Sunday, September 12, 2010

Liam Fox vs Westcombe Society (and Others)

The appeal by Liam Fox, Secretary of State for Defence, to his colleague Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, against the unanimous decision of Greenwich Council’s Planning Board (to reject the application by Greenwich Hospital Estates for a major redevelopment of Greenwich Market) was being heard by an Inspector this week and will continue next week as well.

The rejected application proposals included a 100+ bedroom hotel, with "an alfresco restaurant-bar set amidst the 200-year old cobbled courtyard of the Market". The plant and equipment on the roof of the four-storey hotel would protrude above the roofs of Joseph Kay’s magnificent market ensemble when viewed from a number of classic viewpoints such as beside the Painted Hall of the ORNC.

The hotel, which advertises itself as just 10 miles from the M25, would have no parking or setting down space even for disabled guests. Although it was claimed to be a boutique hotel, its size, height and bulk are closer to that of the Novotel next door to Greenwich Station, which provides private indoor parking (for a fee) and special provision for disabled guests.

Objectors, including the The Westcombe Society, spoke strongly against the proposal, as did a number of Councillors (from both parties), market traders and other local residents. They all expressed concern that the proposal would not only change the historic appearance of Joseph Kay’s market – it would also destroy the entire character of the Market area. Reservations were expressed about how easily a hotel, conference centre and banqueting suite – with parts on both sides of the market – could co-exist with the bustling market we know and love. Traders pointed out that the noise when the stalls are being set up at 06.30 in the morning is very considerable (intolerable for guests trying to use the alfresco restaurant for breakfast?). How would people get from one part of the hotel to another when the market was thronged with visitors? Or would visitors no longer come if the demolished shops were replaced by something resembling a characterless hotel mall? The Greenwich Conservation Group drew particular attention to the impact of the proposed development on the living conditions of those in properties around the existing market.

Concern was also expressed about the traffic problems that would be created by the removal of the current unloading and turning space in Durnford Street and the fact that this, the main approach to the market, would no longer lead to the market itself. The project would involve the demolition of historic buildings in Durnford Street. The old banana warehouse and the adjacent flower shop, which it was claimed were too unsafe for a surveyor to enter to assess their condition, would be knocked down to make way for a trash compactor.

Objectors urged the Inspector to change his travel plans so that his site visit took place at the weekend rather than the relatively quiet days during the week. He was considering this suggestion.

The hearing, in Woolwich Town Hall, is open to the public from 09.30, Tuesday 14th September. Closing statements are expected on Friday 17th September.

No comments: