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Woolwich

Have your say on the future of Woolwich town centre

A new consultation has been launched on the future of Woolwich town centre.

The town could see funds from the High Streets Heritage Action Zone project which I looked at last year.

The survey asks questions about the town centre which has struggled for many years. Recently British Land, which own 56 units, announced a £1.1 billion loss – and that was mainly before current circumstances.

Powis Street

One thing about Woolwich is that despite being pedestrianised for 30 years, car primacy remains in street design despite vehicle access being limited. See the bollards lining the “road” and yellow lines. There’s also a fair amount of street clutter.

Recent successes in Woolwich include designating parts of the town centre as a Conservation Zone in January 2019. This was a key factor in the rejection of a tower last month beside Tesco. It also helped in altering plans for Spray Street and integrating fine existing buildings among new builds.

Buildings in decline

On the flipside that heritage isn’t always appreicated. The town has long seen buildings neglected with little enforcement. Over the past year Sports Direct opened but a key condition of planning approval to clean up the building has not been undertaken.

Other buildings on Hare Street were refurbished recently, yet instead of restoring stonework as planning applications stated, it was simply painted over.

Wool Yard plans went nowhere. Unloved lanes would have been revamped

One plan to improve the public realm and open a new market to the rear of Iceland sadly went nowhere.

Wool Yard and what could have been

Woolwich is an endlessly fascinating place but one which sees much stigma from various quarters. It has endless huge regeneration plans which in many cases havn’t benefited many parts of the town centre or actively threaten to detract from areas. Mortgramit blocks are one such scheme:

Furlongs and Mortgramit Square plans

Then again new spaces are being created which will appeal to many, such as a new riverside area which opened last week. Much of the Arsenal site is great – but feels a world away from Powis Street and Hare Street.

Courtesy @WoolwichPigeon

Failing to spend much developer income from large developments in the town is a key factor in many parts lagging behind.

The town has long lacked strong management to steer it through tough times. Bexleyheath for example stole a march decades ago and for some time now had  Business Improvement District status which sees business pay a levy to promote, maintain and in places improve the town. Bromley has one too helping to draw people from the south of Greenwich borough.

There are attempts to draw people in such as the Greenwich and Docklands festival draws crowds, but how many return regularly?

Whether Greenwich have the management capability to firstly win a substantial bid and then enact a successful scheme is one to watch.

Click here to fill in the questionnaire.

 

22 Comments

  1. Chris L

    Pretty pointless questions without any outline of what might happen.

  2. Another bloody useless public consultation that will take ages to collate, with much of the suggestions jettisoned, before being quietly buried.

    The dilapidated shopfronts should be repaired and units that cannot be let turned into residential accommodation. It will bring life to the town centre after hours and improve the public realm.

  3. Steven Norris

    The only consultation needed is whate to be done with Danny Thorpe and his merry band of do nothing’s when it comes to running the borough or not running the borough as the case may be

  4. Karolina Richert

    The rent is way to high that is why we see so many retail places empty. Paying from 35. 000 – up a year for a retail unit in Woolwich considering the pedestrian flow =0 profit no matter what kind business u run.

  5. Chris L

    Their previous work suggested removing buses from Hare Street and the remaining part of Powis Street. Their idea would see routes like the 386 and 99 run both was along Woolwich High Street. Woolwich needs buses within easy reach of the shops.

    Sainsburys must be giving serious consideration to closing the Woolwich store. It’s too small for their business style.

    How many towns have seen a Starbucks close?

    The Council has given planning consent to a ‘new town centre” in Charlton.

    • Graham

      Chris L.There was talk of the multi storey car park in Calderwood Street being demolished along with existing Sainsbury store. A new larger Sainsbury’s store with housing above was propsed for the site.

      But is has not been mentioned again since. Personally I would not be sorry to see the multi storey car park go it is dirty smelly and suffers from anti social behaviour at times.

      It would not be practical for routes like 51 and 386 to run via Woolwich High street and Beresford street on journeys towards Orpington Station and Blackheath Village respectively as they both go towards Plumstead Common Road. So they would need a right turn in to either Burrage Road or Woowich New Road.

