Developers will cough up £25,000 to remove one tree at the site of a newly-approved project on Greenwich High Road.

Members of Greenwich’s planning board granted permission for Linea Homes’ proposal for 39 High Road, in what was the authority’s first meeting to be held remotely and streamed online.

The move will see a disused office block and its adjoining carpark demolished to make way for a five-storey block with 20 residential units and ground-floor business space.

Councillors, who took to their new online meeting chamber for the first time with minimal hitches, voiced various reservations over the plan – including the removal of a mature tree, which wouldn’t be replaced at the site.

Chair of the planning board Sarah Merrill was among the councillors who voiced disappointment at the removal of the tree, describing the detail as “heartbreaking really”.

Council officers conceded it was an “undoubtedly beneficial” tree for the area – however were appeased by the developer contributing £25,000 to go towards planting trees elsewhere in the borough.

Fears were also voiced that the five-storey project could block out natural light at neighbouring residences, including at the recently completed Hope Wharf development.  

Introducing the scheme, council officers – who recommended the project for approval – said it was accepted that sunlight levels would fall at several neighbouring properties if the building went ahead.

However, councillors were told “some level of impact is unavoidable” and even if it went ahead neighbouring buildings would still receive a “good level of light in a suburban location”.

Members were also told the adverse impacts of the scheme, which will include seven affordable units, had to be balanced with its positive benefits.

However, councillors continued to voice concerns over the loss of lighting, with Cllr Clive Mardner saying he couldn’t vote for the scheme because of it.

Cllr Sarah Merrill – in her last meeting as planning chair before she finishes to take up a new position on the cabinet – summed up councillors’ hour of debate on the project.

“Clearly the tree loss is heart-breaking. I have concerns about daylight sunlight (for neighbours), I’m not at all convinced (it’s an acceptable level of light),” Cllr Merrill said.

“I think the building is bland and uninspiring, i think it crams as many units as it can onto that piece of land for financial reasons..”

However, she backed earlier assertions there wasn’t substantial enough grounds to refuse the plans and defend a subsequent appeal.

“I think once again the Royal Borough of Greenwich has been put in a position, partly because of national government policy, that the borough has to approve a development it doesn’t like,” she said.

It saw the proposal approved with seven councillors in favour, one against, and two abstaining from vote.

The meeting represented a successful first outing for Greenwich’s online remote meetings, although Cllr Geoff Brighty didn’t vote after technical issues meant he missed parts of the meeting.