Greenwich Council to buy Woolwich Jobcentre for housing?

Woolwich job centre

Greenwich Council are looking into the possibility of acquiring Woolwich Jobcentre on Wellington Street. The building is located by the Town Hall.

The owners have previously sought to convert the building to residential housing under the Government’s permitted rights scheme, as noted in this post from last November.

With the severe shortage of truly affordable housing this is to be welcomed. It will likely save a substantial sum as the council are obliged to house certain individuals and families classified as vulnerable, yet central Government actions have led to an ever-increasing reduction in social housing in which to house people. Families that councils have a statutory duty to house lets not forget. Authorities are thus left in a difficult spot. So they often end up in expensive private lettings, or forced to move many miles away.

Whether the housing would be provided directly or under the council’s arms-length property company ‘Meridian Homestart‘ remains to be seen.

One other building I’ve long thought would go down the resdiential conversion path is Riverside House, which the council have mostly (completely?) vacated yet own the freehold. It seems HM Customs and Probation Services occupy some floors which provide a regular income but I’ve been told some floors are now vacant since departments moved to the Woolwich Centre. Will additional income and/or savings achieved by residential conversion, either directly or by selling to a developer, lead to a sale?

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Another Lewisham development gains approval

87 Loampit_Vale

After revisions from earlier plans, this project at 87-89 Loampit Vale has been approved by Lewisham planners.

Original plan

Original plan

It’s had a reduction in height from earlier drafts. This approved scheme tops out at seven floors.

It’s adjacent to the western railway lines by Lewisham station, and is just the other side of the viaduct from the recently completed towers at ‘Renaissance’.

Architects BPTW designed the scheme for Family Mosaic. 49 flats are to be included, and a new link created between Loampit Vale and Bertrand Street. ‘Affordable’ home levels are 31%.

87-89 Loampit Vale

Other Highways improvement works, as part of a Section 278 agreement includes:

• Enhancing lighting on Bertrand Street

• New footway on Bertrand Street (along site frontage)

• Enhancing the pedestrian environment under the railway bridge on Bertrand Street adjacent to the site (surface treatment (footways & walls), lighting, works to prevent birds roosting

Also in Lewisham, the 410-bed student block at Sherwood Court is seeing external cladding applied. Beside that site is a 13 floor tower named Flora Villas, with work imminent there.

Thurston Central is seeing the finishing touches applied. ASDA are due to occupy the ground floor commercial space but it seems to have recently gone quiet on that front.

Lewisham Gateway’s third block is now up to around the fifth floor.

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Woolwich riverside towers on the up

riverside towers

I havn’t wrote a post for a good few weeks, and so after being contacted to ask if the blog is on hold, I thought it right that I should add something to give the appearance it’s ticking over.

So anyway, a post to show how Berkeley Homes first towers by the river at Woolwich are shaping up. The block on the right in the above image completed a few months ago. Pretty perfunctory. The first two blocks of another six are now rising.

RRoyal Arsenal Riverside Tower

And here’s a render of the eventual six riverside towers:

Arsenal entire site showing 6 towers

Work is now also underway at Phase 3 of the Arsenal masterplan at a section named Laboratory Square. Here’s a very uninteresting shot showing little, except a couple of cranes. It does though signify that this phase is now well underway:

phase 3

phase 3 laboratory square

This development will mirror the buildings on the opposite side of No 1 Street in terms of scale and materials. There’s a few 1980s-esque elements in there such as the arch. Some of the Arsenal wall has been removed to open up the area.

Work on the Crossrail station is proceeding. Here’s how it’s looking with the now reprieved listed Officers House on the left. Berkeley were proposing demolition for a taxi rank.

woolwich crossrail station

Over at the town centre, and this shot of Beresford Square below shows the almost complete towers above the forthcoming Crossrail station. The square was pretty barren even early in the evening. The hopes of the square becoming a lively, attractive place at night are far from realised.

Beresford Square

Beresford_Square_Night

I always thought this would be a better spot for the big TV in General Gordon Square. Perhaps positioned where the toilets are by the Gate House. For one thing, being a hard surfaced area it can handle crowds for events. General Gorden Square is less suitable, as it comprises an extensive water feature and stepped grassed sections. Holding events on it has seen patches of greenery die off. I doubt the designers of the square envisaged large crowds hence the lack of suitable landscaping. And the back of the giant TV is a poor first impression when leaving the station.

