Pocket Living land row: Greenwich Council bungle means neighbours sent wrong documents

Quince Road
Pocket Living believes it can build a six-storey block at Quince Road, on the Orchard Estate in Lewisham

Neighbours living near land on estates set to be sold by Greenwich Council to a private developer have been sent the wrong documents ahead of a consultation into the controversial plan, 853 has discovered.

Greenwich plans to sell land at The Heights, Charlton; Kidbrooke Park Close; and the Orchard Estate in Lewisham to the firm, which specialises in “affordable compact homes for first-time buyers”.

Residents received letters last week from council leader Danny Thorpe and housing cabinet member Chris Kirby, dated 24 August, informing them about plans for the sale and the associated consultation, which has not yet opened.

But in place of maps showing where the land sales are due to be, they received maps of completely different locations. 853 has seen a letter sent to a resident of the Orchard Estate which was accompanied by a map of a cycle lane outside the Odeon cinema in east Greenwich.

Greenwich’s communications head Stuart Godfrey has written to residents this week to apologise for the blunder, although the letter comes without a map. The council says that neither letter was supposed to be accompanied by a map.

(As a public service and to assist affected residents, here are the missing maps.)

Orchard Estate letter
Residents in the Orchard Estate were sent this letter last week

The council says it was approached by Pocket to buy the land and that it will provide much-needed funds to reinvest in new council housing elsewhere, as well as providing cash to improve the estates.

But the proposal has split the council’s ruling Labour group, with 12 out of its 41 councillors attending a protest meeting held by new pressure group Greenwich Housing Forum on Monday night. Chief whip Angela Cornforth also attended the event at Charlton House following a report in the Mercury that councillors had been warned not to speak out against the scheme.

Greenwich Odeon cycle map
Orchard Estate residents were sent this map of a cycle scheme in east Greenwich

Critics say Pocket’s homes are too small and that the council should be using the land for social housing; residents have been concerned about the loss of car parking spaces and pressure on local infrastructure.

After a scrutiny panel meeting sent the decision back to the cabinet, it was agreed last week to go ahead with a consultation into the proposal but with the housing scrutiny panel examining the scheme before any final decision is made.

A Greenwich Council spokesperson told 853: “Due to a simple human error, council officers wrongly inserted a map relating to a transport scheme in with a letter which set out our intention to consult the recipients over a proposal to sell small plots of land to Pocket Housing. We have written to all 365 households to confirm that the map, which did not relate to area in which they live, was sent by mistake and to apologise for any confusion this may have caused.

“We have also used the opportunity to reiterate the fact that we will begin formal consultation with residents later this month.

“The council has made clear that it considers the responses it receives before deciding whether the proposal should be taken forward, at which time a formal planning application would need to be made and further formal consultation undertaken. If, following this consultation with local residents, there is a decision to proceed it will obviously be subject to a full planning application, consultation and decision.”

(Story updated 6 September to include Greenwich Council statement that neither letter was supposed to be accompanied by a map.)

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