Andrew Gilligan: Eight days to save the market
July 22, 2010 by Andrew Gilligan
“You pig,” said the text message on my phone. “You are such a low life. You kill Dr Kelly again, you putzer.”
As you might guess from the somewhat obscure nature of the deadly insult (whatever is a “putzer?” Even the OED can’t tell me) it was another billet-doux from Greenwich’s Favourite Restaurateur, Frank Dowling, showing all the courtesy we have come to expect from his much-loved industrial catering empire.
Frank often reacts badly to criticism. Last year, after I pointed out that some of his most expensive outlets had failed their hygiene inspections, he rang me up to call me a “c***.” My report of this conversation is still the top item when anyone Googles you, Frank!
Let’s wait to see if anyone from Greenwich Hospital sends a rude text after this week’s column. I’ve been looking in detail at the changes submitted to the planning inspector as part of the Hospital’s appeal against the refusal of planning permission last year.
The Hospital – no doubt hoping to head off inconvenient calls for the whole application to be re-run – itself describes its changes as “minor alterations.” They are indeed relatively minor, and therefore change few of the objectionable features of the scheme which led to its unanimous rejection by councillors.
The most significant change is that the existing market roof will be kept, certainly an improvement on the Bluewater/ Stratford Bus Station combo we were promised before. However, the shops at the sides will still be demolished and a large new hotel, rising to four storeys, will still be built. The number of rooms in the hotel has been reduced fractionally (but is still “approximately 100”) and its roofscape profile has been slightly changed by removing louvres from part of the central block.
The overall effect of the changes is to reduce the built footprint of the hotel by just 2.6 per cent – from 5625 square metres to 5477 sq m. The overall built footprint of the scheme will fall by 4 per cent. This still represents a more than doubling of the footprint on the site, an increase in density which lay at the heart of the council’s reasons for rejecting the scheme.
As the council’s decision notice stated, the new build would have “an unbalanced and detrimental relationship with the established urban fabric of the area;” would be “visually obtrusive…to the detriment of the adjacent Grade II listed buildings;” would be “out of keeping with its historic surroundings;” would have “an adverse effect on the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage site in which it is located;” would cause “the overdevelopment of the site and…adversely affect the existing patterns of development;” would “lead to ‘town cramming’;” would “impact on the free flow of traffic;” and would “result in additional congestion and obstruction on the local highway to the detriment of pedestrian and highway safety.”
All these objections are related to the height and density of the hotel, which would poke visibly up above the existing buildings, and none has been significantly changed by the Hospital’s “minor alterations.”
The Hospital continues to make the ridiculous claim that its redevelopment will create only 18 extra person movements per hour, 16 of them by public transport, a proposition rejected by councillors. The proposed hotel alone will accommodate around 200 guests, with the vast majority (since they are carrying luggage) likely to arrive by car, taxi or coach. The hotel’s main entrance is in the middle of the one-way system and will almost certainly cause significant congestion.
Do not for one moment imagine that the retention of the roof should end objections to this scheme. The eviction of traders during the construction period (without enough space in the temporary market for many of them) will drive many out of business. The mix of shops and traders in any new market/ shopping centre is likely to change fundamentally, since higher rents will need to be charged to recoup the cost of the redevelopment. Whatever the Hospital says now, a redeveloped market has a Hays Galleria and Starbucks future.
The law says that the appeal ought to be decided on whether the council properly applied its planning policy, the Unitary Development Plan, and national planning policy guidance. It seems clear that it did. The council said the original market proposals contravened the UDP in ten places, and also breaches national planning policy guidance twice. The amended plans are still in breach of PPG and of at least nine policies of the UDP.
The public inquiry into the proposals will be held on 7 September. You have until 30 July to object to the Planning Inspectorate. The address is: Alan Ridley, Planning Inspectorate, Room 4/02, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN.