Thousands of new residents are set to move into many new developments across the south of the Greenwich Peninsula. Most of these new builds are now almost complete with occupation beginning within months. Yet what will greet them is a masterclass in anti-pedestrian design.
My last post covered the many new developments at the southern edge of the Peninsula, and whilst there I also looked at the links between the new developments and the older, more established parts of town.
I walked between the new developments at Greenwich Millenium Village to Southeastern’s Westcombe Park railway station – which is seeing high increases in passenger numbers, averaging about 6% per annum.
Aside from developments now completing at GMV, additional blocks are due to start construction soon just to the south, which will be located closer to shops, stations and bus routes.
Over the road from GMV, a 2000 capacity school is planned with minimal car parking and a planned catchment area stretching to Woolwich and Thamesmead.
The image below shows some detail of GMV – the sections in blue are almost complete. Sections in orange are now being sold and construction should begin imminently. The areas on the left are to the south with the Thames shown on the right:
For new residents, better links south will be important. Many will hopefully head south to reach the many shops, restaurants and pubs in East Greenwich and give them greater custom.
There’s also the new leisure centre and library nearby which is due to open very shortly at ‘Greenwich Square’. And then there’s the station of course to the south.
It’s closer to the new flats than North Greenwich tube, so a walk to the station will be a likely route for a sizeable number of people. Below is an aerial map showing how much closer the train station is.
Many people expect the vast majority of newcomers to use the tube. That may be the case initially, but in time I’m not so sure.
If residents work in the City then the train is quicker, with Cannon Street about 15 minutes away from Westcombe Park station. Frequencies are good too with a train every 10 minutes at most times, and it’s cheaper.
But getting to the station and the facilities in East Greenwich is far from a pleasant walk. It starts well. Paths and dedicated cycle lanes directly beside the new developments are very good. These date from the original network installed for the millennium celebrations.
The first problems occur at the roundabout where Bugsby’s Way meets Peartree Way. The roundabout is huge. Greenwich Council have then lined some approaches with loads of guardrail.
This forces a pretty long detour for pedestrians, as they are blocked from directly crossing over, as seen below. The guardrails are, as usual in Greenwich borough, cheap and ugly, and damage is seen at various points.
Heading south and the junction by Sainsbury’s (and in future Ikea) presents yet more guard railing forcing pedestrians on a detour if they want to cross. Cars rule here.
The other side of this street sees a similar situation with pedestrians forced 10 metres away from the roadside onto a detour, as the area beside the road where pavement would be expected is instead given over to greenery.
Pedestrians are an afterthought, forced to-and-fro from the adjacent road by guardrails, raised planters and landscaping designed to push them away. And the constant back and forth makes working out the route ahead difficult. Legibility is no consideration.
If you didn’t know better it looks as though you’re reaching a dead end (see below pic). Approaching here you would have no idea if you can continue walking ahead to reach shops and the station.
So people look to cross over the road. But this means going towards the busier Sainsbury’s car park entrance roads rather than sleepy Horn Lane. Residents will eventually work it out if they’re not completely put off walking this way, but irregular visitors may wonder where to go. Legible it ain’t.
Just past this area, where pedestrians are again forced away from a direct route south. From the road in the image below we can see below that the path could have continued directly adjacent instead of being grassed over.
Millions have gone to Greenwich council from nearby developments. New Homes Bonus cash brings in £13+ million a year – much from the Peninsula.
Section 106 income has brought in over £100 million.
None has improved this area for pedestrians or cyclists. Directly by this spot an Ikea is to be built, along with more developments. Will any of that improve the experience of pedestrians as developers give money to Greenwich Council?
The other side of the patch of grass shown above is where pedestrians are forced to walk away from the roadside:
After this little detour is the Blackwall approach flyover. One of the grimmest spots in south east London. It seems to perennially be on the list for imminent improvements and then put back. Here it is in all it’s glory:
Pedestrians are forced on more detours here which hampered progress. TfL may be in charge of this section of road directly below the flyover, but if that’s the case then Greenwich council may still be to blame for this mess.
TfL have removed much guardrails on their road network and encourage its removal in street management guidance to councils. It is often only retained if the local authority insists.
Its retention here could be due to this. Compare this to Bow flyover. Though TfL’s work has caused numerous problems for cyclists there, the general appearance and pedestrian experience is far better. No guardrails, decent paving and a bit of greenery (which isn’t an obstruction) has been introduced.
Over in Greenwich and this off-putting path below is on one side of the roundabout. Again clutter obscures the path ahead. This is not enticing or inviting.
Open up the space, make it legible and clear what lies ahead. Signage should also be much better.
The annoying thing about this whole walk (which is only about 10 minutes) is that it should be a avery direct and well-used link yet is made unnecessarily difficult and obstructive on foot and I wouldn’t like to try it on a bike.
Yet despite this grim walk and the constant diversions, with pedestrians seen as an inconvenient problem, it’s still quicker than heading to north Greenwich station.
I’m not saying most newcomers will use the train or head to east Greenwich’s shops at first. They’ll probably know all about the tube and go to eat elsewhere. But they will begin to hear about local good little independent places to eat nearby, want to visit the leisure centre and use the rail service, amongst other things.
Currently the walk is made as unpleasant as possible so some won’t bother, or they’ll possibly get in a car. And that’s a big failure of street design – if many newcomers don’t feel the walk is pleasant or safe they won’t frequent local businesses.
With a modest sum of cash and ditching dated thinking from Greenwich’s Highways Dept this could be so much better.
This is just one of the two routes to East Greenwich from the Peninsula away from the riverside path. The other is via Blackwall Lane, which is barely any better and another area where roads dominate and pedestrians are forced all over the place by unfriendly measures:
A new Ibis hotel has just begun construction nearby and visitors will almost certainly be walking under the Blackwall approach, and they’ll be far from alone in doing so, particularly as developments like Enderby Wharf finishes.
It’s a real shame to see so many large developments nearing completion across a wide area and knowing millions have flowed in from Section 106 payments that should have funded improvements, and yet seeing nothing done.
I’ve started a flickr account related to the blog. There’s so many design flaws and aesthetic horrors I’d like to include but I just can’t cover all of them in a post. Similarly, there’s too many shots of new developments to include in most posts so I thought it would be useful to put them on Flickr so a wider range can be seen.