      Routes 99 and 301 could run both ways along Woolwich High Street and Beresford Street with a new bus stop outside the Beefeater and Premier Inn hotel for journeys towards Bexleyheath.

  6. Maria

    Doesnt Black Lives Matter mean anything to you? You greedy developers want to push out more black from the area and price them out your disgraceful and racist. Black areas mean game on to you like liquid dust it’s so easy to decant them as they are marginalised.

    • HK

      Nonsense! The only people i’d like to see push out are the anti-social & criminal element (regardless of colour) that have blighted Woolwich what feels like 2 decades.
      Don’t try to emotionally blackmail us with BLM.
      Many ethnics/non-whites like myself just want better for the area

  7. Chris Francis

    Chris Francis Re-route Greenwich to Plumstead bus routes along Woolwich High Street and Beresford Street with a stop outside Water Sports Centre. Introcuce Bus lanes in both directions and ban buses from waiting on carriageway as west bound they could be routed down east Powis Strrt and then into Hare Street. Buses, not private vehicles cause more jams in Calderwood and General Gordon Square …

  8. CDT

    I welcome anything that would improve Woolwich Town Centre for both businesses and residents.

    I agree with anonymous201481 that a lot of the existing businesses dilapidated shopfronts could be upgraded. Several years ago Greenwich Council run a scheme in Herbert Road where businesses got funding for new shutters etc.to improve the look of the area.

    A scheme like this would be good for Woolwich Town Centre where business owners could apply for funding for new shop fronts/shutters to replace older shop fronts.

    Also I think more needs to be done to bring life in to Woolwich after 17:30 in the evenings and at weekends for existing local residents and new residents moving on to the the many new developments in and around Woolwich Town Centre.

    This wll also help to support the local evening economy for pubs restaurants and the new cinema when built. .

  9. Jack

    First of all – I would take the consultation for what it is, it’s to get money out of the government to make improvements to the town centre. everyone can always find a reason to complain etc but try looking at finding some solutions as well, that practically can be implemented.

    The issue with woolwich town centre is that its been overtaken by what’s been allowed at Charlton, Stratford, etc. The reality is the town centres of the 1980’s no longer have the same pull for society and society’s habits. A council cannot force people to shop locally and support local businesses.

    Which is why most centres are turning into residential zones with other supporting leisure type businesses / spaces.

    RE the BLM comment above – race isn’t a factor – unfortunately it’s more of a social / economically disadvantaged groups issue. The reason why certain communities esp migrant communities moved to Woolwich / Plumbstead is linked to the value of properties decades ago. Infrastructure provision and other investments, have made these areas more desirable in places and therefore more valuable, Which means developers are willing to invest, but that requires a return.

    That has been the approach of both labour / conservative policy going back decades. Woolwich would never have had the Elizabeth Line or DLR if the housing that has taken place at Woolwich Arsenal etc wasn’t part of the plan.

    Affordable homes / social housing is a major issue in our country, but one that has occured due to a false premise of the economy being built around house building etc.

  10. The trouble with towns such as Woolwich is that it cannot attract the same sort of retail that is in, say, Bromley. There is no need for a fancy M&S, aspirational clothing shops, although these are seeing a decline, or even a chain coffee shop. The people who want those things are perfectly happy to go elsewhere. Canary Wharf is accessible from Woolwich, even if it takes ages, and Blackheath is only a bus ride away.

    I say clean up the shopfronts, turn the long term empty units into residential and declutter the pavements.

    • jack

      How attractive would it be for a residential unit in such a scenario being next to say, Iceland? What that will result in is a smaller parade of shops with what was known as the town centre, being a residential area.

      That maybe the way forward, but, dispersing residential on the ground floor with retail and still wanting a town centre, will just create poor homes which inevitably won’t have long term residents who buy into the place, but people looking for low cost accomodation for a short term period. Whilst the vacant unit will no longer be vacant, the ‘place’ won’t improve.

      • Why should the homes be ‘poor’ or ‘short term’ and what is wrong with living nextdoor to an Iceland or in amongst retail?

