Housing plans for Woolwich’s Ogilby site revealed

ogilby 2

These are the plans to demolish and replace 25 low rise flats on Wellington Street in Woolwich. 124 new homes are proposed. The site has been used for low rise housing by the Ogilby Housing Association since the 1950s.

To the left on the image above is the recently built Woolwich Centre and library. Behind can be seen the outlines of buildings planned for the site behind Tesco. Planning permission for that project was rejected earlier this year, but the masterplan does include high density housing. Tesco sold the site in October, along with others including Bexleyheath, Dartford and Lewisham, to Meyer Bergman. Given what was built and proposed at various sites, few will shed a tear over that news.

The plot forms part of the larger ‘Thomas Street Masterplan’, commissioned earlier this year. I wrote a post covering the plans which can be seen here. That plan saw 87 flats on the Ogilby site, which has now been boosted to 124.

Current buildings

Current buildings

To the immediate rear of the new flats is a proposed pocket park. There will be access from either end of the block.

ogilby aerial

Pocket park

The blocks range from 8 storeys beside the Woolwich Centre to 15 at the corner by the south circular.  Future plans for the former Tesco site are likely to move the tallest tower to that area, as opposed to the corner with Grand Depot Road where it loomed over listed Mews. Moving also locates it closer to the existing council tower block.

ogilby models

As I wrote earlier in the month, it joins a large number of other new builds nearby. On the other side of the street is the former cinema beside the Town Hall whichis currently under demolition for a block. In addition, the job centre is to be converted to 60 flats.

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Schools for 2000+ pupils coming to Greenwich Peninsula

St Mary Magdalene school

Following on from my last post which looked at a proposed 36 storey tower beside the o2, this post heads south a couple of hundred metres to cover proposed schools. St Mary Magdalenes have applied to build a very large school on land to the north of the junction between Millennium Way & John Harrison Way. This isn’t any old school though. It’s a bit of a monster, offering space for 1646 pupils, ranging from nursery age all the way through to a sixth form facility. More than 200 staff will be employed.

A smaller, temporary school currently exists on the site, having opened in February this year, and has space for 120 pupils. The full school is expected to be complete by September 2017.

Housing blocks behind in latter stage of plan. Up to 10 years away

Site with  housing blocks  shown.  Thes ein latter stage of plan – up to 10 years away

The reason this post came together now is because of a number of tweets seen last week in quick succession. Firstly, yet another photo showing a huge scrum of people trying to board buses at the Peninsula bus station. Shortly after were tweets about planned schools nearby and also tweet about TfL cuts over the next 5 years.

The site is quite isolated. The school’s catchment area will cover a wider area than just the Peninsula, with many pupils from Charlton and Woolwich expected. Bus capacity is an obvious source of concern, as they’ll be a major source of transport for pupils and parents, and so many adding to existing flows doesn’t bode well. The bus station is due to be rebuilt, but can TfL even maintain existing levels of service with a cut of £700 million a year to their operating budget, let alone increase? And then there’s cars – some parents will try and drop off. Those cars will meet additional traffic from new housing in the area and large scale expansion of retail parks nearby.

The site is also close to the Blackwall tunnel. Pollution is an obvious concern, as are plans to feed another tunnel’s worth traffic from Silvertown onto the existing southbound a102 road (which will remains at the same number of lanes southbound when the tunnels converge) which will further slow down traffic. Add in extra traffic from the school and increased congestion across Greenwich and the wider area looks certain. Throw in Charlton Riverside plans over the next decade and issues mount. Oh, and the cruise liner terminal too.

Site of 3.5k homes

Site of 3.5k homes

Along with much else on the Peninsula the concern is around adequate provision of infrastructure. Buses are packed, the Jubilee Line is near capacity.

A small increase of around four trains an hour by 2019 will be provided for the many new homes and businesses on the eastern stretch of the line. Just today, 3500 new homes have been announced close to West Ham station. It matches large scale building plans at Stratford, Canning Town and Canada Water. Can the underground and bus service cope over the coming five to ten years?

Stationers’ Academy

Another school is also looking to open on the Peninsula. The Leigh Academies Trust are hoping to open a secondary school by September 2017. The plan was approved in March 2015 by the Department for Education. This will be far smaller with pupil admission numbers of 180 and a sixth form of 250. Plans are not as far advanced it appears with this school.


