Woolwich’s ‘overbearing’ 27-storey Tesco tower set to be thrown out by Greenwich Council

Woolwich tower plan
The tower would be “unacceptably dominating”, planners say

Plans for a 27-storey tower block in front of Woolwich’s Tesco store are set to be thrown out by Greenwich councillors next week, after planning officers recommended they refuse to grant permission for the building.

Developer Meyer Homes wants to build the tower along with three other blocks of between nine and 16 storeys behind the store, providing 804 flats in total.

But the whole development – with no homes planned for social rent and just 20.02% at “affordable” rent levels – is likely to be rejected at next Tuesday’s planning board meeting.

“The 27-storey Phase 3 tower would be an incongruous form of development, unacceptably dominating and overbearing to General Gordon Square and the surrounding townscape and Woolwich Town Centre,” planners say in their report.

In a comment that may raise some eyebrows among those who have followed how Woolwich’s riverside is now studded with tower blocks, planners add: “The proposed development by reason of its height, scale, density, bulk and massing will result in an undue increase in the urbanisation of the skyline causing an unbalanced and dominant relationship with the setting of the Grade II* Listed Barracks, the Woolwich Common Conservation Area, the Grade II Listed Equitable House, the Grade I Listed Royal Brass Foundry, and the Royal Arsenal Conservation Area.

“As such, the proposed development would cause substantial harm to the setting, and therefore the significance of the nationally important Grade II* Listed Barracks, the Woolwich Common Conservation Area, the Grade II Listed Equitable House, the Grade I Listed Royal Brass Foundry, and the Royal Arsenal Conservation Area.

“The public benefits of the scheme do not outweigh this harm.”

Woolwich development plans
Greenwich planners’ strongest criticisms were saved for the blocks behind Tesco

The development also “fails to provide the maximum deliverable amount of affordable housing at a tenure and mix which meets the identified need of residents”, according to Greenwich planners.

But their strongest criticisms were reserved for the blocks which Meyer wanted to build behind Tesco, which “exhibit clear and demonstrable signs of overdevelopment” with “windows which will not be suitable to open at certain times”, “some units having no balconies [and] others having undersized balconies”, “uncertainty over balconies facing John Wilson Street achieving acceptable noise levels”, while “the access arrangements and disabled access arrangements for all residents to the amenity area above the Tesco Loading Bay remains unresolved”.

The planners’ recommendation will delight campaigners who presented a 1,400-strong petition to Greenwich Council last December. Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook called the refusal recommendation “good news for Woolwich”.

Meyer bought the land in 2015 after Tesco’s development arm Spenhill pulled out of plans to complete the Woolwich Central development, which included flats, a superstore, and a library and civic headquarters for Greenwich Council.

The firm has also failed in plans to fence off the green space where it plans to build the tower.

Meyer also bought land at Lewisham as part of the Tesco deal, and submitted plans to build a 34-storey tower close to Lewisham station last year. A decision on that was deferred by Lewisham’s strategic planning committee in December.

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