From The Murky Depths

Housing and Development in London

Housing, Woolwich

742-home Spray Street plan in Woolwich submitted. All existing buildings to be demolished

New town square. One of the best parts of the scheme

A planning application for 742 new homes and shops in Woolwich from Notting Hill and St Modwen has been submitted to Greenwich Council.

The scheme will bring in £2.5 million from the Community Infrastructure Levy income alongside Section 106 income yet to be decided.

Model of the site

One of the biggest revelations is that all existing buildings are to be demolished including the covered market and buildings on Woolwich New Road.

Many buildings on the site are poor and losing them would be no great loss architecturally speaking. But a minority do have some merit even if currently they are unloved.

Up until mid-November 2017 there were no formal plans to demolish all buildings during meetings with Greenwich Council or other agencies.

Developers did propose in previous consultations replacing the corner building on Woolwich New Road with a pretty poor design:

Then at the last minute decided to get rid of all of it:

What’s being proposed instead is pretty much the same height and barely any greater density. The existing parade could look fantastic if renovated and incorporated into the new design. Yes it looks tired now with much crap signage but imagining it restored isn’t too difficult.

Courtesy Google

Courtesy Google

It’s a massive shame and something Greenwich borough councillors should ask tough questions about. It’s hard to see why yet more of Woolwich’s heritage should be wiped out, especially as this was only revealed just before submitting the plans.

Reasons given seem pretty feeble. The ceiling heights in retail units is one. Has anyone really had an issue using existing shops?

The paving space outside is another. That’s due to street clutter and redundant items like an old phone box alongside many advertising boards. Nothing that can’t easily be rectified.

Slightly more homes can be accommodated with them gone. But it’s tiny numbers in the grand scheme of things that could be accommodated elsewhere.

Nearby in Woolwich is a recently approved scheme named the “Island Site”that also includes a cinema plan, and it demolishes poor quality buildings, restores those of merit and includes decent new builds around them.




Social housing

Another last minute change revealed in November 2017 was a reduction in social housing, so demolition of older buildings hasn’t brought more truly affordable housing.

It now totals about 15%. This is 42% of the so-called “affordable” element. Greenwich’s target is 75%.

In the words of the developer: “the team concluded that the development could not viably carry the proportion of Social Rented accommodation previously proposed”.

Nevermind eh, maybe Greenwich Council could pop along and spend some of the £65 million its allocated on market home purchases instead. It’s pretty awful value for the taxpayer mind.

The old market is going too, once Street Feast have occupied the site for a couple of years. Some elements of the roof will be re-used around the site.

Barely five years after millions were spent on improved paving along Plumstead Road and they want to dig it all up again. And get this, have plants amongst landscaping.

Nothing wrong with that you might think. But it’s high maintenance. Will it turn into a rubbish strewn area as the central reservation on Plumstead Road did within weeks of installation? Two years on and it was removed at more expense.

There a new square planned in the centre of the site which looks a positive addition and should be a focal point with restaurants and a cinema planned.

Colour coding denotes type of housing. “Affordable” is in light blue.

Towers are clustered to the north of the site near the towers recently built above the Crossrail station on the Arsenal site.

They do not look particularly inspiring:

The architects are Panter Hudspith and Glen Howells.

The planning reference is 18/0126/F. Search here to view and comment.

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32 Comments

  1. John Edwards

    Another planning outrage in Woolwich. First a 27 storey tower on the community green space in front of Tesco’s with zero social housing, now this. These developments completely disregard local heritage and local people. Get in your objection to the planning consultation by 28 February.

  2. Jon

    The trouble with the heritage argument, when applied to shopfronts in Woolwich and Plumstead, is that the combination of the Council, landlords and retailers have proved themselves wholly unequal to the task of making that heritage look any good. It currently looks absolutely terrible and there is no prospect of that improving, sadly, without starting again in new ownership.

