Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

Tower blocks to be torn down leaving 200 homeless in Labour council planning row

Two huge tower blocks are set to be flattened leaving 205 people homeless after a council planning row.

The Royal Borough of Greenwich – a Labour run council – has issued the enforcement notice against a developer saying two apartment buildings have not met its planning permission guidelines.

The council has ordered the developer Comer Homes to tear down Mast Quay Phase II residential towers, in Woolwich – originally given planning permission in 2012.

Now residents who face being kicked out of their homes are scared about what the future might hold.

Isabelle White, 33, who lives in a £1,200-a-month one-bedroom flat in the development, spoke to The Guardian about the residents’ plight.

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She said: “It seemed too good to be true and now obviously it is. 

“Moving in I thought there were a lot of things that didn’t make sense – the layout.

“There had to be a catch and this is the catch. Hopefully, the residents are going to be put before everyone else. No one wants to lose their home.”

Chisom Onwusi, 33, added that it was “shocking news” – and that the situation will “desabilise” his family.

But Labour council leader Anthony Okereke said “the right thing to do is not usually the easy thing to do” and that residents will be helped to find new accommodation.

He said: “Mast Quay Phase II represents two prominent high-rise buildings on Woolwich’s riverside that just are not good enough, and the reason that they are not good enough is because the development that was given planning permission is not the one that we can all see before us today.

“In Our Greenwich, our vision for the borough by 2030, I committed to development that delivers positive change to the area for existing and new communities, and this is simply not the case with Mast Quay Phase II.”

He added he will “not standby and allow poor quality and unlawful development anywhere in our borough”.

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The local authority says there are 26 main deviations from the plans – including the footprint of the tower blocks being larger than agreed, a reduction in the amount of space for commercial offices and no roof gardens for residents.

It also added there was a lack of accessibility and they’d been visible changes to the appearance of the towers.

In a statement on its website Royal Borough of Greenwich council said: “The council believes that the only reasonable and proportionate way to rectify the harm created by the finished Mast Quay Phase II development to the local area, and the tenants living there, because of the changes made during its construction is the complete demolition and the restoration of the land to its former condition. 

“Therefore, the council issued an enforcement notice on Monday 25 September which is subject to appeal rights for a period of at least 28 days following the date of issue. 

“To support the residents currently living in the development the council has written to them directly to provide them with support, assistance and advice.” 

The developer could appeal the notice but if it does not demolish them within a year it could be given an unlimited fine.

Comer Homes Group said it was “surprised and extremely disappointed” by the decision.

It added: “We are particularly surprised to see the accompanying public statements which are inaccurate and misrepresent the position and our actions.

“We will be appealing against the enforcement notice and look forward to robustly correcting the inaccuracies and addressing the council’s concerns.”

It added that it wants to meet with the council and will be prioritising residents’ needs.

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