THE HATED demolition and redevelopment of Greenwich Market could still go ahead with its owner, Greenwich Hospital, likely to appeal against the council's decision to refuse planning permission.
Traders in the market have been told by Edward Dolby, the Hospital's resources director, that an appeal against the refusal is to be lodged. "He has been telling people that if they get the appeal, nothing will be demolished until January 2013," said one person familiar with the situation. The appeal has to be lodged by February 26, six months after the council's decision.
Greenwich Hospital's director, Martin Sands, refused to confirm or deny last night whether the Hospital will appeal. However, official confirmation of the position is expected to be given to a meeting of market traders tomorrow.
The plan would see the existing market and the shops around it demolished and replaced by a modern market, contemporary shopping precinct and 104-bedroom hotel. The hotel would rise to five storeys and would loom over the existing buildings. Its entrance would be directly on the busy one-way system.
In August the plan was unanimously rejected by Greenwich's planning board, which described it as "unbalanced and detrimental," "visually intrustive," an "overdevelopment," "out of keeping with its historic surroundings," and a "low quality design" which would deliver a "poor environment" and "impact on the free flow of traffic."
Any appeal would probably be heard by the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol, though there is a faint possibility the Government or the Mayor could intervene. The inspectorate decides whether to do it entirely in writing, to have a public hearing or to have a full-scale inquiry, with lawyers for each side.
Since this scheme has been so controversial, it is unlikely to be dealt with in writing.
As before, opponents of the scheme will be able to submit written objections and appear in person at the hearing or inquiry if they wish. The criteria on which the appeal is decided are not terribly clear, but they appear to be whether the council has acted in accordance with its own Unitary Development Plan (UDP), the definitive statement of its planning policy.
According to the council, the Greenwich Market application breached no fewer than ten policies of the UDP, not to mention two items of national government planning policy guidance. It is, on the face of it, hard to see how any planning inspector could disagree with this. Take, for instance, UDP policy TC7, which states: “The Council will protect and enhance the site and setting of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site…. Development within it should preserve and enhance its essential and unique character and appearance.” Indisputably, the new scheme, which looks like a bus station, does not do this.
Policy TC8 states that any new development anywhere in the town centre must “demonstrate the highest standards in design, landscaping, detailing, and finishing.” Again, the market scheme seems quite clearly not of the highest standards.
The Hospital may argue that the council's planning officers recommended acceptance of the scheme, though how those officers managed to reconcile it with their own policy is still unclear.
Even if the Hospital wins its case, however, economics may have turned against the scheme. The redevelopment relies on the new hotel for its viability. But since last year, another major hotel scheme has been approved in the area - a new 150-roomer on Greenwich High Road. Frank Dowling's Inc Group is also sitting on planning permission to turn the upper floors of the Trafalgar Tavern into a 16-bedroom hotel.
There is also a planning application, which seems likely to be granted, for a 450-room hotel at the 02. All this new hotel development is, of course, in addition to the existing Ibis, Novotel and Holiday Inn behemoths which have been constructed locally over the last fifteen years. The real risk for the Hospital is that even if they do get their planning permission, the hotel market in SE10 will already be too saturated for anyone to invest.
The chances of saving the market seem higher, therefore, than at this time last year. Nonetheless, if an appeal is launched, there will need to be another campaign. And how depressing it will be to see this further evidence of Greenwich Hospital's arrogance, pigheadedness and refusal to engage with the community it claims to serve.
UPDATE: At the meeting with traders tonight, Greenwich Hospital confirmed that it would launch an appeal. The plan will be the same as the one that was rejected by councillors last year. A press release is expected to be issued on Friday.