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Another tower proposed in Greenwich – this one 36 storeys

aeg tower

With much recent focus on developer Knight Dragon’s 15000 home masterplan at Greenwich Peninsula it has been easy to forget that other developments are being worked on at the Peninsula. One of those is a tower directly in front of the o2 arena, and a planning application has now been submitted.

Aerial view of proposed tower site

Aerial view of proposed tower site

It’s a big tower – 36 storeys in height, making it 115 metres tall. The smaller, secondary building is 42m tall. The developers are AEG Europe, who operate the o2 arena, and the architects are Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands.

The height seems about right for such a location, with many other towers planned nearby. One concern is sufficient planning for infrastructure in the vicinity. The Jubilee Line will have a very hard time coping with the multitude of vast developments at almost every station on its eastern end. Lack of infrastructure is often cited as a reason not to build. On the contrary, building and population growth is a reason to greatly speed up infrastructure.

The total number of flats planned totals 395 across the tower and smaller building beside, with commercial space at street level. With these buildings facing onto the square and entrance to the o2 filling them should be easy.

Proposed tower in red amongst other consented towers

Proposed tower in red among other consented towers

Piling is also now well underway on Knight Dragon’s towers just to the east. This how they will appear:

Now underway

Now underway

In addition, plans for a 1800 pupil, 200 staff capacity school nearby on the Peninsula are moving ahead quickly. I’ll focus on that in a follow up post. It’s hard to envisage the Jubilee Line, and particularly buses, catering for all the additional demand in the next 10 years given current levels of crowding. Crossrail will help alleviate the Jubilee in part, but the sheer scale of planned housing in close proximity to many stations means any respite could be short lived. Thames Clipper ferries could provide a big solution here, at least for those heading west to Canary Wharf and central London. In addition, a bridge over to Canary Wharf from the Peninsula looks all the more pressing.

One final point regarding the Peninsula – former cllr and local expert Mary Mills has a new book out covering a wide ranging history of the Peninsula. Details are here.

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More student flats proposed for East Greenwich

student flats 3d model

The Old Fire station in East Greenwich has recently been renovated to provide a number of flats. There are now proposals for a small block of student flats to be built in the car park, adjacent to the elevated Blackwall Tunnel approach.

student flats aerialIt’s not a large block, though the location is far from great. The council advised the developers that a hotel or student flats would be preferable to housing given its location. It joins another building abutting the approach, with an Ibis hotel under construction nearby.

Over in Charlton, and the owners of the Antigallican pub have put in planning permission for conversion of space above the pub, along with an extension, to provide 11 flats.


They are also looking at providing two commercial units beside the building – a gym and retail unit. Planning Reference is 15/2272/F

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Proposal for Woolwich job centre to become 60 flats

Woolwich job centre

In the latest of a string of civic buildings changing use to residential in Woolwich, proposals are in for the former Job Centre beside the town hall on Wellington Street to be converted to 60 flats. Planning ref. is 15/3405/PN2

Under current planning law, permitted rights rules for office to residential conversion means planning approval is a formality, and no affordable housing need be provided. It’s these rules that mean there’s a strong chance that the former council block at Riverside House will also see residential conversion, when all remaining occupants leave.

The Job Centre’s change follows conversions of the town’s Magistrates’ Court, which is now almost complete, and the Police Station, which is passing through planning. Though those were not approved under the same office-to-residential planning law.

ogilby housing

Over the road are the Ogilby housing blocks, as seen above. These are all now boarded up with demolition imminent. Demotion is also underway just down the road on the other side of the Town Hall, where the Woolwich Grand is to become more flats. A real loss of a venue that should have been at the forefront of regeneration, providing cultural attractions so badly lacking. Here’s the replacement:

Woolwich Grand replacement

Over by the station, and in a seemingly bizarre move, some mid-density three and four storey housing on Vincent and Burrage Roads are to come down, and a low-rise branch of Plumcroft Primary School built in its place. There’s clearly a need for schools, but demolishing housing there seems strange. It’s hard not to think the replacement school is in the wrong place, or at least under-utilising town centre land to a great extent, which is practically beside the DLR and Southeastern station.

Boarded up. Demo in 2016

Boarded up. Demo in 2016


Just next to this site on Vincent Road are lower rise housing and garages on council land which are not only seriously ugly, but a real waste of land:

burrage road garages

In the shot above, garages are on the left. Low rise housing seen on right with a nice prison like entrance gate. The other side of the garages facing Vincent Road can be seen below, with the condemned housing block behind:

Woolwich garages

It could be that this area wasn’t chosen as it will be incorporated into the large new leisure centre site, which will surely include housing above and behind. Directly adjacent is Wilkinson’s car park, which forms a decent chunk of the site.

