A report before Greenwich Council’s Cabinet reveals that plans to move the Waterfront leisure centre to a new site at General Gordon Square has been delayed.
The hit to membership numbers due to this delay cannot be overestimated. The current centre has seen numbers down 17% in just one year as the car park has closed and low cost gyms have opened in areas of the town centre with higher footfall – and numbers are still falling.
Greenwich Council are now looking at spending money on the existing centre for just five years use. But will it achieve much? Low cost gyms continue to open, the car park is not coming back, most new towers now starting wont be occupied for a couple of years and the public realm directly outside is poor, which does not encourage people to venture from the town centre.
A reason given for the delay are long standing issues with current tenants at Viscount House. This has been known about for years. Wilko’s are believed to be reluctant to move without a similar site becoming available. Barclays have already vacated.
Once again we have to ask how well Woolwich town centre as a whole is being managed. The new Creative District site is getting much attention and the authority has hired dedicated managers for that area (at a cost of £400k) but no town centre manager has existed for “old” Woolwich , which is unusual for a major borough centre.
In addition, the chance to create Business Improvement District has not been pursued which could offer strategic guidance. Dozens exists in London. The GLA describes it: “A Business Improvement District (BID) is a geographical area in which the local businesses have voted to invest together to improve their environment.”
“The business benefits of BIDs include:
- BID levy money is ring-fenced for use only in the BID area
- businesses decide and direct what they want for the area
- business cost reduction, for example, from reduced crime and joint procurement
- mediating with local councils, Transport for London, the police and other public bodies
- increased footfall and staff retention
- place promotion
- networking opportunities with neighbouring businesses”
They would usually require a local authority to push it forward. Bexleyheath and Bromley both have BID status. Brixton too. Croydon, Ealing and Harrow as well. As does Streatham. The list is extensive.
Woolwich doesn’t. Is that hampering future planning?