Greenwich Councillors approve new affordable housing block near Woolwich town centre

A new block of council housing set to be built near Woolwich town centre has highlighted issues such as the true cost of ‘affordable’ accommodation developed in the borough.Meridian Development’s application to build 46 affordable homes and other works including a children’s play area was approved by members of Greenwich’s planning board earlier this month.

It came after a lengthy period of debate, with councillors seeking clarification over how much the one, two and three-bedroom units would cost renters at the site, to be at the junction of junction of Burrage and Vincent Roads.The units are set to be offered at “blended market rent” – meaning the development’s one bedroom units would be offered at 80 percent of market rent. 

The two bedroom units would be 65 per cent, while the three-bedroom units would be 55 percent of market rent.Three-bedroom units are heavily in demand in the borough, with the development to include 11, while it will have 21 two-beds and 14-one beds.However, councillors wanted to know what exact cost that would work out as – with councillors disagreeing with the applicants’ position that a two-bed unit could be rented around Woolwich for 1000 pounds a month.

“If you can find one that price we would snap it up,” chair Sarah Merrill said, with fellow Cllr Gary Dillon saying it would be closer to £1350. Residents from community group Speak Out Woolwich had earlier addressed councillors, saying that although they thought it’s a “good ideal overall”, developers had “missed an opportunity for a more striking building on the corner”.  

The group said a “snazzier” design could have shown Woolwich wasn’t “the poor cousin” of the borough.They added that the units – classed as “intermediate” – wouldn’t provide social housing, the lowest priced renting option.While planning board chair Sarah Merrill said she took on board the group’s comments, she added she understood the constraints that Meridian, a development off-shoot of the council, had to work within.

“We’re not here to go back on the designs and relive them,” she said. Meridian was formed by Greenwich Council specifically to build affordable housing in the borough, while fellow council development arm Greenwich Builds has a focus on social housing.Councillors also inquired why a brick wall at the rear of the development couldn’t be replaced with a “green wall” covered in living plants.

In response, representatives of Meridian told councillors such features are “very expensive” and potential costs of maintaining the wall could be passed on to tenants.However, councillors were satisfied when told the development would help take residents off the housing list and would provide housing options for low-income earners in the borough, ahead of approving the development.

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