‘Why won’t Greenwich Council listen to residents affected by new developments?’

The proposed development at Victoria Way, Charlton
The development at Victoria Way, Charlton, looking north towards Dupree Road

Last Tuesday, Greenwich Council’s planning board approved a 330-home development in Victoria Way, Charlton, including two 10-storey towers and 144 car parking spaces, to jeers from the public gallery.

The scheme was bitterly opposed by neighbours and the local ward councillors. But none of the six councillors on the planning board who backed the scheme even tried to explain why they voted for a development which even City Hall and Transport for London had voiced concerns about, due to the high number of car parking spaces.

With many neighbours feeling ignored by the planning process, Charlton resident HELEN JAKEWAYS asks why Greenwich Council and developers even bother asking residents for their views – and suggests there is a better way forward.

I am completely baffled by the purpose and implementation of the planning and redevelopment consultations which Greenwich Council and developers have run over the last few years when considering new developments.

These are very often poorly communicated and managed with very tight turnaround times, and do not appear to result in either consistency or transparency of decision making processes or outcomes.

Many people spend a lot of their own (unpaid) time meticulously preparing responses to these consultations as requested by those running them.

It appears to me to be unhelpful in the extreme when sessions such as that reported at the Fairview New Homes Victoria Way meeting take place.

Greenwich Council planning board, 9 January 2018
Local residents pack out Greenwich Council’s planning board… only to be ignored

It is also unhelpful when the views of local councillors, some of whom work tirelessly to mitigate the effects of this wholly ineffective state of affairs, do not appear to be taken into consideration either.

The perception created is that “stakeholder consultation” is largely a box-ticking exercise to fulfil statutory requirements. There is little genuine sense that when people put the effort in, it is going to be worth their time.

We all know we need to solve the housing problem in London. But alienating existing residents to ameliorate developers whose primary purpose is to generate profits for shareholders, and who have to be pushed to provide paltry levels of social and affordable housing, does nothing to help build harmonious community relationships.

Perhaps Greenwich Council could run a consultation on how it should consult and engage with “stakeholders”, so a basic level of consultation good practice and decision-making process, informed by the views of those stakeholders, can be established, communicated and consistently implemented?

There is no point asking people what they think if you don’t want to hear what they have to say, and can provide no adequate explanation for when their views are not used to inform plans and ideas which are directly going to impact on their lives.

This is worse than not asking them in the first place.

This is an amended version of a comment originally posted at The Charlton Champion.

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    10 comments

    1. This is our experience too in the infamous borough of Southwark with it’s cultural cleansing of Elephant & Castle. Now they are pretending to sort out the mess they have caused for social housing in the borough by potentially inflicting large eyesores elsewhere in the borough. Nobody believes the consultation is anything but hogwash.

      Adding insult to injury most of the plans that have surfaced seem to include only the minimum required number of “affordable” units – no mention of social housing whatsoever. This has been pointed out time and time again in recent years, but Southwark, like other borough councils seem to have determined the right thing to do is stick their fingers in their ears, or cover their eyes and shout “LALALALA” in the face of other ideas, requests for changes or the fears of locals.

    2. Of course developers don’t want public opinion – that night not align with their overall aims. Of course a consultation is a box ticking exercise; various points in processes trigger this and if they didn’t have to do if they wouldn’t.

      By extension this means that this is what the Council wants as they need developers with money to take on the developing of sites.

      Developing residential schemes are all about maximising profit which equates to density.

    3. It leaves residents with a sense of grievance and complete bafflement over the way decisions are made. These consultations are a nonsense when they are repeatedly ignored without even the courtesy of an explanation as to why the views of residents have been ignored.

      Why do developers seem to have such power over the planning process?

      How much profit will they make on this development?

      Why are they so persuasive that their will obtains?

      Cui bono?

    4. I am very sorry to hear that this development has been passed – it will be horrendous for those living in the area. Sadly I am not surprised. Greenwich Council appear to have no interest in local democracy. Once they have made up their mind on a development, all ‘consultation’ seems little more than a box ticking exercise and the concerns of local residents are completely ignored. They don’t appear to believe in compromise or seeking the best for the local communities.

