Murky Depths

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Woolwich

Upgraded Woolwich streets revealed – as dated, unsafe design remains

Looking down Woolwich High Street

New towers are currently rising in Woolwich on the former Waterfront car park site. Alongside the buildings comes an upgraded street or two.

In recent weeks a roundabout was removed – though little information was in the public domain about what was being done.

Railings dominate

Plans have now been submitted showing street changes in an area that will see 800 new flats in five towers and new shops at street level.

Roundabout removed

Details reveal that when work is complete little will change – and dated design features that contradict current TfL street guidance will be installed such as extensive guardrailing.

This is despite Greenwich Council revealing in March 2019 they will spend £75,000 training staff in modern design.

No new trees – and extensive guardrailing remains as seen in purple

The roundabout will be rebuilt – without a pedestrian crossing outside new commercial units at the base of towers. No additional trees are planned. Paving width seems narrow given a 20-floor tower and shops will face the street.

The difference in height on the stretch outside the Waterfront would increase costs – but there is ample development in the area to fund it.

Lay-bys will be built by shops but no cycle lane is in evidence.

Commercial units in pink

It’s extremely underwhelming for such a major development which could work wonders on a pretty dire street in a long ignored part of Woolwich. This part of town really needs a boost.

It’s also costing Greenwich Council; it’s not a great walk to Waterfront leisure centre from the town centre shops – and membership numbers are plummeting. Delays to moving the centre mean it will stay for some time yet.

Dated street design – and ugly too. Doesn’t attract footfall from the town centre

Much of the area’s current appearance is a legacy of car-centric design from the 1960s onwards.

Car primacy

While many areas of London have ditched excessive street furniture and clutter due to negative visual impact as well as safety concerns, much of Greenwich borough design has resolutely stuck in the past.

Areas of London that have ditched the clutter are far more welcoming to those on foot, not to mention attractive places to be:

Greenwich Council resolutely hang on to excessive street clutter and guardrailing despite evidence showing removing guardrail and other clutter improves safety.

Greenery lacking – none installed here as part of Callis Yard development on right

In recent weeks trees and greenery were also removed from a stretch of central reservation to the east of this site, as seen here:

New lighter coloured paving replaced trees and greenery. It can be seen in the lighter shade nearer junction. Guardrail soon?

This was the last stretch of greenery to be removed on a mile-long section from Plumstead station.

Each section was replaced with street furniture adhering to dated design principles including extensive guardrails.

Yes, this is a design from the 2010s. Central reservation greenery removed here before the guardrail installed

Roads often resemble motorways in built-up urban areas.

Green central reservation seen in 2015 shortly after installation. Removed around 2017. Rest of public realm already looking tired

On three separate occasions the authority installed greenery, didn’t maintain, then paved over shortly after. They did this once on Plumstead Road (as seen above), then again on the stretch immediately beside outside new Woolwich towers. Then did it a third time by removing the final stretch last month west of the Woolwich “super crossing”.

TGreen central reservation. Installed, neglected, removed.

Much of the new layout resembles a rural motorway rather than a people-friendly urban street that maintained greenery and trees would have provided. Far uglier to boot too. Given Woolwich’s somewhat difficult reputation with poor post war changes, why the authority would purposefully make it uglier is odd – yet consistent with prior experience.

Greenery was removed from central reservation

Back to the area near the new towers and I’m sure it will be better than how it currently appears (it can’t be worse) but this is again a severe lack of ambition given the scale of development and money coming in. For all the talk of Climate Emergencies, encouraging active living through walking and cycling, the “Green Strategy” and bringing life to long-neglected parts of Woolwich, actions don’t match the rhetoric. How many times have we seen that? Let’s hope revisions are made as it moves through planning.

 

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15 Comments

  1. CDT

    Sadly with out the necessary improvements to the road layout safer pedestrian crossings and improvements to the public realm in the area around the new Waterfront Towers.

    It will do nothing to encourage people to this area of Woolwich and the new commercial units at the ground floor of the Waterfront towers. Which will be a shame as this his area of Woolwich is is need of improvement and upgrading.

  2. Eleanor

    Well written. The neglect to improve and encourage greenery is absurd!

