Labour push ahead with High Street Plans despite strong local objections

Greenwich Council’s Labour Cabinet has agreed its controversial ‘Masterplan’ despite strong local objection from retailers like Marks and Spencers.

The four highly controversial documents labelled ‘Masterplans’ are intended to encourage growth across the borough as part of an overall strategy (which the Cabinet has yet to publish or agree).  The plans cover four distinct areas: Charlton Riverside; Woolwich Town Centre; Eltham Town Centre and Peninsula West. 

In the report to Cabinet on Monday (2nd April) it was suggested that ‘In overall terms there was considerable support for the proposals.’ However, any serious consideration of the actual responses reveals this to be an outrageously optimistic view of the public responses to the consultation.  While in Woolwich and Peninsula people broadly accepted the plans, which were less controversial, in Charlton and Eltham, many residents expressed serious reservations about how the vision had been translated into the planning proposals which the documents make. 

This is particularly true of Eltham where the plans are essentially to create less parking and more residential flats.  In the consultation document, the representative of the Tudor Barn based in the Well Hall Pleasaunce wrote “Underwhelming, best describes this effort. Imaginative, dynamic and insightful it is not. The vision for the development of Eltham Town Centre suffers from a frustrating vagueness and reliance on jargon together with the adoption of unexplained assumptions. A vision for the future of Eltham Town Centre requires a really confident grasp of the present and I did not feel that the writers had adequately displayed this element of the brief.”

Marks and Spencers, who have a thriving business on Eltham High Street also objected.  “The proposal shown diagrammatically in the Masterplan would result in the loss of much of the existing Marks and Spencer surface car park. A decked car park appears to be suggested in its place. However, this is not an aspiration of the company, it is unclear how many spaces would be provided but it may well result in a loss of capacity, there are no indications of how it would be funded, whether this would be viable and what operational arrangements would be in place. It is not at all clear that suitable parking could be provided within the land along with the new building (offices or residential) that the Masterplan shows on the road frontage.” (more on page 253)

Conservative Leader and Eltham Councillor Spencer Drury said “The rushed nature of these plans and the subsequent consultation process means that I have grave doubts about whether the finished documents actually reflect the best outcome for our borough for the next 15 years.  More time and effort should have been made to include residents in this process. When you have strong objections from leading retailers, maybe it is time to re-think your strategy.

“In Eltham the objections, not just from local business but also from many residents seem to have been completely ignored. I do not understand why the Labour party bothered with a consultation in the first place as, certainly in Eltham, they are pushing through highly unpopular plans.   What with their proposals to bring in parking charges on the high street, it seems to me that Labour are set on destroying Eltham Town Centre all together.

“Even our Eltham MP failed to respond to the consultation which is a deep concern. Eltham needs to be defended against this Woolwich based Labour Council  as they seem determined to destroy our town centre with more flats and less parking..”