A shortage of developer funding has left an £8 million hole in the cost of paying for the fit-out of Woolwich’s future Elizabeth line station.
Woolwich was never intended to be a stop on the Elizabeth line, but when the Crossrail project was given the go-ahead, the glaring gap on the line was increasingly obvious to most people. Even before Crossrail was approved, pressure was growing for Woolwich to be included, and apart from local regeneration benefits, it was argued that the station would reduce congestion on the mainline into London Bridge.
In 2007, the government said that a station could be built at Woolwich, if someone else picked up the extra costs. In the end, a deal was struck for the Woolwich Arsenal developer to build the station box, while the £125 million fit-out would be funded by Berkeley Homes, the Royal Borough of Greenwich (via a GLA grant and local developer contributions), and TfL.
The £8 million shortfall comes from Greenwich council’s commitment to pay £15 million to the cost of the fit-out, as revealed in their recent council meeting, and the rest of the bill needs to be paid by April 2023.
Greenwich Council raises its share of the funding from a mix of developer funding paid to the council to fund local improvements – made up of a Crossrail Roof Tax (a contribution sought from developments within 1-mile radius of the Woolwich Crossrail Station prior to the introduction of BCIL), and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).
As of 31st March 2021, the council had paid £3.95 million, with a further £2.97 million due to be paid from local area developer contributions.
Greenwich council has therefore collected £6.92 million to pay its share of the Woolwich station fit-out, leaving a shortfall of £8.08 million to be paid, with little more than a year left to raise the money.
The council does have the money, in a borough-wide funding pot, their Strategic CIL, and that pot of cash has now been set aside to cover any shortfall that might occur. The implications being that the Strategic pot of cash can’t be spent on anything in Greenwich until the middle of next year just in case it’s needed to cover the Woolwich station shortfall, and could be dipped into to cover that, leaving less money for improvements in the rest of the Greenwich council area.
Part of the problem comes from the fact that Greenwich tends to have lower developer contribution rates than other councils, for a number of reasons including issues with a planning inspector setting lower rates in parts of the council where higher rates may delay new housing being built, and higher affordable housing requirements.
However, the decision to build the Woolwich station has led to a surge in property developments in the area which will lead to more developer funds in the future. The Woolwich Arsenal development is larger than originally planned. A long line of new housing blocks are planned for the run down stretch along the A206 that splits Woolwich town centre in half, and even TfL is planning for a tall tower block to go above the station’s eastern ventilation shaft.
Although a problem for Greenwich Council, the funding issue won’t affect the opening of the station, as it has been completed and has been handed over to TfL to manage when the Elizabeth line also opens.