Six-storey block of flats to replace Speedy Hire warehouse in Greenwich

Speedy Hire site render
The six-storey block will replace a 1970s warehouse

Councillors have backed a new six-storey block of flats that developers say will transform a bleak stretch of the main road through east Greenwich.

A six-storey block of 58 flats will replace the current Speedy Hire unit on Woolwich Road. Eight flats will be on offer at London Affordable Rent – about half market rents and available to people on housing waiting lists – while four will be offered for shared ownership.

While councillors were pleased to see the site used for housing, one questioned the targeting of the shared ownership homes – as households with an income of up to £71,000 would be eligible for a one-bedroom flats.

Diagram of the building
One resident said the development would invade his privacy

The site was once occupied by a large church hall, the Cecil Rooms. The current warehouse, which was built after the hall was demolished in 1970, was once occupied by Dandridge, a long-established local industrial concern whose name is commemorated in a 1980s council estate behind.

Councillors heard on Tuesday night that some residents of Dandridge Close will suffer some loss of light, but the developer has pledged to spend up to £53,000 on improvements to the public realm on the estate, including replacing dead trees and shrubs.

No other money was allocated to public realm elsewhere in the area, but £25,000 will go on cycle route improvements. Greenwich Local Labour and Business, the council’s job brokerage, will get £80,250.

Nine objections were received by the council, while three people wrote in to offer support.Just one objector addressed the committee, a neighbour who lived opposite who said the development would invade his privacy and ruin his view.

Speedy Hire site render
The development will change a corner of east Greenwich

The developer’s agent was Jamie Pert, of Planning Potential. The company employed Anthony Okereke before he became council leader two months ago, but Okereke has said he did not work on any developments in the borough.

Pert called the scheme a “high quality, beautiful and sustainable development”. He said three units of commercial space on the ground floor would replace the jobs that would be lost through the loss of the Speedy Hire branch.

Greenwich Peninsula councillor David Gardner questioned the targeting of the shared ownership flats, which means households in the borough who earn up to £71,000 can apply for a one-bedroom flat and those on £88,000 can apply for a three-bedroom flat.

“How on earth can that be classed as affordable for the people of Greenwich?” he asked.

Speedy Hire site
Some of the land is currently used for storage

But Gardner said the scheme would be “a vast improvement” on what is currently on the site.

“While I have reservations on the level of affordable housing, particularly shared ownership which is not affordable, and I have reservations in terms of massing and scaling, the design is very high quality,” he said.

“I think it will be a significant improvement to the streetscape in the area. On balance, it’s a big fit with our overall policies.”

West Thamesmead councillor Chris Lloyd – whose sole question of Pert was to ask if the scheme would improve the local streetscape – said the current warehouse was not “the most optimum use of the land”.

Referencing the housing crisis, he added: “I do feel for the existing residents, but I only wish this had come forward ten years ago.”

Dandridge Close
There will be money to improve Dandridge Close, a council estate

Conservative councillor Pat Greenwell was the only member of the planning board to vote against. She said: “Yes, we need the new properties, yes it has exciting schemes within it, but we have to consider the people who live in the area and how their amenity and their lives will be affected.”

The development was approved by six votes to one.

The Speedy Hire unit is one of the few remaining commercial sites in a part of east Greenwich once dotted with such businesses.

Close by, work is beginning on eight new homes on the site of the old CA Sperati button factory at the foot of Westcombe Hill, by the Blackwall Tunnel southern approach. The factory, which had been in business since the 1960s, closed in the 2000s and was sold to the developer Kingspan in 2014.

A block of nine flats was approved in 2015, but this lapsed and the current proposal – for a two-storey house and a four-storey block of flats, pictured above – was given the go-ahead by Greenwich planning officers in March.

Elsewhere in the borough, Tuesday night’s meeting also saw the approval of 14 new council homes on the Barnfield Estate in Plumstead, taking the total of homes approved under the Greenwich Builds programme to 724.

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