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Oh dear. One of the most visible changes brought about by Crossrail is now in for planning. Developer HUB are proposing to build a tower beside Abbey Wood station. The Planning Reference is 16/2878/F and you can comment by searching here.

The area is labelled as an “Opportunity Area” which is suitable for tall buildings under Greenwich Council plans. But what could, and should, be transformative for the area sadly isn’t. Well, not for the better.

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It’s so, so grey. One of the big issues here is that if you build tall in a predominantly low rise area then make the design exemplary. It’ll be seen for miles around. Unfortunately this is one of the worst plans I’ve seen in London.

The facade resembles some of the cheapest system-built architecture of the past and the colour scheme appears to be one of the dreariest it’s possible to draw up.

What makes it more inexcusable is that the developers have to pay a lower rate of contributions to Greenwich Council, in the form of the Community Infrastructure Levy, as the eastern part of the borough has a lower rate for developers to encourage new builds and development. It’s around half the levels elsewhere in the borough. That saving is not going into the design.

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How many shades of dreary grey can they use? It’s oppressive, drab and overbearing. The lower rise block is 11 storeys , incorporates bigger flats and a hotel and is dark grey.

The tower is now 30 storeys in height and stepped back from the street within the second building. That’s a good decision, and the cross-bracing looks fine but it’s also drab; so many shades of grey.

The tower itself is very dull. Grey cladding again of course. The peak of the tower is dull and unimaginative. Completely devoid of flair and imagination:

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I’d previously read that architects ShedKM took inspiration from adjacent industrial estates and Thamesmead’s tower blocks. I thought it was a joke.

I doubt major changes can be enacted now but at least alter the grey cladding for stone or brick cladding on the lower block. Similar materials could work on the lower section of the other building with the cross bracing offering contrast. The tower itself needs to be far less dull in colour and form.

All the renders are on bright sunny days. We know in reality so much grey is going to appear stifling and dreary on the many grey days the UK climate offers.

I mean, someone has purposefully chosen the colour in this block seen below. Grim:

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The horizontal banding looks pretty cheap as it is, but with this facade design it’s a case of one panel or another being slotted in between. So why choose this grey paneling? Lighter stone would be far better. Or render. Or brick – real or otherwise. Or tiles as seen on some recent developments. But not a bloody great grey panel.

As for the rest – well there’s some commercial space which is welcome and a public plaza. All that is good. But this is the first tower planned as part of Crossrail related redevelopment in a long-blighted town. It has the ability to change opinions and reputations or cement them. It’s not doing the former.

The proposal sees almost no car parking for the 208 flats. Being two minutes from Crossrail means this makes sense though it will place heavy pressure locally.

Developer cash

Coming back to the Community Infrastructure Levy, which is money developers pay to the council to mitigate impacts upon the area, and documents reveal £1.2 million will likely be paid depending on housing tenure mix.

That can do a hell of a lot in a neglected town – particularly the 3000 home estate which is nearby. But will Greenwich use it for such? They previously havn’t whilst decline and neglect continues.

Just this week it was shown that money from small scale developments in Abbey Wood, of which there aren’t many, was taken away from an area crying out for investment and put towards paying for a school in Charlton:

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Many obvious questions here. Why, out of ALL the developments across the borough, did they only use two in Abbey Wood to take money from? Abbey Wood sees barely any new developments so there’s not much scope to secure cash locally for improvements. The estate in particular could badly do with it.

Why wasn’t the many developments closer to Charlton on the Peninsula utilised?

Why even use s106 developer cash here? Shouldn’t central Government be funding school expansions?

Whatever the reason, that’s £200,000 not being spent in a town that desperately needs investment. What will happen with the £1.2 million from the tower? Will the estate be improved? Many other councils use cash locally to aid locals. Greenwich Council havn’t. That needs to change.

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