    • fromthemurkydepths

      Agree that some current owners are letting them rot and Greenwich should have taken action, but if retained and incorporated into the new scheme the developers of the rest of the site could ensure higher standards.

      • Jon

        That’s true, and the development-to-the-west-of-the-town-centre-whose-name-I’ve-forgotten-but-which-I-think-also-includes-a-cinema-(?) is a much better example of that happening.

  3. Kate

    Thanks for clearly bringing our attention to this… not sure what to say. Will get objection comments in though.

  4. Mike Snowden

    Greenwich should hold them to proper allocations of affordable property and better design – especially if they grab the whole site, making it more profitable than before.

  5. James

    This is awful.. Didn’t this part of London learn anything from removing all of Erith Town Centre’s heritage…

    • Chris Nash

      Replacing Erith High Street with a soulless concrete shopping arcade, then replacing that with an equally soulless modern shopping arcade, is one of the greatest urban planning blunders in Bexley’s history. Erith doesn’t have a “centre” any more, just a load of B-list shops, a big supermarket and some drive-through fast food.

  6. Deb

    This is appalling. Among the reasons that the Spray Street development attracted broad support was that the older buildings in that section of New Road were to be incorporated, that the height of buildings was to be staggered and set back from Plumstead Road and that a covered market would hopefully be included but positioned more suitably to link with the open market and the Arsenal entrance. The proposed replacements in New Road are bland (RBG confuses cleaning and tidying with bland, unfortunately, so they’ll probably win favour) – could the facades, at least not be incorporated? The developers, typically, are pleading poverty in order to reduce the level of social housing. One of the developers is a housing association. Housing Associations seem to have lost sight of their raison d’etre. Whilst I fully believe that you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs (and not all buildings have virtue merely due to longevity) I am increasingly convinced that the powers that be, locally, are cynics who, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

  7. Yasmin

    This can only be a good thing. The entire area is an eyesore…

    • Jo

      About 80% of the place can go but 20% is worth retention and renovation. To not see that is a failure to look beyond the current run down state at what is possible.

      There’s many examples of condemning a whole area as an eyesore and clearing it all away as seen in the 1960s and 70s and now regretted. Much of the now most popular parts of London had similar plans.

  8. Concerned

    The comments on here and the articles themselves are astonishingly naive and represent the usual lack of “can do” attitudes prevalent in the UK. For anyone to have anything positive to say about the ragbag collection of run down premises and low brow businesses currently operating there is worrying. The whole area needs regeneration in a very obvious way and the retail offerings need to be up-scaled accordingly. If you look to the Royal Arsenal site you can see the future for this part of Woolwich. Lets not keep looking back.

    • Jo

      A funny example as the Arsenal site has retained some older buildings and built around them which works very well. So the point you make falls down.

      I don’t think anyone has suggested keeping the whole site as is. Most of it is poor. Some is potentially great,mainly Woolwich New Road. Those elements as pictured in the article can be retained and restored and the overall scheme still retain the vast majority of what is proposed.

      Doing so would make no odds to attracting new retailers.

      Travel across London to see many other great examples of older buildings renovated into new builds.

      This is just the lazy option.

      • Even more concerned

        Err except for the fact that the buildings retained are Grade 1 / 2 listed and worthy of retaining. Unlike the ones you are referring to.

        • Arsenal resident

          Far from all buildings retained in the Arsenal are Grade I and II. And the developers STILL wanted to pull down listed buildings.

          It was only that “can do” attitude that stopped it.

          Amazing you think “can do” attitudes are bad. Should everyone just roll over as they “can’t do”?

          There’s people that block every change. I’ve no time for them. Then there’s people who want to demolish everything regardless.

          Fortunately most see the wisdom in retaining what can be good – even if only a minority of buildings – and having good design alongside.

  9. Steve

    Part of the character of London is its mixture of old and new buildings, wiping out all the old buildings and building new ones might make the area look fresh in the short to medium term, but it removes all character from an area. Sadly the lessons of the 1960s/70s don’t seem to have been learnt here.
    Look at Erith town centre, the old Deptford high Street and surrounding area developed in the 1969s/70s and so many more. Long term the area will suffer and once those shiny new buildings become faded and drab the local area will look even worse.

