Woolwich improvements already falling apart?

DSCF2513The poor state of Woolwich’s squares, streets and public spaces was one of the inspirations behind this blog. Many were terrible. Run down, filthy, and exhibiting design flaws that much of the rest of London, and other UK cities, had long moved on from. So I was very supportive of the millions spent on upgrading the two squares, along with new paving and an improved public space outside the indoor market. It couldn’t have come quick enough. The replacement squares, funded by the GLA back under Ken Livingstone, are a vast improvement. So on a recent visit I was pretty dismayed to see maintenance seemed to be non-existent by Greenwich Council.

The council were lucky enough to have millions lavished on these areas, designed by Gustafson Porter. It was transformative. Yet walking past the indoor market showed that Greenwich’s typical lack of care and effort was in evidence. The paving, which was far from ordinary cheap slabs, was very dirty. Street furniture such as bins and benches were filthy or broken. I recall the council boasting a couple of years ago of purchasing high pressure jet washers to keep areas in better condition. Where are they? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to use them on areas that saw millions in investment just 3-4 years ago? It’s undermining all the improvements taking place.


In many other parts of London, and other UK cities, it’s very common to see councils jet washing areas and showing a bit of pride. Last time I was in Birmingham I saw it along the road where the main library was built. In Liverpool last month along the new Mersey river frontage. In Bristol they did it pretty much every week. You can’t move in many European cities for the authorities keeping places looking good. After all, when spending millions it makes sense to keep it looking good. And it’s something that’s very cheap and easy to do that makes a big visual difference. With Woolwich having such a poor reputation then its important to combat that with locals and occasional visitors alike. But no. Let it rot. Plumstead High Street is also filthy, to name another example. It could see a deep clean too.

There’s more classic Greenwich Council Highways Department ‘design’ here – adding a row of bollards behind an existing one. At least it’s not the cheap wooden ones they use elsewhere that fall over as soon as touched:

Woolwich indoor market

So, what did happen to these pressure washers? And why have they allowed bodge jobs in these areas? When paving has been dug up tarmac has gone down instead of replacement paving. Greenwich council now have powers to combat that. Seemingly not used.

DSCF2514The buildings are also in a right state in many areas too. There’s a masterplan to demolish most of them, but who knows how long that’ll take. Some rudimentary building maintenance by owners and users would be nice. There also unneeded clutter like phone boxes:

A pinch point at busy times
A pinch point at busy times

The various departments in charge of all this – Cleaning, Highways etc – really do need a kick up the arse. You can gift various areas across Greenwich borough with investment and millions but without changes and reform in departments it wont last. It’s NOT expensive to maintain, especially if you’ve bought the equipment. Not when you spend a ton on an extensive weekly paper and then go to court, spending £120k, to keep it going.

I always find it amusing Greenwich Council spend a huge sum trying to give a positive slant to various towns through their paper, and then you visit those very towns and see that money squandered on trying to pull the wool over peoples eyes would’ve been better spent on actually making and maintaining areas people can be proud of. And who does it fool? Some people I know across the borough have a terrible view of many towns. It’s often valid, but it’s such a shame more effort isn’t going to combat those views with genuine improvements and maintenance. The PR bullshit in the council paper isn’t changing those opinions, built up over years of neglect.

Over the road

Across from the indoor market and Berkeley Homes’ towers above the Crossrail station continue to proceed quickly:

Woolwich crossrail towers

Another Berkeley Homes block beside the river has recently been revealed from its protective sheeting:

Woolwich Berkeley development

One of Greenwich Council biggest failings across various departments is not doing small scale stuff well that would yield big improvements. For example, a monthly deep clean on a quiet evening in these areas of Woolwich. In Abbey Wood there’s signs of a change, with all the broken, rusted and ugly fencing they ceased maintaining 15 years ago finally being removed or replaced. It’s cheap, it’s easy. This attitude is needed at Woolwich and many other corners of the borough. It needs a cultural change at departments, and it needs councillors asking many more tough questions of them, and then ensuring its pushed through.

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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

    9 thoughts on “Woolwich improvements already falling apart?

