Labour-led council orders two occupied tower blocks to be bulldozed

‘I just found out my flat’s going to be pulled down’: Hundreds set to lose their homes after Labour-led council orders developers to demolish two South London tower blocks over breach of planning laws

  • The Royal Borough of Greenwich said the buildings were ‘just not good enough’
  • It has ordered Comer Homes to completely demolish two Woolwich tower blocks

A Labour-led council has ordered two tower blocks in south London to be demolished in a move that could leave tenants of the 205-flat buildings homeless. 

The Royal Borough of Greenwich has issued an enforcement notice against Comer Homes Group after it constructed two aparment buildings in breach of planning permission.

The developer has been told to completely tear down its Mast Quay Phase II residential towers, in Woolwich, which were originally given planning permission in 2012.

The council says the blocks, one of which reaches 23 storeys in height, have essentially been ‘built without planning permission and is therefore unlawful because it is so substantially different to the scheme that was originally permitted’.

It means that tenants who have already moved in now face being kicked out of their homes, with residents pleading for help from the council if it goes ahead.

Isabelle White, who lives in a £1,200-a-month one-bedroom flat in the development said ‘no one wants to lose their home’.

The Royal Borough of Greenwich has ordered a developer to tear down two tower blocks which it says were built without planning permission. Pictured: One of the Mast Quay Phase II residential blocks which could be demolished

The council says differences between what was originally approved in 2012 and what was actually built have amounted to a breach of planning. PIctured: An artist’s impression of what the building was meant to look like

Anthony Okereke (pictured), leader of Labour-run Royal Borough of Greenwich council, said he believed the enforecement notice was ‘reasonable and proportionate’

The 33-year-old told the Guardian: ‘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.’

Others who had recently moved in urged the developers to make corrections as they faced the daunting prospect of being forced back onto the rental market. 

Chisom Onwusi, 33, told the paper: ‘It was shocking news to me. It’s going to destabilise us trying to get a [new] place. Trying to get a place here has not been easy.’

Council leader Anthony Okereke said the decision had not been taken lightly, ‘but I believe it is reasonable and proportionate to the scale and seriousness of the situation’.

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.

‘The right thing to do is not usually the easy thing to do. That is why we will not standby and allow poor quality and unlawful development anywhere in our borough and we are not afraid of taking difficult decisions when we believe it’s the right thing to do.’

The local authority has claimed that there were 26 main deviations from the plans, including the footprint of the tower blocks being larger than agreed.

It said there had been a reduction in the amount of space for commercial offices, shops and cafes at ground level and no roof gardens for residents and the public, children’s play area or landscaped gardens.

It added there was a lack of accessibility in ‘accessible’ apartments as the balconies had steps leading up to them, a lack of disabled parking bays, failure to provide enough underground parking and a gym that can’t be accessed by wheelchair users.

The council said there had also been visible changes to the appearnace of the towers, as well as the materials and windows that resulted in a reduction of daylight and sunlight, while a footbridge and apartments built as part of the development were of a lower quality than expected. 

The council says that there were 26 main deviations to the plans, including changes in appearance and materials used in the buildings. Pictured: The finished building (left) and an artist’s impression of what it would look like (right)

Developer Comer Homes Group has said it will appeal the enforcement notice issued by the council 

A spokesperson for the 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.

‘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 developercould appeal the notice, setting the prospect of a court battle over future of the towers. 

If it does not demolish them within a year it could be given an unlimited fine.

Comer Homes Group has said it will appeal against the enforcement notice and will ‘robustly’ correct what it says are ‘inaccuracies’ about the development and address the council’s concerns.

It said: ‘The Comer Homes Group is suprised and extremely disappointed by the decision of the Royal Borough of Greenwich to issue an enforecemnt notice in respect of our Mast Quay Phase II development. 

‘We are particularly surprised to see the accompanying public statements which are inaccurate and misrepresent the position and our actions.

‘We have over many months sought to engage constructively with the Council, and ont withstanding these disproportionate actions, remain willing to do so. 

‘We are justly proud of our track record of delivering high-quality developments across the UK. In our view the council’s concerns regarding Mast Quay Phase II can be addressed through following normal process and engaging with us on a retrospective planning application. We encourage the Council to meet with us and agree a way forward which will avoid wasting significant sums of taxpayers’ money on litigation when sensible solutions to their concerns are available.

‘We are also prioritising the interests of residents at Mast Quay Phase II and we are and will continue to all that we can to assist them to remain secure in their homes while we respond to the Council’s actions. 

‘We will make no further public comment and will be writing directly to the Council to seek the meetings we have been calling for.’ 

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