Murky Depths

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Woolwich

Woolwich’s heritage to see large investment after fund win today

Woolwich is to see millions of pounds spent after a successful application from Greenwich Council to the High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme.

In total 69 high streets across England will receive a share of the £95 million fund.

Backstreets of Woolwich

These projects will now progress to the next stage of development with plans to revive high streets.

Hare Street has been in poor shape for a long time

Woolwich has a huge number of fantastic buildings highlighting a rich heritage – though often that quality is obscured by poor upkeep, poor public realm at street level or overlooked by inappropriate post-war buildings.

Former office blocks looms over Powis Street

The town has a number of buildings approved in the 1960s in the short term belief they would provide jobs – yet in the long term had a profoundly negative effect on the town. Sound familiar with some current approvals?

Despite that a large number of good buildings have been restored in recent years including the former Woolwich Equitable building:

Newly restored

The former co-op building – which was due to be pulled down before the financial crash stopped plans – was also saved and refurbished. It’s now converted into flats:

Now restored

The Woolwich Island scheme also proposes restoring buildings though progress appears to have stopped.

Island site in Woolwich

There’s no word on exactly what this particular scheme will cover nor exact funds which makes me a bit wary. This fund piggy backs of a £1 billion fund which included Woolwich. That was announced in late August. Is Woolwich still in line for part of that far bigger fund as well?

Grade II listed former library now used by GLLaB. 

The area that is probably most in need and not already in line for demolition (for example most of Spray Street) or refurbishment (the Island site) is near the Waterfront on Hare Street.

It could cover areas of great character such as Mortgramit Square though developers are proposing to completely flatten this site.

Early 20th century industrial buildings with co op behind

This cobbled-street area is stuffed with character.

Much of the town centre was made a conservation zone in January 2019 which affords protection for many buildings.

Long neglected. The windows are influencing towers now rising on former Waterfront car park

While this funding is very welcome it’s only part of the story. Huge numbers of new builds in the town are bringing in far bigger sums than this fund which could be used to help rejuvenate the area. And for businesses to thrive rents must be affordable. The buildings can be improved but occupiers, including independents, need to be able to make a profit – and high rents decimate that chance.

But still, lets end on a high. More investment in Woolwich and the huge amount it can offer is great news.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Jo

    Sounds good on the surface but what’s the betting they’ll divert most/all to GLLaB and run down buildings and streets will remain?

    Look at this clause in how it can be spent:

    “Help address the UK wide skills shortage of heritage professionals in expert fields like stonemasonry and conservation by providing local property owners, residents and businesses with the opportunity to train in these areas.”

    They’ll shovel it to GLLaB won’t they under the guise of training. Doesn’t matter if only a few people actually are trained – it’s more for this favoured area while the town centre gets scraps if that. I wish I wasn’t so cynical but we know how “Royal” Greenwich operate. Areas to be proud of and attract people isn’t exactly a priority most of the time excluding Greenwich town centre for the tourists. Streets of Woolwich where locals shop and go? Nope.

    • Jackie king

      Need to deal with the rats near the bus stop first

    • Charles Calthrop

      There’s nothing cynical about established patterns of behaviour. As to the clause about masonry and preservation, that’s nothing more than a sop, a ‘well, we tried’ bit of theatre before GLLaB gets its share. The kind of skill that created churches and town halls is long gone. One need only look at the Council Offices to see how faceless glass tries to shame the most elegant stonewrought structures. Look at Liverpool Cathedral, Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels or the Cardboard Cathedral in comparison to any English cathedral. The skill is gone, and if it were available, it would not be cheaper than glass and brick.

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