Yesterday’s great news of a food and drink market planned for Woolwich is today followed with news that brings things down with a bump. Plans to knock together two small shop units to create a restaurant at Powis Street in Woolwich have been blocked by Greenwich Council planners.
A baffling decision which reveals a lot of what is wrong with the authority. Thanks to @Sarkies_proxy for the heads up on Twitter
Four reasons were given. Two of them seem fine – the proposed upstairs flat was poorly designed according to planners. The other two seem a nonsense. One was the loss of shop units for a restaurant. Yep, just think of all the sparking shops in that stretch. Let’s not forget one unit was a Dunkin Donuts before. Reason 1:
It’s not good reading. An appealing restaurant would increase the viability and vitality of nearby local shops due to increased visitors. The 2014 Local Plan is deeply flawed. This is far from the first time the Planning Department have let the borough down. Mistakes, delays, poorly thought-through documents are increasingly evident.
The other reason for refusing this restaurant scheme was outside seating. It’s a pedestrianised street. Starbucks nearby has them.
There’s ample space if street clutter is removed or re-located.
Despite this reason for refusal Greenwich Council continually allow nearby paving to be blocked with advertising boards and street clutter on the narrow and busy thoroughfare between the DLR / rail station and Arsenal site.
And parking on double yellows and paving around the corner:
Powis Street is not exactly flush with good restaurants or a thriving evening economy. Well, there’s a Mcdonalds. Once the shops shut it can be a bit of a ghost town and intimidating to some. So why not allow a restaurant that would bring people there in the evenings? More people + more oversight = increased safety.
The space could have been taken up by a decent independent or one of the many mid-market chains that are absent from Woolwich. An independent would be preferable, but decent chains would at least offer local choice.
Chains such as Pizza Express or Prezzo for Italian, Five Guys for burgers, Turtle Bay for Caribbean and others are common all over London and UK towns and cities but give Woolwich a wide berth currently. Local Authority behaviour plays a part. All do meals for less than a tenner and regular offers. It isn’t some epic example of gentrification.
Sure, they’re not the most exciting places but better than a Mcdonalds on the main High Street in the borough.
This reminds me of the long struggle Antic had opening their Woolwich Equitable pub in the area after Greenwich Council blocked early plans due to its “saturation” policy back in 2014. Antic pubs are head and shoulders above most other south east London pubs, and local alcoholics in the square outside were hardly going to buy drinks there when Tesco and newsagents do cans for a quid or less.
Sometimes it seems Greenwich Council purposefully want to hold the town back and halt progress. Why adopt a local plan that prohibits good quality restaurants on the borough’s main shopping street?
Or perhaps if they can’t take direct control they take little interest. The forthcoming Arts Quarter at the Arsenal seems to be the focus. But if they block simple things like a new restaurant the town isn’t going to see the big change many want.
And do they want the divide between the Arsenal and rest to continue? Or actually do something to get people from the Arsenal site to visit the town centre?
Highways Department don’t help. The latest physical barrier between the Arsenal and the rest of Woolwich is a few hundred metres of guard railing along the dual carriageway between the two. A few more grand spent to reinforce the divide.
It gives an even greater appearance of being a major suburban A-road with its street furniture and not a street through an urban town centre. I could reel off examples of more people-friendly design on similar streets which is seen all over London, the UK and the continent. It’s not hard to do.
The stretch previously had landscaping – the exact same type that had failed directly to the east as access is difficult. As that was being removed they were installing the exact same thing a hundred metres west. A year or two later it has been removed. A basic and narrow strip in the road (or simply painted lines) would lessen the gulf between the two parts of town until alternatives are drawn up.
To give another example of how the Planning Department are holding back Woolwich, the 30-storey tower planned by Tesco facing General Gordon Square is likely to go ahead due to the 2015 area Masterplan for parts of central Woolwich still not being adopted (though they managed to formally adopt the Charlton Riverside masterplan that was produced two years later).
The 2015 Masterplan capped heights at 15-storeys. Greenwich Planners also renewed a lapsed application for the site further making the tower a probable formality.
It all adds up to confused and messy management and strategic direction for the borough’s main town centre, which is far behind equivalents in most London boroughs in terms of choice and appeal right now. Attempts to improve things hit blocks time and time again.
And they encourage 1980s style retail barns down the road in Charlton further harming the boroughs main town centre.
Let’s just hope they don’t block the new market proposal, but you never know with Greenwich Council.