That’s it for this brief round up. There’s many other sites across Woolwich that continue on. Though there’s still a huge number vacant or stalled, and the housing crises means all need building, and soon.

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Southeastern trains – the forgotton service

Southeastern train

Despite Southeastern lines being a core link connecting towns across south east London, both with each other and to the centre of the city, the routes seem almost invisible to a number of organisations and authorities in the capital.

Last month a report was released, which was backed by the Greater London Authority. It looked at how, and where, 600k people (about five years population growth at the moment) can be accommodated, and transport links to get them about. The glossy maps drawn up showing areas of development, and public transport lines, showed every TfL service – Underground, DLR, Crossrail, London Overground and even the bloody cable car. Over the river in the east, c2c rail lines were also shown. But the Southeastern line connecting many areas of major growth shown on the map such as Erith, Thamesmead, Abbey Wood, Woolwich and Greenwich, was notable by its absence.

This week I saw that Len Duvall, who represents Greenwich and Lewisham at the Greater London Authority, wrote to the Evening Standard about population growth and the pressure on services. He mentioned buses and tubes. Nothing about the train service which are growing quickly, and a core method of transport in his constituency. Perhaps he did and the Evening Standard cut it. It wouldn’t be a surprise – they often seem oblivious to transport in the south east.

I’ve wrote before about how stations like Deptford have seen 11% more passengers over the past year alone. At Kidbrooke it’s 19%. With the towers beside the station now underway, that level of growth could become the norm over the next five years. In addition, TfL and Network Rail are looking at a 20 storey tower the other side of the station. But TfL and NR aren’t in charge of securing more trains – the Department for Transport are, and they seem resolute in doing little for the area.

Local Conservative MP’s like to put out press releases bemoaning the service, conveniently ignoring it’s their colleagues that run the DfT and make the decisions on what trains go where. Southeastern themselves have little to do with it. If the DfT decided to, SE would have more stock to lengthen trains in 2016. I’m not letting Labour off though – they re-privatised the lines in 2006, enforced the nation’s highest fares increases for four years and did not allocate any extra trains.

Just yesterday a news story came out of an order of 80 new carriages. It follows various over the past few years. It’s very unlikely they will head to Southeastern, just like all the previous orders. Just about every other train company serving London has seen a fair bit of new stock the past five years, or confirmed orders for the next few years. Much new or additional stock is coming to Southern, Thameslink, South West Trains, London Overground, First Great Western, c2c, Chiltern and London Midland. Only Greater Anglia havn’t, but most of their suburban services passed to London Overground in May, and TfL have already ordered dozens of trains for those routes.

Southeastern’s services seem absent from the consciousness of various authorities and decision makers. Who is fighting the areas corner? There’s a couple of good MP’s, such as Labour’s Teresa Pearce who has been meeting the DfT and ministers, but she seems the exception. It could well be that chances of more stock arriving next year, which Southeastern is in competition for with various other regions of the country, will be lost. They are 30 year old trains being displaced as Thameslink receives thousands of shiny new carriages, but even a handful could allow many services to be lengthened. But will it happen with the area’s rail network seemingly overlooked?

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Thamesmead housing development plans revealed

Peabody plans aerial 2

Housing association Peabody have recently undertaken consultation on plans to rebuild much of the iconic Thamesmead estate. A large amount was demolished a few years ago, including the town’s shopping and community centre at Tavy Bridge, where former landowner Gallions planned to build a tower at the newly named ‘Southmere Village’. Since then progress has been glacial.

Gallions former plan for site

Gallion’s former plans for site

Peabody, a far larger group, announced in May 2013 they would ‘merge’ with Gallions, though in reality it was more of a takeover. Two and a half years later and re-worked plans have been revealed, with work by Proctor & Matthews alongside Mecanoo architects. It’s interesting to see how similar some elements of the plans are to the original scheme drawn up in the late 1960s. Plus, much of it appears similar to Gallions’ plans, which I covered about three years ago.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that by the time this begins, four years would have been wasted whilst housing is desperately needed and the local shopping parade has been reduced to rubble. The local library has also been moved 500 metres away from much remaining housing to a poorly accessible location, hidden below a dual carriageway in porta-cabins. The building it vacated a couple of years ago still stands, as the scheme has dragged along.

