Greenwich earmarks periphery for renewal

Greenwich has become the latest London borough to set out its stall to developers and investors, pitching itself as a well-connected cultural hub with a need for better affordable housing.

Until recently, the Greenwich Peninsula - the area around the O2 Arena in the northernmost part of the borough - has seen the most high-profile developments.

But speaking to industry professionals at an event timed to coincide with its Tall Ships sailing festival last week, the council’s deputy leader Danny Thorpe explained how the focus is shifting towards its outer corners such as Charlton and Woolwich, which have traditionally been the most deprived.

“You can go to some boroughs in London where the aim of the game is to get to £5 beers and £10 burgers,” he said. “That’s not what we’re looking for. It is about decent affordable homes in mixed communities.”

Several estate regeneration projects are already under way, the most high-profile of which is Berkeley Homes’ £1bn Kidbrooke Village on the site of the former Ferrier Estates. Residential developer Lovell is also undertaking a £269m redevelopment of the Connaught, Morris Walk and Maryon Road and Grove estates in Woolwich, which will create 1,500 new homes.

Thorpe said estate regeneration was a key part of Greenwich’s development strategy and that it was looking for partners to bring forward new projects.

Another major scheme is Charlton Riverside, a 275-acre site on the banks of the Thames that could accommodate up to 7,500 homes and that Thorpe described as “an opportunity to create a new area for London”. Developer Rockwell has acquired 15 acres of land and submitted plans to develop 975 homes, including a 28-storey tower, while U+I and Proprium Capital Partners have acquired a 10-acre industrial site with plans to convert it to residential.

Infrastructure needs

But that leaves a lot more space for homes. Thorpe said that the council wanted to make some progress on site clearance and infrastructure before progressing with further development, but that more development partners would ultimately be sought.

“We like it when developers come forward with their vision and say how they fit into the Greenwich story. We are looking for long-term relationships with people who are interested in our community,” Thorpe said.

However, it is unlikely to sanction many more tall towers at Charlton. “What we’re not looking for is another Peninsula,” he added. “The height will need to be 10 storeys maximum - high density but low rise.”

The council is hoping that this influx of new homes will be supported by new transport connections and economic growth in the cultural sector. Crossrail, which opens in 2018, will provide new connections at Woolwich and Abbey Wood and plans are under way for a 180,000 sq ft arts venue within Berkeley Homes’ Woolwich Arsenal Riverside scheme, after a £31m investment plan was approved last month.

“Greenwich is the most visited area outside central London: it is a brand that’s known around the world,” said Thorpe. “This culture stuff isn’t just nice; it’s a key part of our economy.”

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