Published: Tuesday, 26th September 2023

The Royal Borough of Greenwich has taken the decision, as the local planning authority, to progress with enforcement action against the Comer Homes Group’s Mast Quay Phase II development.


“The Royal Borough of Greenwich has taken the decision, as the local planning authority, to progress with enforcement action against the Comer Homes Group’s Mast Quay Phase II development of two residential towers, one of which is stepped, with 23, 11, nine and six storeys, located on Woolwich Church Street, London SE18. 

“The Council’s extensive investigation over the last year has concluded that the completed Mast Quay Phase II built-to rent-development has been built without planning permission and is therefore unlawful because it is so substantially different to the scheme that was originally permitted by the planning permission given in 2012.  

“In total there are at least 26 main deviations to the original planning permission. These include: 

  • visible design changes to the external appearance of the towers – the final towers look more solid and bulky because of the removal of the stepped back top floor and the glazed curtain wall façade to Block E that would have given the appearance of a sail.  

  • visible changes to the materials and windows – different cladding, less glazing, smaller balconies, smaller windows and no wraparound balconies resulting in a reduction of daylight and sunlight, and to a reduced outlook.  

  • increasing the approved size of the footprint of both towers 

  • not providing the roof gardens for residents and the public, children’s play areas, green roofs or landscaped gardens 

  • lower quality residential accommodation 

  • non accessible ‘accessible’ apartments that have steps to the balconies so that wheelchair users cannot use their outdoor space. 

  • provision of a residents’ gym in place of the approved commercial floorspace which is also not accessible to anyone who uses a wheelchair 

  • a reduction of the amount of commercial floorspace for offices, shops and cafes at ground-level 

  • failure to provide enough underground car parking so that car parking dominates at ground level replacing what should have been a landscaped garden area with trees and plants and less car parking overall that could place pressure on street parking 

  • a lack of disabled parking bays  

  • shared residential/commercial basement access that could lead to conflicts 

  • a poorer quality footbridge to Woolwich Church Street 

“The Council believes that the only reasonable and proportionate way to rectify the harm created by the finished Mast Quay Phase II development to the local area, and the tenants living there, because of the changes made during its construction is the complete demolition and the restoration of the land to its former condition. 

“Therefore, the Council issued an enforcement notice on Monday 25 September which is subject to appeal rights for a period of at least 28 days following the date of issue. To support the residents currently living in the development the Council has written to them directly to provide them with support, assistance and advice.” 

Cllr Anthony Okereke, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said:

“This decision is not one that the Royal Borough of Greenwich has taken lightly, but I believe it is reasonable and proportionate to the scale and seriousness of the situation. Mast Quay Phase II represents two prominent high-rise buildings on Woolwich’s riverside that just are not good enough, and the reason that they are not good enough is because the development that was given planning permission is not the one that we can all see before us today.

“In Our Greenwich, our vision for the borough by 2030, I committed to development that delivers positive change to the area for existing and new communities, and this is simply not the case with Mast Quay Phase II.”

“The right thing to do is not usually the easy thing to do. That is why we will not standby and allow poor quality and unlawful development anywhere in our borough and we are not afraid of taking difficult decisions when we believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Cllr Aidan Smith, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said:

“The Mast Quay Phase II development had the potential to deliver hundreds of beautiful riverside apartments in an exciting area of London with a rich maritime past. Instead, what we have is a mutant development that is a blight on the landscape, local conservation zone and heritage assets and views.

“High quality, beautiful and sustainable buildings and places are fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve. Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, creating better places in which to live and work. As a borough we work with many responsible property developers who deliver schemes that we can be proud of and we will always work with responsible developers to unlock sites and deliver the new homes that our borough needs.

“If a scheme matching what has been built at Mast Quay Phase II was submitted for planning permission today, it would be refused, and we cannot let what has been delivered at Mast Quay Phase II go unchallenged.”

Cllr Ann-Marie Cousins, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement, said:

“Following a complex, lengthy and detailed investigation, including complaints from local residents, we are taking this unprecedented step because of the magnitude of the number of significant deviations that we have discovered from what was approved by the original planning permission. We believe Mast Quay Phase II represents significant harm to the area and harm to present and future occupiers of the buildings.

“The developer has had plenty of opportunities to apply for planning permission to vary what they had permission to build before they carried out the work, instead of applying after they had already done it. For example, since starting work on site in 2015 they have had many years to engage with us regarding the amendments they claim it was necessary to make, due to changes in building regulations, yet there was no contact or application made, and an attempt was only made retrospectively as a consequence of the enforcement investigation.