New thinking is old thinking

Peabody plans square

Water feature in square

At first glance the fundamentals of these new plans seem similar to both the original Tavy Bridge area and Gallion’s previous ideas.

Both Gallions and Peabody’s plans feature a tower facing the roundabout. The old Tavy Bridge had a community building on the corner of the lake, which new plans also feature. Gallions’ plans had a public square here too, which Peabody’s also include. Tavy Bridge similarly had a public space, though located above car parking.

Pyramid community building facing public space

Pyramid community building & public space

When constructed, Thamesmead adopted the model that surrendered much of the street level to cars. Firstly, this was due to wider planning policies that were popular at the time, as car ownership rates were rising and ideas of streets in the sky, on walkways and bridges, were popular. This could be seen at numerous post-war estates. The Aylesbury and Park Hill at Sheffield are famous examples, but the City of London also pushed it, most famously around London Wall. This led to separation of cars from pedestrians, who would happily walk above on walkways. They generally didn’t, as it was often more convoluted than dodging cars at street level. Secondly, and something which was specific to Thamesmead were the laws preventing ground floor occupation, due to its location on the Thames flood plain.

Now those restrictions no longer apply, it would be great to see some of the original Thamesmead estate retained and re-modelled, particularly along Harrow Manorway. Even a small amount restored and renovated would allow the link to the past to be retained, and these interesting buildings contributing to the streetscape.

Work to improve street level access?

Improve street level access?

The housing along Harrow Manorway were some of the earliest sections, and as such are the most complex and interesting in form. Ground floors were given over to parking and entrance was by first floor walkway, but reworking could allow entrance at street level to remove the dead frontage they provide to streets.

The wooden framed windows were also removed and tacky UPVC’s installed instead. It wouldn’t take a great deal to restore features such as that, whilst cleaning the concrete to a clean state, when it looked almost white. Sympathetic restoration of these features, whilst fixing the flaws of giving ground floor space to cars, could rejuvenate these buildings. In much of London they would be restored and cherished as some of the best examples of post war housing design.

Two libraries, two councils

The proposed community building beside the lake would house a Bexley Council library. This would be only a five minute walk from a new Abbey Wood library which Greenwich council last week approved moving beside Sainsbury’s on Harrow Manorway. The borough boundary runs down the middle of that road. Neither council appears to talk to the other. Abbey Wood library will be moving from Abbey Wood estate, where it is well used and serves a deprived area, plus helps bring footfall to a forgotten and neglected shopping parade, to a location close to where Bexley council have had long standing plans for a new library. Greenwich council will be paying £350k to do this.

It seems a decision from Greenwich council that benefits Thamesmead residents in Bexley Council rather than Greenwich council residents. It’s the same with £6m Crossrail work. It mainly benefits Thamesmead residents by improving areas they use to walk or catch the bus from the station. Abbey Wood’s main shopping parade beside the station was almost entirely overlooked. Belatedly, a far smaller sum of £300k was obtained from the Mayor, but a large amount will be spent on consultants (about £70k of that) and guidance, and very little for the utterly crap public realm seen there. Most respondents to the online consultation undertaken over the summer and seen here highlight the ugly street, poor lighting, parking problems and want improvements. It’s not going to happen with the small sum given.

It’s an odd council that focuses on neighbouring council’s residents above its own. Rightly or wrongly, it does seem to give credence to frequently heard speculation that many in Greenwich council aren’t particularly aware about what parts fall within their borough, and how it responds to neighbouring areas. No doubt the council will vociferously argue against, but there’s scant evidence to back it up. The shopping parade has huge scope for improvements. So much so that it would be worth a bid for major scheme status under the Local Implementation Plan, where the Mayor and GLA give money to councils for one big scheme each year.

Future progression

Peabody plans aerialPeabody’s plans for Thamesmead will likely be submitted for planning in the first half of 2016. It’s looking likely that 2018 will see the earliest new homes complete. That’s about eight years of land lying empty despite the dire need for new housing. It in close to Crossrail’s opening however, so good timing for those houses on sale to accumulate in value to a greater degree.

Following stages of the plan will hopefully not suffer such prolonged development. The site to the north is already vacant, and half the stretch along Harrow Manorway was approved for demolition by Peabody over the summer, with notices now being served to residents.

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