Controversial plans to redevelop Greenwich Market and build a new boutique hotel have been given the green light.
The proposals were orgininally rejected unanimously by councillors on the Greenwich Council Planning Board but landowners, Greenwich Hospital took their revised plans to a public appeal.
Following a public inquiry, with hearings held at Woolwich Town Hall last September, the planning inspector has recommended that permission be granted. His conclusions have now been backed by Local Government Secretary of State, Eric Pickles.
The Planning Inspector considered both the original application and the revised scheme, designed by Hopkins Architects, put forward by Greenwich Hospital. He agreed with many of the objections to the original proposals and stated that they would have been harmful to the character and appearance of the conservation area.
But in looking at the the revised plans, which dropped plans for a canopy roof and retain the market's cobbles, the Inspector concludes that the "universal value, integrity and authenticity of the World Heritage Site" would be conserved by the regeneration. He adds that the scheme would "preserve the setting of nearby listed buildings".
The banana warehouse and stable buildings in Durnford Street will be demolished as part of the revamp. The inspector admits they have a "degree of charm and character" but points out listed building building consent for their demolition has already been granted.
The 99 bedroom hotel, split across two buildings with the market in between, will be run by Bespoke Hotels, who also operate the Bermondsey Square Hotel, and is expected to create 86 full-time-equivalent jobs.
A new crescent street will be created leading from Durnford Street to the market which the inspector describes as as "imaginative and acceptable additional chapter in the market area's evolution" that would provide "variety and interest".
The redevelopment of the market, which has been strongly supported by the Greenwich Society and local MP, Nick Raynsford, will not begin until January 2013 at the earliest and traders will move to a new temporary market at Monument Gardens whilst the redevelopment is undertaken.
Martin Sands, Director of Greenwich Hospital, welcomed the news as a "a positive result for Greenwich Hospital and for the centre of Greenwich." He added, "The Hospital believes that the approved scheme, which includes minor amendments, will maintain the character and atmosphere of the current market within a refurbished environment."
Speaking to Greenwich.co.uk, Nick Raynsford MP said he was "delighted that consent has been given". Although a supporter of the original application, he praised Greenwich Hospital for its "pragmatic decision" to "amend the scheme in response to genuine concern.". He added that the redevelopment would "protect and ensure the long term future of the market".
The Chair of Greenwich Council’s Planning Board, Cllr Ray Walker, has hit out at the decision and labelled the development as a "scheme totally out of keeping with the history and architecture of Greenwich Town Centre ... which simply is not of a sufficiently high standard for a World Heritage Site." He attacked the Government's decision to back the scheme and their pledge towards greater "localism" carried "little actual meaning."
For critics of the scheme, options to fight the ruling are limited to an appeal in the High Court or a Judicial Review. Ray Crudgington, head of Commercial Property and Managing Partner at Grant Saw Solicitors LLP in Greenwich commented, "I suspect this decision will be very, very, difficult and expensive to appeal against."
Once built, the Greenwich Market Hotel will be operated by Bespoke Hotels.
REACTION IN FULL
Martin Sands, Director of Greenwich Hospital
This is a positive result for Greenwich Hospital and for the centre of Greenwich. The Hospital believes that the approved scheme, which includes minor amendments, will maintain the character and atmosphere of the current market within a refurbished environment. This decision recognises the standard of design employed by Hopkins Architects and their success in creating a scheme that responds to the constraints of the site yet remains sympathetic to the surrounding architecture.
Greenwich Hospital will consider the detail of the consent granted with its professional advisers to decide how best to take matters forward. In any event Greenwich Hospital will not consider starting the market regeneration before January 2013, following the first Christmas after the Olympics.
More immediately, Greenwich Hospital will continue working with Greenwich stakeholders, traders, retailers, Greenwich Council and all those involved in
the future of Greenwich, to make the market and Greenwich a continuing success, particularly in the key pre Olympic period
We will also continue promoting the market and the town centre working with our retail PR consultant, to communicate the unique shops and market
stalls in Greenwich to key local, regional and national lifestyle and shopping editors, as well as promoting the seasonal events that Greenwich Market hosts
for the local community.
Our programme of planned maintenance will continue this year as planned with the redecoration of the Hospital’s properties in Greenwich Church Street and all other refurbishment projects will continue as planned.
We will continue to work alongside Greenwich stakeholders who maintain a close interest in the town centre. Greenwich Hospital will continue to be
fully engaged in the future of Greenwich. In fact, it is very much business as normal".
Councillor Ray Walker, Chair of Greenwich Council’s Planning Board
“It is regrettable that the new Secretary of State, apparently pledged to a greater degree of localism, has chosen to overturn the unanimous decision of the Council to reject the planning application for Greenwich Market. Localism is a word which seems to be increasingly deployed but carries very little actual meaning for the Government. This appeal gives the green light to a scheme totally out of keeping with the history and architecture of Greenwich Town Centre and which simply is not of a sufficiently high standard for a World Heritage Site. It is particularly unfortunate that the application will permit the Greenwich Hospital Estate to demolish the heart of Greenwich Town Centre just as we have shown off all its charms to the millions of visitors in 2012 and who, instead of being encouraged to return, will avoid the building site that the Greenwich Hospital Estate will turn the town into”.
FULL DECISION NOTICE