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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Much of the area’s current appearance is a legacy of car-centric design from the 1960s onwards.
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.
In recent weeks trees and greenery were also removed from a stretch of central reservation to the east of this site, as seen here:
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.
Roads often resemble motorways in built-up urban areas.
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”.
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.
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.