    • I remember those washers being use in General Gordon Square. I havn’t seen them for a while now.

    • Greenwich Council and Woolwich:
      The town now has the one of the biggest, ugliest, most oppressive buildings in the country (Tesco – Official Carbuncle Award Winner!). The Council got itself a brand new office building from Tesco right next door to their carbuncle as a sweetener so its pretty clear how the eyesore got the green light.
      Opposite their brand spanking new daylight blocker is the old cinema which became a community resource but was naturally closed down in order for more hideous buildings to be erected. I should clarify here that I am in no way inferring that Councillors are getting the equivalent of brown paper bags delivered by certain interested parties connected to the construction business as that would be purely my overactive imagination. So, just to emphasise, I’m not saying that. No.
      They stuck a huge Cash Converters style TV in the middle of its town square because…….TV! It’s on all the time and it’s just like being ’round at your Nans – the colours all up to 11 and the sound is distorted beyond audibility. Lovely. I suspect it was put there just to keep the Tennants Association docile.
      They managed to let Marks & Spencer leave after decades in the town in order to bring in a 99p Store in its stead.
      The town has not one but two Gregg’s, three modern day pawn shops (Cash Converters, Cash Generators, CEX) and 6 or 7 bookmakers within a stones throw of each other (the number seems to change daily) all of which adds to the ‘Arsehole of SE London’ ambience.
      All par for the course.
      Greenwich Council are a disgrace. And to think Labour are wondering why their party is struggling to find favour amongst the electorate.

    • Why should the council upgrade the pavement outside the covered in market when planning permission plans are already in the advanced stages to pull it down abd rejuvenate the entire block from “o conners” to burrage road. Developers will do it.

      Why should the council keep the riverside of the skatepark upgraded when from the waterfront (and soon to include the waterfront leisure centre) belongs to Berkleys.

      Surely the council money is better spent upgrading what they themselves are liable for. Let the developers uograde what affects their profits and then the council can adopt the better finished paths.

      • The council are liable for the stretch outside the market. The paving already has been upgraded – 3-4 years ago. All it needs is maintenance. Any new development will barely encroach on it whilst under construction and what is removed will have to be replaced by developers, but at most that’s a couple of metres width and the paving is about 20 metres wide nearer the gatehouse. 95% of this stretch wont be utilised for any temporary construction space, and that is likely to be up to 10 years away. The council can spend an hour or two a month cleaning it at minimal cost until then, along with replacing things that are broken.

        The possibility of far off regeneration is often used by the council for inaction – see the area parade by Abbey Wood station and outside Plumstead station – when it isn’t guaranteed and even if it does occur impacts on only a fragment of the space.

        Greenwich aren’t maintaining the area where the skate park is – Berkeley Homes are doing that. They have just completed a new park where car parking previously was.

    • My first job was in Woolwich when I left school in 1965 (for the then Woolwich Equitable) It didn’t seem run down to me then – but perhaps I didn’t see it? It was certainly a busy, important and thriving town. (My dad worked in the Woolwich Arsenal).

      For about 20 years after we married we shopped there and the only place which comes to mind that looked really awful even then, was the parade including the covered market.

      We never go there now; only pass through it… Although I’m not the greatest fan of modern buildings – although I love The Shard and the ‘gherkin’ I must say I will be very happy when the covered market and tatty little shops come down. As we travel through by car I can’t really see the state of the pavements – but I guess they match the shop frontages.

    • I agree! Many parts of Woolwich, Plumstead and Thamesmead are a disgrace! All it would take is a bit of a clean with a good jet wash! Each shop proprietor should be responsible for maintaining their shop frontage too though. I guess it is a never ending battle to maintain your shop or house in the middle of this soul-destroying-ly constant poor maintenance so perhaps it is a case of ‘they don’t bother so why should I?’. I despair when I have to travel through it, it is just so depressing. We all pay the same amount of council tax but I feel the only areas kept nice in Greenwich are those near Greenwich centre.

    • For my sins I live in a council-owned block and given Greenwich’s attitude towards its maintenance these wider issues come as no surprise to me.

    • I saw the jet washer out in use on Saturday 11th in Woolwich outside the Iceland!


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