    • fromthemurkydepths

      Thanks. It happens again and again. Being almost plum last with adding parking revenue and S106/CIL income to Tfl money for street improvements again next year shows all the recent talk is really little more than words. Something really needs to change within certain depts – and cllrs seem unable or unwilling to do so. They defend till blue in the face chronic mistakes.

      • Ashley

        People need to vote more tactically and stop the mindless Labour Party from winning every time. Change is needed and I like to thank you for the much needed local updates Murky!

  3. Ashley

    Its a sad sight for a Royal Borough with no drive for investment and delivering essential improvements and Renewal upgrades to our outdated dreary clutter ridden Public Realm. Less clutter is better especially when it comes to those wooden bollards and guardrails.

    Lack of maintenance and investment allowed this to fall into disrepair. While they receive substantial funds from S106/CIL and TFL.

    We should embrace our Realm, a full modernisation of design. Roads, pavements, Pedestrian safety upgrades and trees for starters. we should be adding more greenery to our realm and central reservations not taking it away.

    • Charles Calthrop

      The mindset of the Council is too firmly entrenched in its ways to even consider anything else. In part that’s down to the attitude of the citizens.

      Look at Walthamstow for example – they have a vocal but highly organised minority dedicated to gentrifying the Borough. Areas such as Walthamstow Village are thus created – the Little Amsterdam scheme that is the bane of the motorist but has also created a pedestrian enclave in the heart of the area that looks more like a prototype Blackheath. It’s an odd mix of coffee shops, restored vintage houses and cycle-friendly streets.

      It’s not good for motorists at all – having to weave around the centre rather than cut through the roads has increased a lot of journey times (the irony of that is lost on the cyclists) but there’s no denying that these groups worked hard to get things done. They persuaded their MP and councillors to apply for funding, really made the area look like a village and have drawn a lot of young urban professionals to an area that could easily have backslid into another unsavoury part of town. Maybe its time we organised – the Council have had too many political inbreds for too long and only a supine population to deal with.

  4. Alvin

    I have never heard someone make such a big fuss about guardrails… Never even knew they were called guardrails until now. Who tf cares?!

    I live in Woolwich and I think it is really starting to look better following all the royal arsenal development. Now we just need crossrail to be finished some time this century…

    • Jo

      I care. That’s because though that I care about where I live, how it looks and that rails make streets more dangerous. So I guess I care about people not being killed in collisions. I care that they look awful. That they are anti-pedestrian when we need to encourage more people to walk. That they are a sign of car domination.

      Street design is about much more than one element granted – though this extremely dated element is particularly nasty and a symptom of much of what is wrong with urban design.

      • Jo

        Also it’s amusing you state the Arsenal is better, have a look around the area and why is that? Far less ugly street furniture and well, things like railings.

      • Ashley

        Totally agree Jo.

  5. Pip

    The distance from the mini roundabout adjacent to Market Hill to the Arsenal gatehouse is exactly 1080′ – the length of the ropeyard lying under the street, founded in 1573, that made standard 100 fathom lengths of naval rope. It is extraordinary that nothing in the street design reflects this – it is yet just another anonymous street scheme replete with cattle pen railings from the 1970s.

    • Charles Calthrop

      Now I want to see that for myself. Thank you Pip lovely bit of information and the kind of thing that’s a joy to discover

  6. Jo

    Woolwich streets are often like a timewarp to the 1970s with all the rails everywhere. Cattle pens are a nice term for it.

    It’s a curiously British phenomena thinking pedestrians have to be fenced off and herded to designated areas. Very rare to see in other world cities – except in some specific areas. Not along every other bloody street. So very ugly too. A town can be transformed by simple measures like removing them and putting trees along streets.

  7. Graham

    Nothing will change until there is a change of Administration at Greenwich Council. With a brand new Leadership Team elected. For a Royal Borough Greenwich is seriously lacking behind other Royal Boroughs in London and around the UK.

    Far too much money from CIL and section 106 payments which should have been used to improve the public realm, local streets and local estates in the Borough near new developments as been taken away from other projects around the Borough and given to Greenwich Councils offshoot companies GLLAB and GS Plus both of which has huge losses.

    We need less street clutter on pavements, improved street lighting and areas which are safe for both cycling and walking with some well kept and maintained greenery in the way of shrubs or small trees to help improve the local environment.

    • Ashley

      Well said Graham.

      These offshoots need to be sold off or scrapped! They are clearly delusional a waste of public money.

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