A new shopping arcade in the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich will now have housing at its heart after Greenwich councillors backed plans to remove three shop units and replace them with eight homes.
Councillors on the planing board took just three minutes to decide the plans last night, despite 38 residents taking the time to submit objections.
The councillors may have cause to regret their haste, with the Royal Arsenal forming the core of a new council ward – Woolwich Arsenal – in May’s council election, which could make the area less of a Labour stronghold than before.
Building 10 on Major Draper Square, next to the Taproom bar, is being converted into an arcade by Berkeley Homes, which owns the Arsenal development.
In 2017 more than 110 homes were approved on the site, once home to the Royal Carriage Factory, and two years later plans for more commercial space were approved.
But now Berkeley is scaling back its plans – with homes to feature instead of shops and restaurants in the Windsor Square arcade. Berkeley says it is acting after reviewing market conditions, claiming there would be a lack of footfall at the location. It says that there will still be more commercial space – 10 units – than originally planned four years ago.
All eight new homes will be for private sale. Planning rules mean the developers not have to provide “affordable” homes on developments of fewer than ten units.
Objectors accused Berkeley of trying to cash in, with many saying that existing commercial units on the Arsenal were thriving.
One wrote: “If the application is supported by the planning board then we will lose an incredible opportunity forever to have a dynamic and fun part of the development which supports the local economy and helps to establish the Royal Arsenal as a destination of choice.
“Berkeley Homes have used the pandemic as a guise to change this application and enhance their profits.”
Berkeley said that it would still be offering new commercial units at its planned Armourers Court development to the east of the site.
However, with no objectors present to speak, councillors – who evidently had home on their minds, having just spent two and a half hours considering a major scheme in Thamesmead – opted to rush through their approval.
Woolwich Riverside Labour councillor John Fahy said that as councillors had seen a presentation in a private session the previous week, there was no need to discuss it again.
“We had an extremely good presentation on this last week or the week before; I think it’s very sensitive to the area in which it sits and we should proceed to agree the proposal,” he said.
Conservative councillor Nigel Fletcher agreed. “We’re all quite familiar with the site, having had a presentation on it,” he said, adding that discussion had been had on the arcade the last time the scheme had come before planning.
He said reconfiguring the commercial space was “sensible and reasonable”.
The scheme was approved unanimously by all seven councillors present, with the presentation and discussion taking less than eight minutes in total.
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