Tall ships, crumbling estates and new developments. A look at Greenwich and Woolwich

Tall ships came and went along Greenwich borough’s riverside over the weekend. Woolwich and Greenwich saw the brunt of action as expected, though a few things happened at Eltham. There’s been a fair bit of comment about how Woolwich’s town centre seems to have missed out on much action.

I enjoyed my time in Greenwich. It was packed and the event appeared to be massively helping local businesses. Though Greenwich Tories criticise the event I have no objection to the general idea; an event which brings people together, supports local businesses and also hopefully provides a longer term impact in terms of repeat visitors.

I did raise my eyes at Greenwich Councillor Sizwe James popping up on Twitter proclaiming how it helps High Streets. It certainly seems to, but he is charge of £3.5 million from TfL that could, and should, work wonders on boosting forgotten or neglected shopping parades across the borough as it does in other London boroughs. But for years TfL’s millions have done little in this area due to Greenwich Council and once again there’s no word at all on using it to improve local shopping parades.

There certainly are issues with the festival. I passed through Woolwich on the way to the DLR at around 8pm over the weekend. Based upon this admittedly limited experience, there was no impact in the town centre. A major town centre on a Bank Holiday weekend with a major festival happening should be buzzing. There was no life except the usual hostile environment around the station.

If people do feel like making a repeat visit based upon Tall Ships then the atmosphere around the station at night is enough to put some off. Other councillors such as Dan Thorpe, deputy leader and cabinet member for transport and regeneration was also on Twitter bigging up Woolwich but it’s the bread and butter problems that persist and need addressing.

There’s good things to do in Woolwich and those options are increasing with recent additions such as artFIX. The Woolwich Equitable pub is fantastic. But first impressions count and they aren’t good at that time of night – festival or not. Seeing the state of it makes it clear why many prefer not to leave the Arsenal site.

Over in Greenwich

Whilst in Greenwich I had another look at many new-builds under construction, and as usual passed council blocks in the middle of it all that are maintained by Greenwich Council’s Housing Department. They were generally as bad as ever. More in a bit.

The concrete core of Bellway’s River Gardens has shot up. This is the penultimate block in this development on the south west of the Peninsula. Bellway Homes recently received approval to bump up the number of flats.

Concrete core on left

The next block will look very similar to the block recently completed. This development is one of the poorer efforts in the area. It’s too bloated with floors 2-9 having excessive prominence above feeble street-level frontages, plus it’s pretty drab with extensive use of grey cladding. Earlier stages partly used timbre which faded to a stained and weathered grey within a year or two which looks pretty cheap.

Next to it is Barratts Enderby Wharf with its striking turquoise and orange blocks. The penultimate block is now rising. Behind is the tower element of Precision by Telford Homes. This will have green cladding.

Enderby block on left with precision tower to the right

Over to the west near the Creek is another large development; here’s Essential Living’s tower by the Creek:

A bit further east is the oft-mentioned Thornham Street Estate. One surrounded by new builds. Sorry if this is a bit groundhog day but it’s an example of ongoing neglect which has reached the point of being dangerous and one likely to cost taxpayers dear.

Land around the tower base wasn’t as awful as it’d been on prior occasions. They’ve trimmed the foliage near the entrance but it’s still pretty awful on the whole. Just about every wall has broken bricks. I’ve said it before – this neglect is asking for litigation.

There’s loose bricks at head and waist height of children. It’ll take one to mess around and pull a brick out and that’s an injury and thousands of pounds of Greenwich taxpayers money in claims. And Greenwich council have been told about it.

The photos don’t do a good job conveying how bad it really is. Broken walls and fences are a common theme in areas managed by Greenwich’s Housing Department. They do not appear to employ anybody who can fix these issues. Greenwich Councillor Averil Lekau is in charge of public housing and surrounding land managed by the Housing Department.

The exterior of the tower also seems to be looking worse with stains increasingly evident.

Stained exterior. Entrance area in front is poor condition

As I’ve said before, despite this block being surrounded by a ridiculous amount of new builds that’ve brought millions to Greenwich Council in the form of Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy payments, not one penny has gone on improving an area where some of the poorest Greenwich residents live. At least in the past decade.

Behind where the above photo was taken is New Capital Quay, to the left is The Gramercy, to the right is Caledonian Wharf and then Essential Living’s tower. A five minute walk down Norman Road brings us to the Movement development and a few new hotels.

These would have brought in much, much income to Greenwich Council and it’s not unreasonable to expect some to be used to improve the condition of public space around public housing. This would happen in many boroughs across London.

Gramercy development

And that is one criticism of Tall Ships. If Greenwich Council didn’t have one of the most hopeless Housing Departments when it comes to maintaining public space then they’d be less questions about spending such sums on a festival just a stone’s throw away. They’re just so poor on the basics. Cross the Creek and look at the landscaping, parks, greenery and general appearance of Crossfield’s estate. It’s so far above what Greenwich Council manage.

There’s serious and chronic structural problems in some departments. Councillors and Scrutiny Panels are failing to hold them to account. People living at Crossfields over in Lewisham borough can take pride in the place. Live in dignity. Not be ashamed to welcome visitors to their block.

Presumably this doesn’t occur, or matter, to Greenwich Councillors or staff if they’re happy to allow places to degrade so far? The money’s there to improve poorer areas despite the endless wailing about cuts.

It’s a Labour council ignoring this problem. Happy to take the developer dollar but not to use it to improve the housing of some of the poorest in the borough.

At The Gramercy development adjacent to Thornham Street Estate, Up the Creek comedy club have occupied a unit. No other units appear to have anything imminent.

