Today’s post is a bit of a round-up of things happening around Woolwich. I’ll start with the scheme for new homes on land behind Tesco, as seen above, and move onto smaller developments after. Plans for this were submitted a few months back and I’ve been intending to put something up. Better late than never.
So then, starting with the biggie and Tesco’s development subsidiary Spenhill have plans for the next phase of ‘Woolwich Central’. Planning details are here. This is on the large amount of land to the rear of the superstore recently built, which won ‘carbunkle of the year’ in 2014. The first phase’s design was substantially altered after gaining planning approval, with many elements cut back or altered to the detriment of the building and surrounding streets.
This scheme features towers not present in earlier plans from 2007, as seen on the left. Those envisaged a tower in front of where Tesco now stands, in the area that is now grassed in front of the store. The tower plans were awful, so a small victory of sorts. It was far from an elegant design.
So now the tower has moved to the rear, which is likely to rouse opposition from those living nearby as seen before. I presume Tesco will argue that not having a tower on one end means greater density at the other. However, I don’t believe Tesco have ruled out a tower in front of the superstore facing onto General Gordon Square. They could get approval for this then come back with plans for another tower by the square. I’m a bit ambivalent towards that idea – London is in severe need of housing, yet the green space in front of Tesco opens up the area nicely and adds to the square. Tower or no tower there in future, it must be better than the very poor earlier proposal.
The tallest tower is 22 storeys. It’s basically a slab. Dull, chunky, boring, and given what happened with earlier stages it’s hard to get too excited. The exterior looks to have a sizable amount of grey brick. Dreary. The windows and balcony give a strong horizontal emphasis to the exterior. Never a good idea on a 22 storey tower as it just appear stumpy and fat. Well, stumpier than it already is.
You can forget much happening at street level. Dead frontages are all around. Cost-cutting by not placing parking at basement level ensures that. At least the rest of the site has a bit of variety in exterior materials.
With Tesco’s well publicised issues in retail, and their recent announcement that they will not be opening large stores at Bexleyheath and Dartford, it may be tempting to think this will not happen anytime soon. However the proposal is purely for housing and features no retail space. With the housing market in bubble territory they must be tempted to speed up development. Get cracking, include minimal social housing, sell the vast majority of homes to ‘investors’ in Asia, a few-to-buy to let landlords in the UK and even less to people who can actually afford to buy and then occupy (what a quaint concept), then count your money and jobs a good ‘un.
It’s for that reason I would not be surprised if Tesco now come up with mainly residential schemes at their Bexleyheath and Dartford sites. Both are in the centre of their respective towns. A tempting plan would be for some small scale retail at street level, including a Tesco Express and some other units, and then a few stories of housing above.
Connaght Estate Rebuild
To the bottom right of the large aerial render above you can make out the Connaught estate. Demolition begun there in the summer. There’s a few pics showing progress by Chris Mansfield which can be seen here. It also has a great aerial photo of the estate when new in 1970, along with many other historic and contemporary photos of Woolwich, documenting the changes. A history of the estate is on Douglas McCarthy’s site here. Many good photographs of SE London can also be found there.
684 homes in total will be built on the replacement estate, with 332 in phase one. This is part of the ‘One Woolwich’ scheme I’ve previously written about here. It sees a net loss of ‘affordable’ housing, let alone social housing. Residents will be moving in from 2016.
Elsewhere in Woolwich
There’s a few other schemes on Artillery Place I’ll cover in a future post. Around 120 homes are planned there. A much smaller scheme that has just finished is 12 homes on Wilmount Street near the station. These appear to be more shared ownership rip-offs. As housing is now too expensive for most of the young, the idea is to offer a small percentage of a home (in this case just 30%) and they can pay rent on the rest. That’s all average wages will allow for many, as the house price to average wage ratio is totally out of whack after 15 years of 10-20% annual rises. Great if you bought before 2000. Shit if you didn’t. Average prices used to be 4.5 x single average income. That would make the average house price in SE London around 100k. It’s now about 300k. So you’re 100k now buys 30% of a home (plus rent on the rest) instead of 100%.
Wilmount Street is one of those narrow streets near Wilkinsons. Wilkinson’s itself will be demolished for a new leisure centre, with the existing Waterfront site sold. The narrow, twisty backstreets around there could have so much character, and this area reveals Greenwich council’s historic planning failures. There’s so much post war dross, including a fair bit from the 90s. Almost goes without saying that it’s filthy and full of cheap street cutter. The future leisure centre site plans could be a great moment to revitalise the wider area.
The site above is a case in point. It appears to be disused, having been garages on what looks like council owned land, with a low rise council housing block attached. Located just two minutes away from the rail and DLR station, this should be high density housing. Building close to major public transport sites is a must, though of course the infrastructure must be upgraded alongside.
So as ever at Woolwich there’s a lot going on. All the plans, and particularly Tesco’s plans for 500 new homes and Connaught’s 600, will add a fair bit of infrastructure pressure. It’s important to continue reminding the Government, and Department for Transport, that existing infrastructure plans are unlikely to be good enough for long even with Crossrail coming, let alone the squeeze before it does open in 2018.