Beyond the O2 Effect – Greenwich Peninsula Site Visit

Candidates from Round Five of the Future London Leaders programme recently got a first-hand look at progress on the Greenwich Peninsula, home to the O2 entertainment venue, during a borough-led site visit. One of the GLA’s “opportunity areas”, the peninsula has a masterplan for redevelopment which includes 13,000 homes, a new business district and a low-carbon energy network.

Photo by Timothy Bull, FoL
The O2 arena and Ravensbourne College on the Greenwich Peninsula

The visit began near the O2 with transport and housing presentations from the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s Mark Baigent (Project Director, Housing Services) and Kim Smith (Transport Planning and Strategy Manager). Mark then took candidates on an insider’s tour of the peninsula to see how the development is progressing.

Greenwich Peninsula was previously the site of a large gasworks that was decontaminated and remediated by English Partnerships in the 1990s. This opened the way for the building of the Millennium Dome (now the O2) and the Greenwich Millennium Village. The peninsula masterplan includes two main areas: the Greenwich Millennium Village (GMV) to the south, and the Meridian Delta/GPRL site (MDL) to the north (around the O2). Both had some initial development in the early 2000s, stalled at the height of the economic crisis, and are once again making steady progress.

The GMV has made the most progress so far, with 1,100 homes completed in the mid-2000s; a further 1,750 homes had stalled but are back on track. GMV is planned to include 32% affordable housing, with one of the key developers being Bellway Homes.

The MDL site stalled between 2004-12, but has been acquired by Hong Kong investor Knight Dragon as the new majority shareholder. The revised 2013 deed of variation reduced the number of homes to be built from 10,000 homes across c.50 plots to 3,100 across 11 plots, and altered the 2004 deed of variation percentage and placement of affordable housing (where  some southern plots will have at least 50% affordable housing, but four northern plots will have none).

In terms of transport, the peninsula is “waterlocked” on three sides by the river and is heavily reliant on the Jubilee Line North Greenwich station (which will reach capacity by 2031) and on the bus and road network (via the Blackwall tunnel under the river, a major traffic bottleneck). The 2012 Public Transport Accessibility Levels report showed that the peninsula had very high levels of public transport usage, likely influenced by the “O2 Effect” of entertainment-goers (75% travelling by public transport).

The nearest mainline rail station is Charlton to the south, and RB Greenwich has considered arranging some form of shuttle bus to connect the station to the peninsula. Travel by river is mainly by Thames Clipper, with RB Greenwich and TfL co-funding the connection to Woolwich. The Emirates Air Line (cable car) to the Royal Docks has a capacity of 2,500 passengers per hour each way (a tube train has this same capacity every two minutes), so can improve travel resilience – but it’s not a solution in and of itself. In the meantime, RB Greenwich has been running a “bridge the gap” campaign” calling for a new Silvertown road tunnel near the O2 and a new bridge at Gallions Reach, partly in order to relieve the road bottleneck at the Blackwall tunnel.

One of the most innovative aspects of the development is the new heat network (developed with E.ON energy), which will provide space heating and hot water for 10,000 homes. It will provide substantial carbon savings and the financial dividends will be recycled into further regeneration. The first part is due to be completed by 2015.

Our thanks go to Future of London member organisation, the Royal Borough of Greenwich for hosting the site visit.

Tim, FoL

Photos from site visit (Timothy Bull, FoL) – you can see more on our Flickr stream here.

See below for presentation slides about housing, heat network, connectivity and transporton on the Greenwich Peninsula: