Woolwich’s 27-storey Tesco tower scheme set to be rejected at second attempt

Woolwich tower plan
Meyer’s tower would be entirely for private sale

Plans to build a 27-storey tower in front of Woolwich’s Tesco store look set to be rejected at the second time of asking, seven months after a legal challenge from the developer delayed a decision on the scheme.

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.

Planning officers had recommended that Greenwich councillors refuse the scheme in March, but that decision was postponed following a threat of legal action by the developer, with officers taking more time to study Meyer’s environmental reports.

Now the scheme will return to Greenwich Council’s main planning committee next week, with officers declaring it “unacceptably dominating and overbearing to General Gordon Square and the surrounding townscape”.

They also say Meyer’s proposals will affect the setting of Woolwich’s listed barracks, fail to provide enough “affordable” housing, show “clear and demonstrable signs of overdevelopment”, block out daylight while the lack of any legal agreement with the council means it would fail to mitigate its impact on the local area.

Meyer has two confirmed offers for “affordable” housing, none of which would be in the tower – either 17% or 13% at social or London Affordable Rent (about 50% of market rent) and 6% or 19% shared ownership, with the rest being for private sale.

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

It is also offering more “affordable” homes if it gets a grant – however, councillors are unable to take this into consideration when making their decision.

Last year, Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook called the scheme “unacceptable”.

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.

Architecture critics branded the first phase of housing “inept, arrogant and oppressive” when they awarded it the Carbuncle Cup the previous year.

A taste of what might happen if Greenwich does reject the scheme can be seen just a few hundred metres over the borough boundary at Lewisham Tesco, where Meyer also bought land from Spenhill.

Earlier this year, Lewisham councillors rejected plans for a development including a 34-storey block in a similar scheme. Meyer has submitted a new proposal – not increasing the amount of “affordable” housing, but allowing more public access to a 34th-floor viewing deck – while simultaneously appealing to planning inspectors against the refusal of the original scheme. Neighbours have started a petition against Meyer’s plans.

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