Plans for Woolwich’s tallest building were nodded through by Greenwich councillors last night – with the biggest worry being how bins will be collected from the 523-home development.
Armourer’s Court will be built by Berkeley Homes on top of the eastern end of the Elizabeth Line station. An electricity substation for the new railway will be demolished and four blocks of 15, 21, 25 and 26 storeys built in its place, with shops and offices on the ground floor.
The 26-storey block will be just short of a 90-metre height limit placed on the area because of the proximity of London City Airport.
Berkeley Homes plans 128 homes at London Affordable Rent – about half market rents and available to those on housing waiting lists – and 55 for shared ownership, hitting Greenwich Council’s target for 35 per cent “affordable” homes. Another 16 homes could be switched to shared ownership if the development qualifies for a City Hall grant.
The site, on the edge of Berkeley’s Royal Arsenal development, had always been earmarked for development – Transport for London had been given permission for a 394-home, 25-storey scheme eight years ago, but the scheme, submitted under Boris Johnson’s mayoralty, had just 37 homes for people on waiting lists.
Last night Greenwich councillors praised the new design and passed the major scheme in just 67 minutes. One of the committee, Thamesmead West’s Chris Lloyd, even jokingly asked that the decision be hurried up so he could visit the toilet.
Paul Prichard, Berkeley’s divisional development director, said the company had been working with TfL on the “very constrained and challenging site”.
All homes would have the same “high quality architecture”, he said, promising new public space, new play areas and flexible commercial space. “We want to encourage coffee carts to develop into coffee shops,” he said.
Just four objections were received by the council, three in the week before the meeting. James Pargeter, a director of Gunnery Property, which owns adjacent business units, supported the scheme in principle but complained that refuse arrangements meant bin day would be chaos.
“They’re going to dump all our rubbish next to our properties – 144 bins, it’s not a small amount,” he said.
“I can foresee an awful squabble about who’s involved with the bins,” said Chris Lloyd, one of the councillors on the committee.
Prichard said there would not be so many bins being emptied, but pledged to find a way to fix the issue.
One Royal Arsenal resident, Marcus Cummings, the vice-chair of the Greenwich Safer Neighbourhood Board, complained that the council had not told him about the meeting and that his neighbours did not know about the development, which was featured on this website last year.
“Nobody in the Arsenal seems to know anything about this meeting whatsoever,” he said.
He complained that the new development would lead to an increase in crime. “If you have too much density of too many people, crime will increase,” he said.
Asked to elaborate by Lloyd, he said: “You’re going to have a mixture of a lot of people in a confined space … it’ll be a situation where it’s too tense, too confined.”
Prichard said all the Royal Arsenal service charges contributed to a community support officer for the estate and that there was CCTV on the site. “We try to make our developments as safe as we can,” he said.
Woolwich Elizabeth Line station was not designed with an eastern entrance in mind – the block will contain emergency access to the station only – and this was not brought up at the meeting.
But issues with taxis accessing the station were brought up by Greenwich Peninsula councillor David Gardner. A taxi rank is planned for Major Draper Square, behind the station, but building work has prevented this – and work on Armourer’s Court could block the route for five years.
“The public are very keen to have a taxi point at Woolwich Crossrail – when will that be open or can we have a way through to Plumstead Road as soon as possible? It’s a key concern for Woolwich and the wider borough,” Gardner said. Prichard said a temporary route would be opened.
When it came to the decision, Gardner said the new scheme was an improvement on the original plans. “I would prefer that the heights were slightly lower and density slightly lower but we have more social housing,” he said. “It’s positive that it’s car-free and there will be improvements to the public realm and landscaping. I think it’s a good design, I really like the design.”
Former council leader Denise Hyland said: “I’m very happy to support this, [the Royal Arsenal] is a very well-designed estate. It’s going to improve what currently is a station box. Berkeley has always been good at landscaping and we see that yet again with this design.”
All six councillors present supported the scheme, with planning chair Gary Dillon asking Berkeley to talk to local residents about their plans and for conditions to be inserted about waste management.
Berkeley has said the proposal would generate £2.5 million in community infrastructure levy for Greenwich Council. It will also have to pay £1.1 million towards local health services, £930,000 in carbon offsetting, £500,000 towards new pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and £300,000 towards the council’s jobs and training scheme GLLaB.
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