        Phones4u ceased trading in 2014 and it’s unit has remained empty ever since with not even the fascia sign having been removed. Further, the pandemic will do for a lot more retail businesses with an increase empty shop units. In the light of this, where exactly will new occupiers be found?

        If the high street is not to decline further, mixed use has to be the way forward.

        • Jack

          Have you ever looked into the living standards of those people who’ve moved into the “office to residential” conversions? Retail to residential on a ground floor would be much worse, where’s the amenity, privacy? Shopfronts lost to either blinds that are never opened or walls…

          “If the high street is not to decline further, mixed use has to be the way forward”

          That’s the issue – residential use is not compatible with high street uses at a ground floor level. If a high street cannot succeed due to lack of shops or other complimentary uses, then the scale of the high street actually needs to reduce.

          The extent of woolwich town centre, represents the 80’s / 90’s, it doesn’t represent what people want now anymore. The retail uses and stores such as TK Maxx, Iceland etc should have been focused towards where Woolwich Arsenal is, not spread out as they currently are. The problem has been made worse by the new Crossrail extension attracting businesses out of Woolwich Town Centre. Rather than reinforcing the role of the centre, it’s been diluted.

          Powis street in terms of a centre should probably cease around Barnard Close. With the rest of Powis street demolished / converted to residential.

          The only way high streets will succeed is if they are more attractive in terms of price point and ease of purchase. Until then online wins unless you have a particular item / service that you want to buy and time / seeing the item in person is of greater importance. Or if you’re of a certain age and shop at such locations out of habit etc.

          People want high streets, but most of those people won’t shop there….

          • Yes, I am aware of ‘permitted development’ and the miserable units that result, BUT it does not have to be this way and saying so is a ‘counsel of depair’.

            The hard truth that nobody seems to want to face, is that the businesses that currently trade is Woolwich is want the community wants and/or supports. There doesn’t seem to be a need for a fancy coffee shop or high end clothing outlets.

  11. Jack

    True it doesn’t have to be like that – but it is due to Government policy and due to these structures / areas never being designed for 24/7 occupation especially retail units.

    I’m going to digress – but just look at the mess Jenrick has got himself him, Planning / Place Making is one area where professionals unlike other professions, do not get to have a major say into the shaping of policy. Decisions made by politicians who are only after short term success, due to the need to look good at the next election, means you end up with rubbish decisions and poor place making.

    Woolwich could have had a better mix of units (not high end clothing) but food / etc. But that was all focused towards the Royal Arsenal development.

  12. Local authorities have been able to use the Community Infrastructure Levy Act and subsequent amendment to raise money from developers, so I wonder why so little is happening in communities who desparately need better housing and improvements to the environment and public realm?

    Further, local authorities are really falling down on their obligations to council tax and business rates payers by not employing or retaining the services of a specialist planning consultant. If a local authority feels that it cannot afford such a consultant, why not share the cost with adjoining councils? It seems to me that local authorities are passively allowing big developer to trample over the planning procedure to get the outcome they want. Shameful.

    • Jack

      I disagree – the vast majority of local authorities don’t do their residents or businesses a disservice on planning. Including the monies received via S106 or CIL, planning consultants don’t do anything local authority staff can’t do.

      The issue you have raised of CIL is linked to a number of misconceptions, CIL was never designed to ensure developers paid towards the infrastructure / services needed for new and existing communities, it was only designed to ensure ‘some’ monies were collected towards the delivery of that infrastructure / services. CIL has to be set at a level that is viable for an array of developments and has to go through independent examination to be approved.

      In the past local authorities took advantage of S106 to get developers to pay towards infrastructure / services that dealt with existing and new deficiencies, however tests introduced through the CIL regulations put a stop to that.

      Prior to the COVID crisis the Government had recognised that the current regulations were skewed to make developers more profitable at the expense of local infrastructure / services and they were getting around to acknowledging that there were funding deficits that needed to be addressed. Unfortunately COVID put a stop to that discussion and what you’ll see over the next few months is the Government allowing developers to avoid local authority scrutiny and loosen permitted development rules further.

      Austerity was to blame for development occurring without suitable infrastructure and service provision, in London this has been made worse by a Conservative gov. not favouring a Labour Mayor. This will only be compounded by COVID.

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