The developers behind plans to build nearly 1,300 homes on top of the Ikea car park in east Greenwich say they can help improve the long-neglected flyover next to the site.
London Square Developments confirmed its plans earlier this month by submitting a planning application to Greenwich Council.
While most new developments in Greenwich have been, on the whole, distant from traditional areas that have been largely untouched for years, the Peninsula Gardens scheme will transform a familiar, if overlooked, corner of the area with 1,290 homes as well as shops and office space, with buildings of up to 20 storeys.
The B&Q store would be demolished while many of the new homes would be built above a smaller Ikea car park – 821 spaces compared with 1,035 on offer now. The Sainsbury’s petrol station in the corner of the site would remain, as would be the busway through the site.
Some 24 per cent of the homes would be for London Affordable Rent – about half market rent and available to people on waiting lists – while 11 per cent would be for shared ownership. The scheme would be largely car-free.
Many of the homes, including private, shared ownership and affordable homes, would be built close to the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach; the A102 would be screened off and a series of six to eight-storey blocks built.
But in documents submitted to the council, London Square admits that the dual carriageway effectively blocks the development off from its neighbours in east Greenwich and its nearest rail station at Westcombe Park – and that many people brought the issue up in consultations about the scheme.
It says it has developed ways it could use the money it has to pay Greenwich Council – Section 106 payments and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – to improve both the space beneath the flyover and the footbridge to Tunnel Avenue.
“Many of the issues with connectivity in the local area stem from impermeability and hostility of the A102,” it says. “Opportunities to improve this, for instance the footbridge or space below the flyover, lie well outside the site boundary.
“Despite this, in response to the discussions mentioned above, the design team has identified ways in which S106 and CIL contributions could be used to improve both spaces, through lighting, planting, art and play.”
The A102 is controlled by Transport for London while the infrastructure around it is in a mixture of both TfL and Greenwich ownership.
Apart from some changes to the road layout, the gloomy space under the flyover has been largely untouched since it was completed in 1969, while counterparts elsewhere in London – such as the Bow roundabout a few miles north – have been improved by planting, artwork and new lighting.
It is unusual for a developer to make such an explicit offer to help – and now places the spotlight on whether Greenwich, notorious for its lack of interest in the public realm outside its town centres, is willing to make the next move.
While Section 106 cash from Ikea, which opened three years ago, was meant to go on improving access towards Westcombe Park station, very little has happened since.
London Square estimates that it would have to pay £6.7 million to Greenwich in CIL money – low by comparison with similar boroughs – and only a portion of this cash is likely to make it to the area around the store.
Depending on when any agreement is signed, there is a risk that most of the money could be funnelled towards paying the bill for Woolwich Crossrail station, because Greenwich has raised less than it expected from developers to pay for the cost.
Any windfall from the scheme may also need to go on improved public transport, although the developer claims new schools or medical services are not needed.
While consultation responses revealed a high level of hostility to the development among neighbours – one survey found 55 per cent of responses believed the scheme was not needed – the offer from London Square does offer a point for residents to place pressure on the council.
Keen-eyed readers of the planning documents will spot that London Square has already done its bit to prettify the A102 by making it appear less oppressive in architects’ renderings of the scheme – adding attractive lamp posts and removing the motorway-era crash barrier from the central reservation.
A new pedestrian crossing across Bugsby’s Way would link the development to the final phase of Greenwich Millennium Village, which was approved last year. Again, the road looks rather more attractive than the likely reality.
The area is likely to see HGVs thunder through it for many years to come, not least thanks to a council decision made long ago to earmark the Murphy’s aggregate yard for a possible future council waste depot.
Gardens and courtyards would be built to the south of the site, while the three tallest blocks – of 16, 17 and 20 storeys – would be built around a “public square”, roughly outside the current B&Q site. These would all be for private sale.
London Square’s documents reveal that Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe was involved in discussions about the garden and courtyards, indicating that the scheme may have the town hall’s tacit approval at a political level. The buildings are designed by the architecture firm Assael, which has preiously worked with London Square on Charter Square, a major development in Staines.
While building so close to the A102 – and its regular jams to and from the Blackwall Tunnel – may raise eyebrows, objections on this front are unlikely to succeed: drivers who regularly use the tunnel as a route to the M11 will be familiar with the blocks that have appeared next to its northern approach in the past decade, particularly close to Bromley-by-Bow station.
Where the scheme does stick out in planning terms is that the land has not been previously designated for housing – once a former British Gas sports ground, Sainsbury’s built its ill-fated “eco-store” on the site in 1999, allowing Ikea to come in and take over the land 16 years later.
But the level of “affordable” housing hits the council’s targets. And Greenwich has its own target from City Hall to build 2,800 homes per year – effectively demanding it builds a community the size of Charlton every three years.
So the scheme is likely to sail through the planning process – leaving councillors and neighbours with the responsibility of ensuring that the millions generated from the scheme help improve a corner of Greenwich where the infrastructure has been neglected for more than half a century.
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