A trip east to Bexleyheath
I took a rare foray to Bexleyheath recently. It’s not the most inspiring place in the world, particularly for nightlife (try catching some live music…) but it did remind me that there’s a few things happening on the development front. Bexley is Bonkers does a grand job documenting changes, such as large-scale street alterations, so I won’t cover that here.
One intriguing thing that has occurred is the town centre Tesco site being sold to Sports Direct. They recently sold it along with sites in Woolwich (which failed to gain planning permission), Lewisham (just to the north of the station) and Dartford. Given that everything they had proposed was, at best, shite, then this was welcome. But Sports Direct and their behaviour? We’ll have to see how that goes.
I’ve been banging on for ages about just how wasteful large retail units are in cities. Just last week I covered how Lidl want to build one just five minutes from the forthcoming Crossrail station at Abbey Wood. Hopefully Greenwich council pull them up on it and demand truly mixed use, like Southwark did in October when they tried the same trick. It’ll be a keen test of what Greenwich’s ambitions are for Abbey Wood.
Well, Tesco were planning to do the same in the middle of Bexleyheath. A big box with no other uses. A massive waste, so a positive with Sports Direct’s announcement is the statement that development will include housing. The press release states:
“Sports Direct has acquired the former Bexley Civic Centre site in Bexleyheath from Tesco with a view to delivering a new mixed-use scheme which will kick start the regeneration and deliver new jobs and homes in this part of the town centre.
It is also proposed to provide extensive new residential accommodation above the retail uses, which will deliver a mixed use scheme and enliven this part of the town centre.”
With minimal experience in mixed-use development and a reputation for penny pinching, it’ll be interesting to see what is produced. Decent architects and high quality, contextual development seem a stretch. For Bexley council it’s likely to be mix of relief at seeing the site they sold to Tesco hopefully not lying empty for long, mixed with trepidation at what is drawn up.
Another proposal in the town centre is a restaurant unit at the public space by the clock tower.
Alongside additional nearby housing this could help make that area less of a ghost town after 6pm. Bexleyheath is really lacking things to do compared to many other town centres. As the heart of a borough with a quarter of a million people it’s currently pretty dull.
Finally, a new 49-flat housing block named Butlers Yard has been proposed behind shops along the Broadway.
The site is currently used mainly as private car parking. The view above is from Albion Road, which is due to be narrowed from two lanes each way to one. I don’t see that ending well.
A Premier Inn hotel and flats also recently opened further along Albion Way.
There appears scope for a fair bit more infill along the road, with much car parking and small out-buildings. If parking is retained it could be consolidated into a multi-storey, freeing up land for a fair few more housing blocks.
Bexleyheath has prospered a great deal more than Greenwich’s main town centre at Woolwich in recent decades. With a fair bit of vacant land that could well continue. Woolwich still has an enormous task ahead of it despite great strides the past ten years. Spray street plans will be crucial. Currently, many people who are close to Woolwich still head to Bexleyheath or to Charlton, which is still being expanded.
On that note, the Brocklebank retail park at Charlton with confirmed stores from Aldi, Primark (meaning a closure at Woolwich?) and Next is now due to open in October 2016.