Back in February, Twinkle Park Trust submitted an objection to RB Greenwich over a planning application for a 3 story building at 37 McMillan Street. The parcel of land in question was the former site of a long-since closed pub, the Duke of Wellington, later to become the home of Blushers Wine Bar, until the late 1990s.
The owners of the land, a property developer name Aurora Apartments, submitted an application to provide three flats on the site: 2 one-bedroom and 1 two-bedroom properties. After considering the application, it was rejected by Greenwich Council for its impact on the character of the street and park, the impact on neighbouring properties, as well as issues with the building for its potential occupants.
An appeal against this decision has been made by the developer, with comments being invited by the Planning Inspectorate before the deadline of Friday 21st August 2020. Twinkle Park Trust is once again submitting comments against the approval of the plans.
Local people now recognise the area as the entrance to Charlotte Turner Gardens, and as the site of the Toddlers’ Playground, which our Trust built in 2014, thanks to a grant from the Veolia Environmental Trust. However, the site has a somewhat complicated history over the past 20 years and the specific slither of land which the application concerns doesn’t legally fall within the boundary of the park.
In the late 1990s, the derelict wine bar was demolished, and the land was gifted to Midi Music Company by the late Len Wallis, a local landowner and philanthropist. The land came with a covenant requiring any use of the land to be of benefit to the community. At the time, Midi Music were looking to construct a purpose built premises for their work – engaging young people to get involved with music – before finding a suitable existing space on Watson’s Street, where they remain to this day.
If you can cast your mind back to 2003, you might remember how it used to look along the street from the photos below. The park didn’t have a formal entrance and on the opposite side of the street there was a single story health centre; it was very different to what we recognise today. After Blushers was demolished the land sat behind hoardings for several years, with a few maintenance issues springing up, along with concerns about fly-tipping. All in all, it didn’t really make the park seem like the welcoming place for local people to enjoy together that we wanted it to be.
As Twinkle Park Trust moved towards refurbishing the entrance to Charlotte Turner Gardens, we approached Midi Music Company about incorporating their site into our plans, and in 2005 we were granted a licence to use their site.
Due to the unknown state of the ground — the best information we had was that the cellars of the old pub had been backfilled with the demolition rubble — we chose to use the land as a visual entrance to Charlotte Turner Gardens. At that time the site was seriously infested with Japanese Knotweed which was encroaching upon the Armada Hall crèche play area. This was duly treated as part of TPT’s landscaping work. Overall, the landscaping of the site (pictured below left) evoked the layout of the Duke of Wellington, based on recollections of former patron. We erected railings around the perimeter and let the plants grow so that they could be enjoyed by eye. We continued to look after the site over the next few years, with RB Greenwich performing day-to-day maintenance, as they do around the rest of Charlotte Turner Gardens.
In 2009 MMC spoke to TPT about their intention to sell the site and TPT stated their interest in purchasing the it. Both companies had the site professionally valued but TPT could not afford the price MMC were asking and had been advised that given the community covenant attached to the freehold their price was not feasible.
IN 2014 TPT tried unsuccessfully to raise the money to purchase the site through public funding bodies but were not been able to do. We have always recognised MMC’s right to sell the site, and we are one of many ardent supporters of their excellent work with young people, and are glad that they can continue. We did of course hope that the community covenant would effect the use of the site as more compatible with the gardens than the current proposals.
We now hope that the planning inspectorate will reject the appeal, and that a new future for the site can be sought, where Armada’s creche, our toddlers’ playground, our neighbours in Turner House are all safeguarded, and the new, open character of McMillan Street that we have worked hard to develop can be safeguarded. Thanks to the work of local residents and campaign groups, including Stop McMillan Street Development and Deptford Folk, as well as the Rt Hon Matthew Pennycook MP, many more people in the area have heard about the plan and have been able to have their voices heard.