“Why should children have no place to play because it was cheaper not to include it? Why should disabled tenants be prisoners in their own homes because step free access to the balconies wasn’t included? Why should the outside areas be dominated by tarmac and cars instead of trees and grass and plants?

“Without enforcement our planning system can have no integrity and that is why we will not shy away from property developers exploiting the system for their own gain, to the detriment of residents and other responsible developers who do the right thing."


Frequently asked questions 

Who built Mast Quay? 
The Comer Homes Group 
Registered office address: Harold Benjamin Solicitors Fourth Floor, Hygeia House, 66 College Road, Harrow, United Kingdom, HA1 1BE 

Where is Mast Quay? 
Mast Quay Phase II, Woolwich Church Street Woolwich, London SE18. 

When did Mast Quay receive planning permission? 
Mast Quay received planning permission in 2012. The original application was made by Mast Quay Developments Ltd but the developer went into administration upon completion. The Comer Homes Group bought phase two of Mast Quay in and the planning permission passed to it then.  

Link to planning applications our website

How many apartments comprise the two towers at Mast Quay? 
There are 204 apartments in total that the Council’s planning enforcement notice relates to... 

  • Block D ‘Sky Sail House’: 15 storeys and has 67 apartments 

  • Block E ‘Main Sail House’ is 23 storeys and has 109 apartments  

  • Block E ‘MoonSail House’ is 11, 9 and 6 storeys and has 28 apartments 

The Council's planning enforcement notice does not apply to Phase I the three existing lower rise towers: Lower Mast House, Jigger Mast House and Mizzen Mast House that were substantially completed in 2007.  

How many breaches has the Comer Homes Group made to the original planning permission? 

In total there are 26 breaches. These relate to... 

  1. Changes to materials, design, appearance and fenestration pattern 

  1. No top floor setbacks 

  1. Omission of curtain walling to Block E. 

  1. Alternations to design and location of balconies (also omitted in places). 

  1. Enlarged footprint - Block D (+5.9% increase) and Block E (+4.6% increase). 

  1. Lack of communal amenity space on roofs, play space and green roofs. 

  1. Footbridge not in accordance with approved plans. 

  1. Substation moved inside both blocks. 

  1. Reduced commercial floorspace in block D as a result. 

  1. Block E commercial units not provided 

  1. Original approved external structure was to have a roof garden for residents/members of the public which has not been provided. 

  1. Wheelchair units substandard 

  1. Access to balconies via step instead of chamfered edge access for wheelchairs 

  1. Internal layout of the wheelchair units are substandard 

  1. Power assisted doors not in place 

  1. Balconies insufficient depth to allow for 1.5m turnaround for wheelchair users contrary to plans submitted 

  1. Provision of a residents’ gym in place of the approved commercial floorspace in Block E. The gym has been provided with stepped access, rendering it inaccessible for those with mobility impairments, such as wheelchair users 

  1. Reduction in commercial floorspace in Block D. It is unclear if a mezzanine level will be provided at all, although it is no longer possible to implement the approved layout. 

  1. Approved commercial floorspace in Block E totally omitted from constructed Development. 

  1. Changes to stair core has had a knock on effect on unit layouts, private terraces and access arrangements for commercial/residential users. 

  1. Changes to glazed material has led to a reduction of daylight, sunlight and reduced outlook in comparison to approved plans. 

  1. Basement not reflective of approved plans – lack of car parking space and instead provided as surface car parking spaces, this results in car dominated public realm. 

  1. Additional surface car parking and hardstanding replaces landscaping areas. 

  1. Landscaped area around Thames Tidal Inlet to north-west corner of site not as approved. 

  1. Alternation of internal layout for a large number of units, with quality of accommodation materially worse in several instances. 

  1. Playspace provision not as approved – areas on communal roof terraces not provided. Proposals for ground floor provision appear watered down from approved scheme. 

What is a planning enforcement notice? 
Enforcement Notices are legal documents. They state when action needs to be taken to remedy a breach of planning control. They are issued where development has taken place without the correct planning permission or outside what was allowed by any planning permission that was given. 

When did the Comer Homes Group receive the enforcement notice? 
Monday 25 September 2023 

Has anyone else received the enforcement notice? 
Anyone with a legal interest in the land will receive a copy of the enforcement notice.  

Who made the decision to serve the Comer Homes Group with the planning enforcement notice?  
The Royal Borough of Greenwich as the Local Planning Authority who is responsible served the Comer Homes Group and others with an interest in the land with a planning enforcement notice.    

Have you ever taken this step before? 
Not on this scale. 

How many business units are affected?  

