Saturday 20 December 2014

Priapic surge for Creekside East

A year on since I wrote about the plot of land that forms the western section of 'Creekside Village' being sold off to 'rental specialist' Essential Living there are signs that a planning application to Greenwich Council is in the offing.

Earlier this month a 'public consultation' event took place at the Laban Centre - I wasn't able to attend but the boards from that event are available to view on the developer's website for your delectation. 

At the time the developer stated it was planning to develop two towers - one of 16 storeys and one of 11 - on the parcel of land within Greenwich Council's planning remit which borders Deptford Creek. You may remember that a previous planning application for a larger piece of land straddling the border was never approved by Lewisham Council although it was waved through by Greenwich's carefree councillors.

It was with a weary sigh and a massive wave of deja vu that I read on the new boards that these towers have experienced a priapic surge with the 'landmark' building next to Creek Road thrusting skywards by another five floors, to more than 21 storeys. The two blocks will contain 249 residential units, all owned by the developer and rented out. 

Petty I know, but it's become something of a challenge for me, to read through these 'consultation' documents and display boards and work out how the marketing effort has been directed. Whether it's in terms of annexing all the adjacent green space to make your development seem more environmentally acceptable, creating renderings from particular angles to make your tall buildings look smaller, or using language that softens the harsh reality of a proposal.

In the case of Greenwich* Creekside East it's a mixture of these, but I was particularly taken by the description of the two towers. They are not just described by the number of floors or the height, they are a 'tall, slender block of 21 residential levels' and a 'family block of ten residential levels'. From the angle in the image above you might debate 'slender' (definition: gracefully thin) but that argument doesn't pan out when you look at the other renderings and the actual plans.

As regards the 'family block', from what I can glean it's a block of two and three bed apartments which is described thus because it has a nursery, 'grow your own' rooftop allotments, soft play area and 'Essential Living managed pets corner' (is this somewhere for dogs to poop or will it actually have animals in it? And if the latter, will there be staff to look after them full time or will the concierge just come and chuck a few carrots into the rabbits cages once a day, leaving them at the mercy of all comers the rest of the time? My mind boggles on so many levels at this concept..).

The provision of additional communal storage on each floor and specific design aspects of the apartments such as large storage cupboards and oversized balconies are highlighted as other family-friendly benefits, but I can't help thinking these are fairly basic benefits that all apartment dwellers should have access to. In fact you probably need them even more if you are a group of single people or couples sharing a three-bed apartment because it's the only way you can afford it.

Even the use of 'residential levels' is significant here, because it does not tell the full story. Both blocks have non-residential floors, so both will presumably be higher than the wording suggests. Crafty huh?

The marketing rhetoric also claims that '72% of the site is external open space, including public realm and childs play'.

I gazed at this plan for some time, trying to persuade my mind that this could somehow be the case.
Perhaps the (residents only) rooftop terraces on top of the two buildings are being counted in this open space? 'Deceitful' is probably too strong a word but you get my drift.

Meanwhile the graphic chosen to show the two new buildings in situ includes the tower in the previous (unapproved) planning application, presumably there to make the proposed structures look smaller. While you're looking at this image, don't forget to keep the word 'slender' in mind for the yellow building on the left. I know, it's tricky.

Proposals for the public space at least have the potential to be a positive addition to the existing public realm in 'Creekside Village' which is sterile and unwelcoming. Public access to the banks of the creek should be a given for all developments along here, and ensuring that they are properly joined up, rather than being discrete sections of pathway that will be under-used because they don't lead anywhere, should be a long-term goal for both planning authorities.

Intertidal terracing is proposed on the creek to provide a range of different habitats for plants, birds and so on; I don't profess any detailed knowledge of such matters but at least it seems to be thoroughly considered and in tune with what the Creekside Centre considers appropriate for new developments on the creek. I suspect the building heights are another matter.

* Yes I know. Fight it out among yourselves.

Update: In the comments Marilyn has pointed out that the land on the Lewisham side of the boundary is also being brought forward for redevelopment with developer Kitewood branding it Creekside Future East and posting notice of 'public consultation' events on 10 and 12 January at the Laban Centre. They have clearly been taking soundings locally since the current website makes no attempt whatsoever to claim that the site is in Greenwich - of course this could well be swept away when the marketing starts.

From the renderings on the website it looks as if they intend to put forward a carbon copy of the proposals that were previously approved by Greenwich Council but not by Lewisham - whether attitudes among the planners have changed since the original application remains to be seen. If both schemes are approved in their current forms, it will make for a very disjointed and discordant collection of buildings along the creek - you would hope that some degree of collaboration between the two boroughs can be achieved. 

Unfortunately it seems unlikely, given than the two boroughs are already in disagreement over whether environmental impact assessments are necessary for the two adjoining sites. Greenwich Council is applying the relevant planning guidance in its most basic form, saying that the Creekside East site is not big enough in area to require an environmental impact assessment. 

Just over the border, Lewisham Council believes an EIA is required for Creekside Future East, given that the development proposes a significant change in intensity of use on the land, the fact that it is likely to be contaminated land which poses a potential risk to Deptford Creek, and taking into account the cumulative impact of other developments in the area. 

Hmm, as you were then.