FromTheMurkyDepths

Housing and Development in London

Plumstead

New Plumstead library and leisure centre plans to be decided tonight

Greenwich Council will tonight hold a Planning Board meeting to decide whether to approve plans for a new library and leisure centre at a cost of at least £11.2 million. A new cafe will be included.

Plans for the site have been revised since initially being revealed. The council formally wanted to demolish almost all the building except the facade which was to have a chunk cut out for a “glazed spine”.

English Heritage listed the Carnegie-funded library almost to the day those plans were revealed. So now they’re revised and the front is fortunately retained along with much of the front half of the existing building.

New side entrance

Controversy

Investment is of course welcome in Plumstead though this plan has not been without controversy. Questions have been raised as to whether this plan is good value and whether it will really benefit most of Plumstead High Street.

Greenwich Council claim it will. Well it will offer some new facilities but it’s a reasonable distance from the bulk of shops. It’s not slap-bang in the centre and any trickle-down effects to the heart of the High Street and Lakedale Road are far from obvious. Between it and most shops are a petrol station and housing.

It seems an odd place to start much-needed work in improving Plumstead High Street, but it does conform to their top-down methodology and oft-seen lack of ideas over the importance of public realm in attracting shoppers, helping business and encouraging more people to walk and leave the car behind.

An example of this that is continually raised is TfL awarding Greenwich Council £150,000 to spend this year on the High Street though the Local Implementation Plan. Despite promises of consulting residents on any plans nothing has been revealed or consulted upon.

Potential here for trees, new paving, attractive lighting, outside seating for new shops, cafes, nursery, community centre etc?

Improving lower Plumstead and the High Street with public realm improvements where most shops are located would have more resonance and appeal in increasing footfall to the High Street. A fraction of £11.2 million could work wonders.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see that areas such as Lakedale Road have great potential as hubs for the community.

Closing the old centre

The former leisure centre behind the library on Speranza Street closed quite abruptly 18 months ago. Cost estimates to renovate were around £1 million which is substantially cheaper than this scheme, which will offer less space than what it replaces, and the difference in cost would’ve allowed work on other parts of the High Street.

Isometric view of current plans

The funding for this scheme has also raised eyebrows. It’s being funded entirely in-house by Greenwich Council without securing any external funding as often happens in other local authorities schemes.

So Greenwich residents are on the hook for all costs. To pay for it they are selling off local assets. These include buildings such as the former leisure centre site and the Kinara Building nearby which an external report, the Plumstead Urban Framework (remember that? What’s it achieved?) recommended be retained for community use.

It may seem churlish to criticise much needed investment in Plumstead. There’s much to like in these plans. But it does raise old questions about how and where they focus time and money and whether they understand the importance of improving town centres and public realm.

Will a nice new library and leisure centre (albeit smaller) that is separate from most shops the main priority to help the rest of the town? Was selling off local community buildings the right way to fund it?

Also before the Greenwich Planning Board tonight are plans to demolish and rebuild Aldi in Thamesmead and a small uplift in homes planned for new blocks on Greenwich Peninsula.

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1 Comment

  1. Deb

    Three local residents addressed the board this evening, covering parking, consultation methodology and the historical and architectural aspects of the planning application. Although the application was agreed unanimously without, disappointingly, any amendments or conditions, there were some concessions. Efforts will be stepped up to investigate, and hopefully rescue and conserve, the 1909 murals; parking issues will, rather than perhaps, be reviewed; GLL will be asked to consider including a small reference library to free up space in the main library (which will be 20% smaller than now) for more books and other materials. Questions asked by councillors related to parking, the plant room that will be located next to a domestic residence and the murals. Although a foregone conclusion, it is still disappointing that a huge investment (albeit – on paper – in an attractive new build) will result in a substantial loss of leisure services; the sale of public assets (when a Sport England fund is available for refurbishment or rebuilds of existing sports centres); that investment in Plumstead District Centre is being applied in an apparantly illogical order. It was also disappointing that not one of the councillors, for the ward in which the library is situated, attended the meeting.

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