A proposed 27-storey skyscraper in the heart of Woolwich would “create a division based on wealth”, a public inquiry has heard.

The first of eight days of hearings into Meyer Homes’s appeal against the decision to reject their town centre development was held on Tuesday (November 19).

It comes almost exactly a year after Greenwich council’s planning panel unanimously threw out the plans, on the basis that it would represent “an undue increase in the urbanisation of the skyline” and failed to provide “quality accommodation” for occupants.

Planning inspector Paul Griffiths, who will be tasked with chairing the hearings and presenting the results to the planning inspectorate once they are complete, said these were among the key issues the hearings would revolve around. 

He added that the impact of the proposal on the area and heritage assets nearby, as well as the living conditions of existing and prospective residents, would also be discussed.

The opening statements saw both the council and the appellants lay out their cases on the proposal, which includes 804 homes, a cafe, shops and a community room.

Speaking for Meyer Homes, Douglas Edwards QC said the district’s local plan dictated that the borough needed 5,000 new homes by 2030. 

“Such levels of growth requires substantial change,” he told the hearing.

He referenced the council’s decision to grant outline planning permission for the project in 2007, which saw the first two phases – including the development of the multi-story Tesco – completed.

“Council rightly then recognised the potential of this highly sustainable brownfield site,” Mr Edwards said.

“The 2007 permission has now lapsed…(but) it provides a firm and reliable parameter for the assessment of what is proposed now.”

In finishing, he said the development would provide a “high quality accommodation (option) and communal space to future residents” in a “highly sustainable town centre location”.

Continuing their opposition to the project was community group Speak Out Woolwich, with the group’s organiser John Edwards telling the hearing the complete lack of affordable or social housing units proposed for the 27-storey skyscraper was a design “based on segregation”.

He said the depth of community feeling, including a 1700-strong petition against it, “indicates a profound unease about the social impact of the development…it does not strengthen the community’s sense of responsibility for, and identity with, its own neighbourhood”.

Mr Edwards added the proposal to place social housing in two separate neighbouring blocks, to be completed after the skyscraper, “will do nothing for local people”.

The group’s sentiments were echoed by Cllr Ivis Williams, who was one of a number of public speakers who took the opportunity to rebuke the proposed development.

The councillor said the key issue was social housing, with the proposal failing to reach Greenwich’s target of 35 per cent per development – which is already below the London target.

She said the authority had nearly 2,000 people on their waiting list awaiting housing, and that the borough needed three and four-bedroom homes as a “priority above all other” types of housing.

“The offer of social and affordable housing within this is unsatisfactory, the height is unacceptable and overbearing,” she said.

Paraphrasing Speak Out Woolwich, she added: “This will create a division based on wealth in the heart of Greenwich.”

Hearings are scheduled to run up until November 28, after which the planning inspectorate will hand down a ruling in the following weeks.