  10. MR M CURRIE

    Modern retailers want buildings with high ceilings and nice square units.

    In expensive areas independents often use old buildings and because of the high prices they can charge can put up with less efficient buildings and still have attractive looking units.

    Now given time and if Woolwich had become more upmarket then it would not be such a problem for units like these, but maybe the developer wants a nice clean sweep along it’s buildings with no low value users dragging down the value of the site. It will also want modern units that are easy to let.

    For the clients, these buildings will be well insulated and be more secure with space for decent airconditioning etc. Modern units with no quirky bits to work around will provide a quick and simple shop fit,lowering costs to occupy etc etc.

    As it’s on a high footflow area near the Station I imagine Banks, Cafes etc would be interested. I imagine there are quite a few banks etc occupying old non accessible buildings with dated shop fits in the area.

  11. CDT

    I would like to see some of the older buildings retained if they are in a good state of repair and kept clean and tidy on the outside. Sadly many of the buildings have not been maintained by the current owners/landlords. Thereby allowing the buildings to fall in to decline, This does make the area look very drab and run down.

  12. Steve

    I think some of your guys are simply the professionally outraged. The area is a total mess and I welcome regeneration.

    If a few eggs have to be broken to make the omelette so be it – if its a choice between retaining a few old buildings of dubious architectural value and it being the downtrodden pit of a place it currently is, I will take the former thank you very much.

    You get entrenched in the “DEVELOPERS = BAAD” mindset and now every-single planning application gets a cadre of crusty protesters show up, regardless of its individual merits.

  13. Ndog

    This is quite poigant in terms of connecting Woolwich and the Royal Arsenal,which are sometimes considered worlds apart.

    What is most important is tearing down the entire site and I mean every single brick of it and even if that means destroying some wonderful old buildings, it cannot be bad.

    I live very close to Spray Street where constantly we have groups of men congregating, playing loud music from cars, causing mess and trouble, parry place is always full of illegally parked cars, we have a nightclub that runs 12 hour events under the premise of a council granted TEN license. I recall the area outside the public market being cordoned off by police 4 times in 6 months in 2016. We need to be brutally honest and admit that the folks knocking around are doing NOTHING but causing nuisance,noise, and trouble. All of this continues to happen because the police and council don’t have the bollocks to do something about it
    On top of all of that and I haven’t even mentioned some of the rubbish offered up by local retailers and eateries, excluding wing lee and the Arsenal gate cafe, we are losing exactly nothing.
    This will give the vicinity a chance to revive itself, replacing all dodgy landlords and shopkeepers who have no respect for the local area, littering and operating outside of hours. with (HOPEFULLY) new ones who will maintain their properties and business who will contribute to Woolwich.

  14. anonymous201486

    The soulless redevelopment of Woolwich contains with Greenwich council again failing to challenge the ‘non-viability argument in respect of social rental units, and thus not meeting its own target of 75%.

    I don’t bemoan the loss of the foetid shop units, but the buildings of which they are part stand head and shoulders above what will replace them.

  15. CDT

    I do agree with the re-development of Woolwich and the area around spray street, Parts of Woolwich have become a no go areas after dark. As Ndog rightly mentioned the mess anti-social behaviour and noise does need to be tackled by Greenwich Council and the Police. The no drinking on the street zones introduced by many Local Authorities in conjunction with the Police seems to have lapsed lately, So not sure if these are still in force in the Borough,

  16. NN

    They have started surveys at John Wilson Street blocks of flats ( maisonettes). I live in one of them. I am just concerned they are planning to demolish us too. I don’t mind the area to be regenerated ( reg. Spray Street) but changing it into soulless creature is nothing to do with regeneration.

