Council housing has a long and honourable history in Greenwich. According to Nikolaus Pevsner the earliest such housing in the Borough was the now highly des res Hardy Cottages off Trafalgar Rd built by the London County Council in 1901. My grandparents lived for many years in an inter-war council semi near Eltham Green, with a back garden sufficiently large that any 21st century planning application would put three town houses on it.
So local politicians may well feel the hand of history on their shoulders when they discuss council housing. Eltham Conservatives allege that Clive Efford’s successful defence of his seat was helped by misleading claims that a Conservative Government would increase rents and end security of tenure cease for existing tenants.
More recently Greenwich Council’s Cabinet member for Housing, Steve Offord, has appeared confused on whether the Council wants to be able to offer time-limited tenancies for new tenants
After many years when councils were unable to build any new housing, an excellent scheme from the Labour Government provided funds for small scale schemes on spare bits of land already in council ownership. Greenwich took up this opportunity, sometimes using derelict garage areas without any problems. However in a few cases the Council seemed in too much of a hurry to get building and chose to develop sites of doubtful suitability. One such in my view was in Woodlands Park Rd SE10 where six houses have now been built.
Was I right to vote against this development? Nos 63-73 Woodlands Park Rd are decent size family houses and fit in quite well to the street scene. However they were built on a piece of open space in a crowded area . Although this space included a ball court which had generated complaints, as a whole it was valuable and is now lost for ever. The new houses are also rather alarmingly close to the down platform of Maze Hill Station and I doubt that the residents will be keen to have their back windows open in summer. On the whole I think I was right to oppose the development.
And there’s something wrong when the council is scratching around to build new housing on contentious sites, while its best buddy Berkeley Homes is openly boasting about marketing homes on its new Kidbrooke development to “in case their children want to come and study in London”. Indeed while the new development will be twice the size of the old Ferrier Estate there will be significantly fewer homes on it purely for rent. The balance of the social housing will comprise “intermediate housing” which probably won’t help anybody with a household income of under £20,000 a year.
Another recent development is Meridian Home Start Ltd. This is a new company owned by Greenwich Council (Director C.J Roberts Esq) which will rent properties to tenants at significantly above the council housing rate but below the market rate. Meridian started with a portfolio of 28 properties, five of which were ex-council houses which had been sold off over the years and now bought back on the open market.
This sounds a good idea. However the remaining 23 were already owned by the Council. These properties are dotted around the Borough with a concentration in Wyndcliffe Rd SE7 between Charlton Rd and Wyndcliffe School which were formerly used for temporary accommodation. I’ve heard nothing to convince me why these 23 should go into the higher rented sector rather than be used for people on the council’s waiting list.
So all in all it’s good news if you’re in Singapore with money to spare, perhaps less so if you’re in housing need in Greenwich.
Paul Webbewood is a former Liberal Democrat councillor.