TfL gives Greenwich two more years to pay Woolwich Crossrail bill

Woolwich Elizabeth Line sign
City Hall and the government were reluctant to build a Crossrail station at Woolwich

853 exclusive: Greenwich Council has been given two more years to pay the £15 million it owes Transport for London for the construction of Woolwich’s Elizabeth Line station.

Greenwich pledged to pay £15 million towards the fit-out of the station as part of a deal with the government and TfL. The original Crossrail plans did not include a stop at Woolwich, so the council, then led by Chris Roberts, and Berkeley Homes stepped in to help fund it.

The money was due next spring, but the council now has until March 2025 to get the money from developers.

853 revealed last year that the council was £8 million short because it had failed to raise enough cash from developers. Last week, documents for a meeting of the council’s cabinet revealed that the shortfall had fallen to £6.2 million in April.

This meant the council was facing having to dip into money from developers that could have funded other major projects to pay the rest of the bill.

However, what was not made public in last Wednesday’s meeting was that the loan had been extended, and that the shortfall had been cut by another million pounds.

A Greenwich spokesperson told 853: “The council committed to providing £15m from developer contributions to the fit out of the station, to ensure our community could benefit from access to new jobs across the capital and beyond, and to attract new businesses to the area.

“Just five months after officially opening, the Elizabeth line has delivered more than 54 million journeys.

“To date the Royal Borough of Greenwich has transferred over £9.8million in Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 funds to Transport for London; the remaining money will be paid by March 2025, in line with our new agreement with TfL.”

Woolwich Elizabeth Line roundel
Greenwich agreed to pay £15m towards the station at Woolwich in 2013

Why is Greenwich lumbered with the bill?

The issue is complex and little-understood, even by councillors, some of whom tried to deny there was a problem when news of the shortfall was revealed last year.

Because of the refusal of City Hall and central government to include Woolwich in their original plans during the 2000s and early 2010s, Greenwich is the only borough that has had to pay towards having a Crossrail station in its borough. In the end, Berkeley Homes built the “box” for the station, and a deal was later struck to fit out the station so trains could stop.

In the agreement, part of this money was to come from a “roof tax” on developments in the Woolwich area, levied through a system known as Section 106 payments. Other cash was to come from what was then a new charge on builders – the community infrastructure levy (CIL).

While other boroughs have been able to keep all their CIL money, Greenwich has to pay half the cash it received for strategic projects towards the new station, with the other half being kept for other major schemes in the borough. Other CIL cash goes to City Hall to pay for Crossrail as a whole while a portion goes to neighbourhood projects.

However, that other half is also underwriting the Crossrail bill – so if there is a shortfall, Greenwich will use that money to pay the rest of the cost of the station.

To compound matters, when Greenwich introduced CIL under Roberts’ successor Denise Hyland in 2015, it did so later than other boroughs and it set its rates lower, meaning less income.

It also failed to increase rates when parts of the borough became more desirable for developers – something new leader Anthony Okereke has pledged to fix.

So while other boroughs – such as Brent, which charges developers almost three times as much money in some areas – have been able to capitalise on windfalls from developers, Greenwich’s CIL kitty has been almost entirely committed to the Crossrail station.

The two-year extension means that Greenwich now has a chance of paying the bill without dipping into cash meant for other projects such as education, health or transport infrastructure.

Okereke said recently that details of proposed new CIL rates would be released soon; they will have to be approved by a planning inspector before becoming law.

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