Beresford Square was also pretty filthy with in-grained dirt and graffiti (see pic below). If Greenwich Council cannot clean major town centre squares then what hope for other areas? As I’ve wrote before, they have the expensive equipment to do so. They boasted about it on the front of their own newspaper. And they have multi-million pound squares paid for by the GLA less than five years ago. Why not maintain to a decent standard? There’s still much wrong with RBG’s design and maintenance of public spaces. An hour with a jet washer would make this appear as good as new:

beresford sq

Lastly, work is underway on upgrading the dual carriageway to Plumstead. £1.2m is to be spent on improving this stretch of road. The scheme looks very good. Though I’m not entirely sure this particular section is part of it:

woolwich central res work

The work will bring back the removed westbound bus lane and introduce properly segregated cycle lanes. All good news. As I passed the area by Plumstead station there was, as ever it seems, many cars parked terribly blocking the existing cycle lanes and bus stops. Enforcement seems non-existent at that spot, like many others, as it’s a constant issue there.

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Charlton & Greenwich update: retail parks, housing and schools

There’s been a fair few things happening in Charlton and Greenwich recently and so I thought a short round-up is in order.

valley house newFirstly, housing. A revised planning application has been submitted for a block on Woolwich Road, at the site of Valley House. It’s now seven storeys and includes 73 flats. Greenwich council’s planning board refused the original plans and so its returned and reduced in height. I didn’t mind the original but the new proposal is pretty good in terms of scale. The renders are likely to be worse than the finished result given materials used. Blue tiles at street level and green above.

valley house aerial

It does show that refusals can sometimes lead to better proposals. It can appear that some advocate approving most things as developers always win on appeal. It’s a fair point as the odds are stacked against councils in many cases, but certainly not always. This proves that refusing can pay off, along with refusals such as the proposed White Horse pub demolition down the road which was refused by the council, and then again on appeal.

Sadly the council did approve demolition of the Lord Hood pub in Greenwich recently. Though the circumstances are not the same as the White Horse it’s a real shame this attractive, tall, well proportioned building is to go.

lord hood

Back to Charlton, and the housing proposal is the type of scheme that is the future in that area; housing with commercial below. What’s happening just along Woolwich Road is the past. But a past that is about to open, such are the mistakes recently made. A crap, cheap, nasty extension to the retail barns has been built. Even worse is the restaurant unit. Frankie and Benny’s will move in. The 1990s type PFI ‘style’ has graced SE7.

frankie benny 2

The fat sloping roof. The windows that don’t quite line up. It’s all so cheap. Short term building for short term thinking. Hopefully it has 10 years max. Just along is an answer to a question no one asked. Fancy a view of a petrol station?

seats

Just north is the forthcoming Brocklebank retail park. It’s now underway though not much to see. It should complete by the end of 2016, with four units will now be included. They are Next, Primark, Aldi and Mothercare are under offer.

The site was sold by LXB to a pension fund in December.

Heading west from here towrads the Peninsula, and the walk to new housing has a fair bit of broken street furniture, litter and car dominated. This wont get people out of cars or overcrowded buses for the 5-10 minute hop to the shops. Not sure who is at fault for much of it – some appears to be private land. Then we see the newer blocks of Greenwich Millenium Village heading south:

roundabout

Just along from that site, Greenwich Council last week approved the new St Mary Magdalene school. 1800 students and 200 staff. There’s a temporary school on site which will progressively grow.

And that just about wraps it up. Lots more going on over the rest of Peninsula of course. One striking addition is an energy centre now under construction.

power-greenwich

More details can be found on this very good site covering the Peninsula.

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Kidbrooke towers and new town centre begin construction

phase 3

Work on Phase 3 of Kidbrook’s redevelopment is now well underway. Located directly beside the station, a 25-storey tower is included in plans alongside lower rise blocks comprising 1,238 homes.

Phase 3 building

Kidbrooke siteDespite controversy over height the density is needed. It’s directly beside the station with quick links into various London terminals. The population of London is rising quickly to 10 million.

The arguments about living in flats not being suitable for families, so often heard in the UK, don’t really hold water. Families in most developed and advanced European and Asian nations live quite happily in flats. It works well if the buildings and surrounding areas are well designed. The idea of flats is fine; implementation is key. And of course affordability, which is woeful. Endless government props only push up prices, excluding far more than they help plus push up taxpayer costs as rents also rise along with housing benefit costs (£25 billion a year and counting now), whilst very little is done about increasing supply. The governments so -called ambitious plan is 200k homes a year by 2020. The UK built 300-400k a year for much of the 20th century.

Back to flats and the need for more, and it also means sufficient play areas and community facilities. Your typical inner city Spanish street, for example, has families in flats above commercial spaces – shops, bars, offices, all sorts. But there’s numerous parks nearby, which crucially are well maintained and appealing, as well as playgrounds on most streets. Schools open late and are integrated into the community. No buildings behind 10 foot fences well away from the heart of town. Often they are on busy main streets offering sports and other activities running long into the evening, with facilities used by both school children and others. Adult football teams one night, teenage basketball the next etc.

