Cultural Quarter announced in Woolwich – at expense of neglected areas?

Greenwich Council have announced an exciting development at the Arsenal site in Woolwich. There’s a lot to like in the announcement – a 4,000 seater venue, a theatre seating up to 450, 600 capacity courtyard venue plus a cafe and restaurant overlooking the Thames.

It’s great to see. Woolwich, and most of south east London, has desperately lacked live music venues for a long time now.

However, we need to keep an eye on this. Greenwich borough seems to have too many councillors who value being photographed cutting ribbons above maintaining decent neighbourhoods. Will we see money sucked away from poorer areas to this project? It wouldn’t be the first time.

I reported late last year how millions of pounds coming into the council’s coffers from developers was not being used to improve long-neglected areas. £11.4m was received last year and £50m over the past five. But places like Abbey Wood and Plumstead have seen little of it, even from developments located in those areas.

One obvious example is a development on King’s Highway in Plumstead. £400,000 came in recently to Greenwich council yet not a penny has been spent improving Plumstead High Street or the shopping area on Wickham Lane.

Greenwich Council did however manage to find £54,000 from the Plumstead scheme to send to Greenwich town centre to spend on the square by the Cutty Sark. To add insult it was money allocated for “local community” improvements.

This brought in £400,000 but not a penny has gone to Plumstead’s streets.

Will we see money coming into the council from imminent developments in Abbey Wood, Plumstead and Thamesmead siphoned off to Woolwich’s art hub whilst areas like Plumstead High Street and Abbey Wood estate are left to rot?

To come back to Cutty Sark gardens, the money sent from areas miles away went on a new square that replaced one that was already pretty attractive. It went on installing a water feature which broke within a couple of years, and visiting the spot last week showed the raised planters in a poor state. This is the start of spring. Flowers were in evidence elsewhere but at this site:

So as welcome as this is we don’t need money sucked away from areas that badly need it. And do it right – not a repeat of errors seen elsewhere.

Woolwich would then have a top-class attraction to compliment smaller scale ventures now arriving, such as artFIX on Powis Street, which I covered a few days ago.


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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.

7 thoughts on “Cultural Quarter announced in Woolwich – at expense of neglected areas?

  • I think I would have rather seen the Woolwich Grand invested in as a site. The town centre could do with the investment, rather than encouraging the neglect of the old in favour of the new Arsenal site. A tale of two Woolwichs.

  • If this Labour council in Greenwich again take all money from Plumstead to send to Woolwich for this they can kiss my vote goodbye. I’m on the last thread with them.

    And my neighbours are the same. Keep an eye on this. Thanks for the updates. They can use money coming in from Woolwich housing schemes for it – stop ripping us off in Plumstead, spending nothing here and sending it away.

  • I can honestly only see this development as a good thing. The Dome developed an old brownfield site into a world class destination that has created the will to invest in the area spreading out to Charlton. Woolwich has long been negected and with the new housing and Crossrail expansion creates an opportunity to pull some of that development cash into the area and beyond aka Plumstead. We know that plans and ideas for Plumstead will follow. Moving the Bus depot and the fire station as well as the police station down to Nathan Way would offer new imputus for development in the area. The new library complex is the start of that. Abbey Wood is by virtue of its own CR station and new housing developments is a different issue and should not be conflated with Plumstead. Though saying that if they opened up the other end of the Woolwich CR station with and entrance towards Plumstead that would go a long way to helping attract interest in Plumstead

    • Couldn’t agree more with Vince. Well put.

  • It’s a good scheme but weariness is understandable given how Royal Greenwich have taken money destined for certain places and sent to Greenwich or Woolwich Arsenal.

    It doesn’t have to be one or the other. But they havnt used outside funds in the past like other councils, prefering autonomy and letting millions go begging, and so they raid cash internally taking from areas like Plumstead, hence its in a very poor state in some places.

    I’m all for this but they can’t take money again from some areas to give to others when outside funds can help these schemes. After 20 years people are tired of it.

    • The thing is, after Woolwich got the DLR extension eight years ago in 2009 many said Plumstead would inevitably benefit. Has it? The same when each Arsenal stage completed, and then when Tesco arrived. None made a discernible difference. The trickle down effect has spectacularly failed. I fear this will too if the Labour council again ignore Plumstead and direct all money to this scheme. Lewisham have sourced cash for Deptford et al alongside Lewisham town centre, Bexley Council for Erith etc alongside Bexleyheath (£20 million in that case). “Royal” Greenwich? So far very little for the ignored secondary centres.


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