      We’ve experienced this in our community around Hervey Road playing field. The council have decided to turn the field into a multi pitch formal sport complex, forecasting up to 50,000 players a year (almost 1000 a week) using this, along with a pavilion complete with bar and function area, and a floodlit MUGA far less than the recommended distance away from local homes.The added traffic, parking issues, noise, light and air pollution in a Air Quality Management Area, will completely destroy the quiet, gentle character of the area at present. No one is against sport being played on the field, but not on this intensive scale. This is our local park according to Greenwich’s own assessment in an area of local park deficiency and we want to have our human right to be free to enjoy our own homes upheld (Article 1 of the First Protocol).

      Since work on the site has begun, the council have failed to fulfil at least two planning conditions and potentially committed a wildlife offence. They ignore their own and national guidelines on biodiversity and health and wellbeing. They appear to have an arrogant attitude believing themselves to be untouchable.

      There were 82 objections to this development and only 5 for it: 82 to 5 = 94% against the development. Compare this to BREXIT which was 51.9% vs 48.1% where we are frequently told that ‘the people have spoken’ and their will must be respected.

      Where is our local democracy in Greenwich?

    5. With access to vast sums of money, property developers entice and excite the politicians with incentives and sweeteners. The politicians ask the public for its views and, a response having been made, the politicians follow the money-trail and the public is ignored.

      The result? An earner for the developers…and increasing noise, air-borne pollution, traffic congestion, ill-health and unhappiness.

      I can’t see much changing. In May, residents will be invited to the Polling Stations and will vote the politicians in again. The developers are rubbing their hands. And so it goes…

      Now, where did I put my asthma puffer?

    6. This lack of transparency from the council by failing to publish the overall feelings obtained from residents and businesses who completed their ‘consultation documents’ can also be said to apply to proposals for changes to parking regulations in the locality. In this case the East Greenwich area, in which my small business for one will undoubtedly be affected by the removal of bays, currently allowing ‘free parking for two hours’. Replacing these with meter parking and more resident permit only places will affect both residents and businesses in a negative as well as ,for some, a potentially positive way, but no concessions were allowed for my retail shop having traded on the site for 30 years plus. No reasons were given for ploughing ahead with their proposals, without providing us with any feedback on the feelings expressed on the consultation document, or figures of those in favour versus those against. This smacks of simply going through the process of consultation but ‘binning’ the results- a pointless exercise which costs us all money. Were meters going in here regardless as they are a profit centre? The whole process of consultation needs to be more regulated and overseen by an independent body.

    7. I totally agree with the main thrust of this post, i.e. that our elected representatives don’t actually represent us, however, I’m slightly scratching my head as to why “providing too many parking spaces” is an issue. So many new applications that I have noticed these days don’t seem to provide enough – or even any – parking spaces, causing overspill and strain on existing parking availability. Kidbrooke Village being one, and Grove Market Place being another. While using Public Transport wherever possible is laudable, sometimes you just have to have a car, and therefore you also have to have somewhere to park it when it’s not in use.

    8. The trouble is, Nick, is the area is bunged up pretty much every daytime. It’s perfectly possible to live in that area without owning a car – other areas may vary – and a lot of new developments now come with hire facilities.

    9. I’m so sorry to read the Greenwich Council has done it again! In the Royal Arsenal case, they produced a report recommending approval of a proposed outrageous building, before the residents consultation had closed, so that showed us how much our voice was heard. As this happens all the time and everywhere, the press doesn’t seem to care about it, but that’s exactly why they should care. They should expose these councils (and builders) for what they are, and show the world how much they fail to protect their residents. There’s more about the Woolwich Arsenal story on several posts on this blog, including this one: https://robynchristinewaiteblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/23/the-path-to-justice-means-never-again/

    10. Hi Monica – yes, I followed the Arsenal stuff from afar. What I never did understand, though, was despite the ferocity of the allegations against Greenwich’s planning department, Robyn then went canvassing with their boss during the general election. Seems very odd to rage against a system, then tell others to support it. Anyhow, hey-ho.

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