The sad state of Hare Street in Woolwich town centre

Hare Street in Woolwich was once a bustling, lively town centre street linking Powis Street to the Thames.

It’s not so bustling anymore.

It’s been so for as long as can be remembered. Despite having major retailers such as TK Maxx, Primark and Boots, it’s not exactly befitting a major town centre.

The street has numerous buildings of merit but appears to lack any clear, effective management. Hence the usual is seen on some long neglected buildings; peeling paint, stained brickwork, weeds growing out of buildings, unsightly additions and more.

Looking down Hare Street

Upper storeys have a lot of character but less so when it comes to street frontage.

Even buildings housing major retailers are run down let alone those long abandoned. It’s rough around the edges.

The street once ran to the Woolwich ferry pier. The ferry terminal shifted west, and the Waterfront leisure centre was built on the spot severing the street from the river.

Fortunately, that is due to be rectified when the leisure centre moves to Wilko’s site on General Gordon Square.

Looking up Hare Street from outside Waterfront. Trees blocking views and attractive buildings

But that could be years off. There’s many new homes are being built nearby, such as Callis Yard. Once again, all that Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy income could be playing a part improving this corner of the town.

Business Improvement District

There’s also the option of creating a Business Improvement District. Bexleyheath has one, for example. This is where businesses in a town centre pay a small surcharge to form an organisation to promote and maintain their area.

BIDs often put on events, liaise with councils and other organisations and work to improve town centres.

Many London town centres now have one – in both Labour and Tory areas.

Greenwich Council seem somewhat resistant given their silo-like mentality at times and wanting to retain power. Which is fine if capable and doing a good job. Various areas of Woolwich town centre show otherwise.

Town centre management

Does the condition of this area, amongst others, point to a lack of a lack of strategic direction and effective management across some of Woolwich? Unlike most major town centres, there’s also been no town centre manager to effectively keep on top of issues.

Is that a factor in effective measures and powers to improve the area not being used?

One such power is Section 215 notices which local authorities can issue to building and land owners to force improvements on buildings in poor condition. This building is certainly worthy of one:

You may remember the saga on Plumstead High Street of a building falling into disrepair over at least a decade. Only after the issuing of a S215 notice, after local resident pressure, has the landlord finally acted to repair and renovate the building.

Effective management should be doing such measures as a matter of course. Woolwich doesn’t appear to have it.

Conservation Zone

Another curious issue is a island area between Hare Street and Powis Street, that has long been threatened with demolition. The now-restored art deco former co-op on Powis Street was in line for demolition for a car park in the 2000s.

Now restored

Yet by 2012 the area was recommended as becoming a conservation due to the number of attractive buildings. That has not happened.


With news of Woolwich’s covered market being listed, there’s still areas of the town’s history under threat around here.

Once such spot is Mortgrammit Square, which I covered here, which lies off Hare Street, as plans for wholesale demolition are submitted.

Green shoots

It’s not all bad though. Some businesses are moving into long vacant units on Hare Street. One is Energie Fitness which opens in early December, and another is an African restaurant.

If momentum is to be continued then neglected buildings need improving and the authority has a crucial role in doing so. It’s far cheaper and easier than projects such as the Creative District, though less noticeable and sexy.

A town centre manager could get that done. A new organisation for the town centre would be a massive help too. Add in Section 106 and CIL money and the basis of potentially transformed western end of Woolwich town centre emerges.

Will that mantle be taken up by Greenwich Council leadership? If so, it would mean giving up some power.


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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 “The sad state of Hare Street in Woolwich town centre

  • Murky for Town Centre Manager !!!!!!


  • I have never come across a council that does nothing to improve the area. There is a house down the street from me that has been empty for at least 9 years A big house it is overgrown and unsightly. I have contacted Greenwich Council many times but they are not interested because the council tax is being paid. I think it is disgusting with the amount of homeless people

    • Completely agree Gary.

  • Well the rest is way to high and this is the biggest problem.

  • Elimination of vehicular parking seems to be the primary goal of the council in its 70’s era planning policies. Its long been recognised that vibrant street level retail is fed by adequate street parking. Other model planning cities like Toronto recognise the need for the close proximity of street level parking to retail. A row or parallel parked cars creates a buffer between the low velocity pedestrian and fast vehicular traffic. Those short in-out exploration trips help retail viability immensely. Why cry about the death of the High Street in UK when it’s being strangled with double yellow lines?

  • I too took a walk around that side of Woolwich a week ago after nearly 2 years. I can safely say I was DISAPPOINTED with the state of the buildings and the whole vibe of the area. As your pictures shows it’s not exactly a hive of economic activity. It’s sad to say it will probably take me another 2 years before I go down there again. It’s not like I will be missing anything.

    Murky, your suggestions on resolving the issue seems so simple and inexpensive, however I am not convinced that the Council will take up your challenge or at the very least give it serious consideration. It would mean they would have to put on their thinking caps and God forbid that happens.

    As far as I am concerned the next local elections cannot come quick enough.

  • Labour controlled Greenwich Council do not care a toss. There are not interested in what people think. Councillor Leader Danny Thorpe has even reduced the amount of meetings where the public meet the council to discuss local issues affecting their areas. It is a shame as Woolwich was a great Town Centre when i was growing up and could be again with the right investment and management.

  • Will always love Woolwich, whatever state it happens to be in. But, yes, Murky, keep pushing to make it better.

  • Pingback: Woolwich Hare Street: slow signs of rejuvenation seen | Murky Depths

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