But it’s nice and sunny, so a wide range of street activity can happen, thus living in flats is fine? That’s a retort sometimes heard, to explain why it wouldn’t in the UK. But its much the same with apartment living in much of Northern Europe. Frequent visits to northern European countries show how well it can work, and often does. The UK lags far behind in a whole range of services and planning.

But security and safety within blocks is also key. It takes just one disruptive occupier in a block of flats to affect many around them. So cracking down on that is essential. Cause problems and you’re out. That’s how harmony and good living standards are maintained in high density living. That’s how it is in most nations with high density living. The UK has often been way too lax with anti-social behaviour with sometimes disastrous effects for those living in the vicinity. Couple that with long term neglect of many high density areas and they’re now taboo.

Tall blocks also work well, if the design and tenancy mix is right. in a well planned system, the tallest blocks could be let, for say 5 years, to occupiers in their 20s and 30s without children. The smaller blocks then reserved mainly for those with children on longer term leases or owner-occupiers. That way you have a stable community. No short term 6 month or one year tenancies with all the related insecurity and fractured communities as mass buy-to-let takes hold, with too many landlords also allowing houses and flats to rot.

Many in the UK have a knee jerk aversion to high density living, which given the numerous failures of many developments is understandable. Yet there’s examples of success. Towers and flats are fine. It’s how they are designed and function that needs changing. And with a rising population it has to be embraced and designed well. Endless sprawl is no answer.

TfL and Network Rail site

Back to Kidbrooke itself now, and here’s the site the other side of the line where TfL and Network Rail are looking to build a 20-storey tower:

TfL site

kidbrooke TfL

Site of proposed development

Alongside these plans, infrastructure upgrades are needed. And we go back to the old story of Southeastern and lack of investment, mainly emanating from government cock ups and short termism.

Kidbrooke Station saw 17% growth last year and 19% the year before. Rail minister Claire Parry, who extended Southeastern’s contract for another four years in 2014 after the DfT messed up franchising, said back in January that the Department for Transport would decide on Southeastern’s June 2015 request for additional trains by March this year. Well, there’s not much of March left and still no word.

That earlier mess up was described as:

“A ‘complete lack of common sense’ in the Department for Transport’s handling of the West Coast Main Line franchise deal will cost taxpayers ‘£50m at the very least’, MPs have said.”

The glacial approach to investment for improving services in the region despite rapidly rising passenger numbers and population growth are a clear indictment of why removing control of Southeastern services from Westminster, Whitehall and the Department for Transport control is badly needed.

Since TfL took over lines in East London last year they have ordered 31 new trains for the lines as part of a wider 45 train order to also bolster other lines. Southeastern obviously won’t. No company would when you can be turfed out in two years. So it falls to the DfT to plan and provide, which they’ve failed to do. Given the Department will see cuts of a third of its entire budget in the next five years under Osborne’s spending plans, don’t expect that to happen to any great degree. What the area needs is power taken from their hands and given to TfL, with London given more control over it’s own finances to fund its fast rising needs.

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Woolwich fire station’s conversion to housing approved

Greenwich Council last night approved proposals to convert the former fire station into nine homes. The station closed in 2014.

woolwich fire station

The building is located on Sunbury Street, opposite a former care home which is also to become housing. 48 flats will be built.

sunbury street flats

The fire station’s conversion to residential follows plans for the former police station that recently closed, as well as the Magistrates Court which closed in 2011. Some great photos of the interior can be seen here. Woolwich County Court is now also earmarked for closure. Future plans for the site have not been revealed.

Woolwich’s closure is not the only fire station to be affected by cuts in the service. East Greenwich and Erith stations are each losing one fire engine permanently despite very large scale housing plans in the vicinity. At least 2000 new homes are planned around Erith with thousands in Thamesmead, and around 20000 near East Greenwich on the Peninsula. Plumstead fire station is also likely to move from the Victorian building on the High Street to a spot near the bus garage but shouldn’t see any cuts to engine numbers.

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Lewisham developments progressing quickly

As recently covered, the big student block by the station named ‘Sherwood Court’ is rising quickly. Whilst changing trains at the station last week I took a couple of photos showing progress:

sherwood court

410 students will be living there. Should bring a bit of buzz about the place. Hopefully some decent cafes, pubs and restaurants will start to move into some nearby units. Once complete it should look like this. Below is the view from Thurston Road:

Sherwood court

Work is also progressing on next door’s Flora Villa development:

13-storey Flora Villas

13-storey Flora Villas. Student block to right

And the facade of the main blocks by the station are clearer to see:

lewisham blocks

Alongside these, the third building of that development is now underway. It was just reaching three-storeys when I passed – I think it’s now up another level.

lewisham central

The webcam looking over the site can be seen here. And by the summer the road layout should be mainly finished, which will allow an easier walk from the station to the town centre. Maybe.

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