  17. ray

    Not sure why the fuss. The whole area including buildings looks like a shit hole. Say the person who just move into the area because I bought the flat here. Woolwich looks scary as fuck. So can’t be more than welcome this boring building block. At least it’s miles better than we is already there. Who cares!

    • Ed

      Much does look crap but the reasons for that will come back again unless action is taken regardless of new buildings or not.

      Owners not caring about buildings, no enforcement from Greenwich Council, anti-social behaviour etc will happen again within a few years if nothing changes from the council and police. It’s laughable they permit the blatant issues right on Parry place then want to stop street feast.

      We’ve seen similar at Tesco. Underlying issues not sorted and it’s often a place to avoid now even with a new development. New areas can easily become places to avoid again.

      Demolishing everything, including the few good buildings on site, wont stop that. Anyway, I don’t see many calling for ALL the crap buildings to stay but the minority of good ones on New Road on the way to the DLR, and that’s nowhere near Parry Place (which does have a load of rubbish).

      Not all is beyond saving which is the crucial point. Some people just don’t be able to look past the area as it is or think its all or nothing. That’s what saw lots of nice Victorian and Georgian buildings knocked down in the 60s. Imagine some of the best restored. Only a fraction of buildings NOT all.

      On another issue – the existing crap shopfronts wouldn’t remain under any plan – the new owners would take control of older buildings if retained then cleaning and restoring them so the argument that keeping the best buildings = same old ugly shopfronts remaining is wrong.

    • anonymous201486

      It’s location, location, location every time. I have known Woolwich, Plumstead and Abbey Wood for nearly 50 years and they have always been places where I would never buy. You can’t just plonk down shiny high rises in the middle of deprived areas and hope for the best. The Royal Borough of Greenwich can keep granting planning permission for more of the same, but it will never attract highclass retailers to the area. The day Waitrose arrives is when I eat my non-existent hat.

  18. Othermarigold

    I’m one of the few people living in Spray Street, and this can’t happen soon enough for me. The stupid way that the street suddenly turns one way half way up, leading to endless gridlock, the grot, the noise, the lurking guys in 4x4s with blacked-out windows and lots of friends…time for a new approach.

  19. CDT

    Sadly I cannot see the anti social behaviour problems in and around Woolwich Spay Street Parry Place and and the Borough of Greenwich generally getting any better until the Council get tough on this and take the necessary actions. My heart goes out to Othermarigold and the residents living with this night in night out. This is stopping Woolwich from being the great place it once was and could be again.

  20. Call me crazy

    I have moved in the area in 2014 and couldn’t agree more with people saying that this couldn’t happen soon enough. I personally believe that replacing the buildings will attract higher income earners in the area and reduce anti social behaviour. Some say that there are not enough social housing or even affordable homes in the current scheme but I think we already have enough of them in other part of Woolwich and it will ultimately help balance things out. I tottally see the points made in the article and by some commenters but living in the area gives me a different perspective. Keeping old buildings… is great for tourists and visitors but the biggest priority for people who live in the area is to attract more higher income earners right now. Some developers have already given up building in Woolwich because the council refused their plans (e.g., Spenhill) and sold their land to other developpers. At some point, we need to recognize the value those guys bring. What they offer is not perfect but it is such an improvement that we should be excited. Having a “can do” attitude is great but we also need to embrace changes and stop complaining every time someone comes up with a plan to improve current state by arguing that it is only 80% there.

    • Anne Twacky

      Translation: I moved here less than 5 years ago and now I want property prices to rise so I can coin it.

      Thanks for the feedback.

      • Call me crazy

        I don’t really care whether prices go up or down as I have no intention of selling the apartment. I just want the area to improve (which I concede lead to higher prices, in theory at least). There is no reasoning with people who don’t want to listen and prefer to put words in your mouth so they look clever when they debate with themselves… Thanks for the translation.

  21. Mick Z

    Heritage???? the area went down hill when it lost the pie & mash shop a few years ago. Nail bars & fish shops, is that heritage? its an eyesore.

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