Only one business unit is affected as the building developer, the Comer Homes Group, did not deliver all the commercial space that was specified in its planning application. The Comer Homes Group has, however provided a residents’ gym in place of the approved commercial floorspace 

What will happen to the tenants that currently live in the block? 

We understand that this is an unsettling time for the tenants of Mast Quay Phase II. The Comer Homes Group rent the apartments in Mast Quay via Fincraft Ltd a subsidiary of the Comer Homes Group. All the existing tenants will need to find alternative accommodation. They will be given sufficient time for this to happen and their rights under the Landlord and Tenant Act will not be affected.   

How do you know there are no vulnerable tenants living in Mast Quay? 

When the Council undertook its investigation, they did not identify any vulnerable people living in the development (there were no tenants in receipt of disabled person discount for example).

The developers have continued to market and rent the flats so it may have changed.

The Council has reached out to all the tenants to meet them and explain what the issuing of the planning enforcement notice means for them.

How is the Council going to support the Comer Homes Group’s tenants? 

The Council advised the Comer Homes Group not to rent out apartments at Mast Quay Phase II while it completed its investigation, unfortunately the Comer Homes Group ignored its request.  

Following the Council serving the enforcement notice the Council has reached out to all the tenants to meet them and explain what the planning enforcement notice means for them. However, the Comer Homes Group in its role as a private landlord is responsible for looking after the welfare of its own tenants. These organisations may be of assistance for the tenants affected: 

Greenwich Citizens Advice Bureau
Old Town Hall
Polytechnic Street
Woolwich SE18 6PN

Telephone: 0208 8539 499

Greenwich Housing Rights & Plumstead Community Law Centre
36 Wellington Street
Woolwich SE18 6PF

Telephone: 0208 8548 848

Planning Aid for London
A registered charity and a free planning advice service for Londoners. It offers:

Telephone: 030 0772 9808 (9.30am to 5.30 pm on Monday to Friday for free advice)

How long do the current tenants have to leave?   

As an appeal has now been lodged, the Comer Homes Group appeals the Council’s enforcement notice it does not need to demolish Mast Quay Phase II unless it loses the appeal. The Comer Homes Group would then have a year to comply with the Council’s enforcement notice to demolish the towers – ample time to give its tenants notice to leave.   

Who should the Comer Groups tenants contact with concerns? 

If the Comer Homes Group’s tenants have any questions or concerns about the Council’s enforcement notice they can contact: 
0202 8921 5559 

If the tenants have any questions about tenancy issues, they should contact their landlord the Comer Homes Group.  

How will people who bought apartments get their money back?   

None of the Mast Quay apartments have been sold. They have been rented out privately by the Comer Homes Group.  

Why did the Royal Borough of Greenwich not act sooner? 

It was not until 2022 when building work at Mast Quay was finally finished that it became clear that the breaches to the planning permission were more than just external.  

This has been a complex and complicated case. The more that the Council investigated, the more breaches came to light. It has taken a year to review and assess each breach and produce a comprehensive report.  

Was the construction work monitored during the construction?

In line with normal Building Control processes, inspections and assessments were carried out during construction, by an inspector appointed by Comer Homes. These processes check whether the development is in line with building regulations and safety of buildings. Building Control regulates different issues to Planning; Building Control are not responsible for flagging infringements on planning permission.

Royal Greenwich’s Building Control department have not been able to issue a completion certificate until all the relevant paperwork has been received. At this point, it is not possible for a completion certificate to be issued, because we are unable to confirm whether the buildings comply with the Building Regulations.

What happens next? 

Can the Comer Homes Group appeal the Council’s decision?  

Yes, and they have already done so. The Appeal is with the Planning Inspectorate and is following the Inquiry procedure. To do this it must file a form to the Government's Planning Inspectorate via its website, stating the grounds of appeal and paying a fee.

What happens if the Comer Homes Group appeals the Government's Planning Inspectorate decision? 

Then the case would go to a judicial review and will be on legal and other procedural grounds only.  

What happens if the Comer Homes Group doesn’t appeal the Council’s decision? 

The Comer Homes Group will have 12 months in which to complete demolition and restore the land to its former condition. 

What happens if an enforcement notice is not complied with? 

It is a criminal offence not to comply with an enforcement notice, once the period for compliance has elapsed, and there is no outstanding appeal. A person guilty of an offence is liable on conviction to an unlimited fine. 

Can the Comer Homes Group make changes to Mast Quay II to get retrospective planning permission?  

The Comer Homes Group would need to enter into discussions with the Council to see if this is feasible and acceptable. For example, fire safety regulations have changed since the development was first given permission in 2012.