It’s a small thing but why not attach street lighting to buildings here? It’s been made much easier over the past year under regulation changes. Doing so reduces obstacles on paving, and if it became the default standard procedure borough-wide it would reduce costs further down the line. When street work needs to be carried out, or cycles lane installed in certain area, street lighting poles will be less of an issue.

Back to the Tall Ships event, and all in all the weekend seemed a success. It does a lot of good. But if Greenwich keep getting the basics so wrong in so many departments they can’t expect to get away without questions. How much staff time is taken by Tall Ships to the detriment of other issues?

Are staff distracted from working on improving these crumbling estates, or Plumstead’s rotten High Street or any other number of serious issues by being engaged in this event for months beforehand? The festival is no panacea to these problems. I doubt it’ll help the ruling Labour council electorally in just over a years time if systemic failures aren’t addressed. When they rub up against each other so starkly questions of competence and priorities will linger.


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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.

12 thoughts on “Tall ships, crumbling estates and new developments. A look at Greenwich and Woolwich

  • Just for the record, it’s not the Haddo Estate but the Thornham Street Estate and the staining is caused by a couple of leaky boilers, both in the hands of leasehold tenants (hence the delay in them being dealt with, as presumably they have to scrape together the cost of repairs).

    • Thanks for that I wasn’t 100% sure it was correct but couldn’t find the name. I’ve edited it. Leaseholders are an issue which right to buy has exacerbated. Especially with many landlords being hard to track or abroad. Landlord licensing would help solve that but not all problems of course. I just hope RBG are pushing hard – they’ve been slow in other instances of private owners or leaseholders causing issues.

  • WONDERFUL work as always, Murky. So much appreciated by so many community groups. All mobilise together one day, perhaps, to get some action out of RBG?

    • Thanks very much. Could that mobilisation day be June 8th? 😉 Just kidding. Many local MPs are good – it’s the councillors and council departments where the problems lie. Even saying that many Labour Greenwich Councillors are good but some are too complacent. They should be giving departments a bollocking for failing in so many areas which is costing residents dearly – both in terms of living conditions and finances.

      We have parking income which is £2 million below budgeted each and every year as enforcement is non-existent in many areas, poor spending of TfL’s annual millions and money coming from developers not improving many places, plus letting poorer areas rot (estates and places like Plumstead High Street) and yet spending money on plans like the Plumstead Urban Framework which has gone nowhere a year and 2 months after being revealed. Flytipping off the scale as fines issued pale in comparison to other councils. Labour Ealing with 4,000 in a year since £400 fines introduced last April v 15 in Greenwich is a stark example.

      Good MPs shouldn’t really suffer because of this. Local politicians are at fault for not pushing hard at these issues with council departments and management.

      • How about we try and lock in a date for as many of us to gather to attend a council meeting. I think there is enough research done on this website for us to take good action and ask direct questions of our council. Maybe we should use this board as a catalyst for us all to go out there and be politically active in questioning what are elected officials do. Our votes hired them and our taxes pay for them, they’re nothing more than public servants at the end of the day. If enough people pros things will move.

        • It would be good to get in contact with groups around the borough. There’s PARC in Abbey Wood and Plumstead. See @PARC_LDN on Twitter. Also look at Plumstead People on Facebook. The Admins work on projects and have asked questions at council meetings. There’s other groups like EGRA in East Greenwich http://www.egra.london/ and also groups like the Greenwich Society http://greenwichsociety.org.uk/ I know new websites are planned at some of these groups alongside campaigns and flyers possibly being distributed due to very poor action in many area by Greenwich Council and some councillors. If only Cllrs engaged and actually addressed failing departments. Just tonight one liked a Greenwich Council Tweet about flytipping fines which didn’t mention that only 14 were issued at the £400 level whilst councils like Ealing have issued 4,000 in the same timeframe. Then another said Greenwich Council parks are second to none! Clearly rubbish. Treating people like idiots and supporting failing departments and denying issues is not helping them.

  • Next time you are at the Thornham Street Estate walk down Norman Road opposite the cement works – there is a wall there (6 foot plus) that has gaps in the bricks so big you can put your fingers through. I’ve told the council numerous times it is just waiting to fall (A SIX FOOT WALL!) but they’ve done nothing. As for Gramercy the units do have planning applications on – a significant part of it is to become an Tesco and a gym (‘The Gym’ chain).

  • ‘At The Gramercy development adjacent to Thornham Street Estate, Up the Creek comedy club have occupied a unit. No other units appear to have anything imminent.’
    Up the Creek was there long before the ridiculous ‘Gramercy’ development. Hopefully it’s there long after. I hope they are going to do up the kids playground in the graveyard park behind it as part of thier land grab.
    It’s a real shame if the other units are going to be a Tesco and another gym. Could be so much more potential realised here.

    • Yep I know – been going Up the Creek for years. I was just referring to the unit they’ve taken on. I hope the new neighbours don’t start complaining of noise and get told where to go if they do. Agree about the retail units.

  • The area around the riverfront and Creek Road are, indeed, bristling with expensive, shiny high rise blocks whilst, as observed, the older council owned blocks continue to decline. However, any flat that comes up for sale in one of these will command a high price because the surrounding developments have dragged up the premium.

    Greenwich Council has embarked upon a plan of ‘refurbishment’ (read tarting up) of its housing stock. I have been less than impressed by the work carried out by its contractor and the new windows are just about the cheapest and plainest it could have bought. The scaffolding has been up since 27 December and could remain so until the crack of doom because there has been no update on the stages of the work from the contract manager at the council.


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