for 67 affordable-rent flats on a plot next door.
The full, complex Faraday Works planning application can be seen on the Greenwich Council planning website, along with the separate application for listed building consent for 37 Bowater Road.
This story also appears on The Charlton Champion.
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