After a ten minute recess
the Planning Committee reconvened to consider the
outline planning application for the remainder of South Thamesmead stretching
from Abbey Wood station to Eastern Way. It was a much shorter session than for
Southmere Village but represents a bigger change. In the short term
Southmere won’t affect anyone, the site is already flattened, but elsewhere the loss of
green space, industrial units, shops and the local community, even if only
temporary, will be upsetting for some.
Once again the Council officer summarised the situation. Southmere Village will provide 525 homes but together with Coralline, Sedgemere and Binsey the number will rise to 1,622. They will likely be similar to Southmere with the tallest blocks facing Harrow Manorway, perhaps as high as 14 storeys and “falling away towards the east”.
There was an objection to the Coralline proposals, it came from Ms. Thind who was speaking on behalf of her parents. She was not impressed by the way Peabody had “dealt with the communities’ problems, it’s been more of a generic letter” approach.
For thirty years the community had established itself with residential and commercial property and owners who had taken the leases. Some had children who went to nurseries there and there are pensioners and families who live close to each other. “It might be called regeneration but it is actually gentrification.” Communities that do not want to move are being moved.
There have been comparisons with Kidbrooke, half of that estate was moved to Thamesmead and they are being displaced again. A beautiful picture of greenery is painted, but what is the cost? In Kidbrooke a one bedroom apartment costs a minimum of £420,000 with a 35% discount for preferred professions, nurses teachers etc. On the other side of Harrow Manorway all the apartments were sold to people in Hong Kong.
Peabody has regenerated in Westminster and Southwark but how many local people could afford them?
It was not reasonable to send out letters that said nothing more than fill in this form by this date with threats for non-compliance.
After Ms. Thind sat down the two Peabody representatives spoke again but said even less than on Southmere. Ms. Epps took up well under two minutes of her allotted nine and Mr. Bakie only a few seconds over two minutes of his nine. He had tried very hard to rehouse residents according to their wishes and “iterally 99% of them” chose to remain within Thamesmead.
The view of the Planning Committee appeared to be that Peabody had made such a good impression with their Southmere application that the three outlines could be taken on trust, indeed Councillor Davey said as much.
The Chairman directed that the Sedgemere plan be discussed first.
Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) was very unhappy with the concept of Compulsory Purchase. It was not part of the Planning Application but it had to be done “for the common good”.
Whilst in favour of the application, John Davey had concerns. One was the loss of the BP petrol station, “there are fewer and fewer of them” and another was the loss of the nearby convenience stores although Sainsbury’s was a mitigating factor. He was also disappointed by the fact that the Council Car Park in Felixstowe Road, currently the Crossrail HQ and due to return to Council control “probably won’t happen”. The area under the flyover might be used for “a cycling hub. He moved the Sedgemere plan for approval.
Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) seconded John Davey and 100% of members voted in favour of Sedgemere. (Possible construction date January 2020 to October 2022.)
Next was Binsey. Only Councillor Hackett had anything to say. He moved it straight away (seconded by Councillor Newman) and there was no further discussion. 100% again. (Possible construction date March 2021 to May 2024.)
Finally Coralline, the area currently set back behind a green area alongside Harrow Manorway. Councillor Hackett, as ward member, said it was the one that had generated most correspondence. He asked Ms. Thind to speak to him after the meeting.
Councillor David Leaf also sympathised with Ms. Thind and the threat of Compulsory Purchase. He said Coralline Walk was the the site of Thamesmead’s very first occupant and thought “the birthplace of Thamesmead” should be marked in some way, perhaps with a plaque.
Councillor Leaf was not satisfied with the new roundabout outside Sainsbury’s and was told that improvements would be instituted. The Lensbury Way leg will be moved and the road markings changed to encourage two lane use. Peabody will be putting up a maximum of £10 million towards the improvement of Harrow Manorway.
Councillor Davey returned, perhaps unwisely, to his experience as a Councillor for the Coralline Walk area. He said it doesn’t meet present day standards and “it was a nightmare for crime, one of the biggest headaches of my time as its Councillor. Drug dealing and all sorts of things. As long as we put in the same sort of attention to cutting down crime as the things we have just looked at it will be a vast improvement”. He lamented the loss of the green space fronting Harrow Manorway and seconded the application.
Councillor Newman chided Councillor Davey for his remarks, saying his family came from the Coralline area and to suggest it suffered “endemic crime and was depressing was unfair. It is a vibrant community”.
Councillor Davey said his remarks about crime were directed at people from outside the area who came in to cause trouble. Councillor Cafer Munur said that nevertheless, the area “like Kidbrooke is not fit for purpose”.
Another 100%. (Possible construction date July 2018 to January 2023.)
A footnote on Southmere Village accommodation from Labour’s former Shadow Housing Minister: The plans originally allowed for 168 social rents. This was changed at a late stage via the addendum to the agent to “affordable". The Mayor’s housing zone requirement is only for affordable housing not social. Peabody first said there would be new social rented housing built but that changed. It’s very disappointing.