Revised Woolwich plans: More homes, new cinema, shops and towers

Revised plans for 800 homes, a cinema, renovated covered market and shops have been submitted for the Spray Street quarter – or Woolwich Exchange as it’s now called. St Modwen and Notting Hill Genesis are the developers.

Total homes are now up to 801 from 742 previously, though “affordable” housing is now down to 20 per cent.



New plan

The good news since previous proposals is that a number of buildings on Woolwich New Road are now retained, with massing of new builds alongside integrating well into the streetscene.

Previous plan

Previous plans saw all levelled along here with buildings jutting out at each end of the parade.

Shop fronts in 1960s

The 1936 covered market is also being retained. A cinema with five screens operated by Picturehouse is in the plan, though Picturehouse are Cineworld’s premium brand and the company is in financial difficulties. Any future cinema will depend on cinema attendance returning to normal levels – and movie studios backing cinemas.

Cinema plan

Tunnels below the structure will be demolished. This “enables basement construction to a depth which allows the visibility of the roof span to be retained following insertion of the new cinema pods and food and drink outlets”.

Landscaping

Landscaping outside the cinema would see planters installed in a spot which has substantial footfall, busy bus stops and food and drink outlets in plans. Is that wise? I looked into this a fair bit more in a previous post. Why cause pedestrian pinch points in such a busy area? It may look nice in renders but practicality needs to be looked into.

Planters at busy spot. Where’s the bus stops and seating? This is a mass of people even before cinema, shops, coffee shops and 800 homes built

Previous trees and planters in this area was not maintained and removed around 2010 with the current street costing millions to install. Maintenance is problematic. Financial pressure on Greenwich Council is increasing and cuts were mooted earlier this year across a range of areas.

Greenwich will maintain

The cinema and market building looks fantastic in these renders:

Night scene

Hopefully the development gives a real shot in the arm of Woolwich’s night time economy which has struggled for decades.


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Cycle lane?

If the street layout is to change, could a cycle lane be installed along here? None exists. Work here and alongside other new developments such as MacBean Street could eventually fill the missing link between Cycle Highway 4 which is due to end at Woolwich ferry roundabout, and recent segregated cycle lanes on Plumstead Road.

No cycle lane and relatively narrow paving in renders at nearby MacBean Street development

Macbean Street plans from British Land also ignore the provision of cycle lanes in that stretch.

Removing the central reservation to create space for a lane without losing any pedestrian space is also an option. Or use space for planters for a lane instead with island bus stops? Pedestrians would lose some space – but it could be greatly beneficial.

A public square is proposed in the middle of the overall site. Shops will surround the plot which is more suitable for planters:

This site housed a skating rink in 1914.

1914 layout
Tall buildings and massing

Many of the same issues remain from previous submissions with tall blocks right up against the plot edge on Plumstead Road in an ungainly and rather ugly ensemble:

Overbearing? Customary new routemaster where no routemasters run

Set backs would work far better. To the south building heights drop substantially.

Building heights – DLR plot is bottom right in red

The development is not tenure blind with all “affordable” housing – at London Affordable Rent and Shared Ownership levels – in these low rise blocks. Some are just three storeys in height opposite vacant TfL land on the DLR station plot. It’s a lop-sided plan stuffing the majority of homes in graceless tower blocks in one spot.

There’s three storey homes to the south while overbearing blocks to the north could have a detrimental affect over a wide area. It’s nuts. A handful of people get an entire low rise home while proposed massing in graceless blocks nearby impact a wide area.

Low density at the south east of the site also impacts future density at the adjacent TfL site which in turn will reduce social housing levels at a future development.

It’s always telling which views are and which aren’t included in detailed renders within planning applications. A view from Woolwich New Road is far more prominent. Views along Woolwich Road either are not included or cropped.

 

Towers are mostly dull. I don’t have an issue with high rise in a major town centre near excellent public transport links. But these are often faceless boxes wedged up against the street edge. Many get hung up on height alone and ignore design quality and massing. A terrible midrise is worse than an elegant high rise in many instances.

The best views with varied massing are from Woolwich New Road:

Variation in height from this angle – but not others
Social housing

The number of “affordable” homes is just 20 per cent. Social housing is just 15 per cent of overall totals. Well, it’s not social housing levels but London Affordable rent which is more expensive.

There has been a recent reduction with the plan stating “After the Pre-Application 3 meeting and following a detailed review of scheme costs and values for all uses, the team concluded that the development could not viably carry the proportion of Social Rented accommodation previously proposed”.

There is a real need for more social housing. The number of households in Greenwich borough in emergency accommodation has increased in recent months to 1446, with ever greater costs to taxpayers.

Route through development

Hackney has taken another approach – to give one example. Given the 30 per cent cap when spending Right to Buy funds on new homes, they have put income in a pot for Housing Associations to bid for – with the HA’s meeting the remaining 70 per cent. Working together ensures funds for new builds at social rent levels.

Central Government makes it hard for councils but innovative examples exist of how funds can be utilised for new low-cost homes to alleviate pressures. We do not see this in Woolwich time and again.

The end result is everyone pays.  Since this report those in short term accommodation has increased to 1446.

This is regularly seen in council reports. Ever more millions needing to be found due to public housing shortages

Market purchases are nowhere near meeting need and price out first time buyers.

Considering the height of London Affordable Rent blocks is so low at just three storeys in places, should we see more floors on these blocks? Not 20 floors but a bit more than just three in places. This is a town centre location and the need is great.

Courtesy Google. Vacant TfL land on left. New rented housing blocks on right as low as three floors in places.

We have low density homes on site while the developer states they cannot provide a greater number of low cost homes. Greenwich could partner with Notting Hill Genesis and invest Right to Buy income to provide more homes rather than buy homes off the market at high cost which provides no additional net homes borough-wide.

Transport

Not much to say except the links here are fantastic. Crossrail one side with DLR, Southeastern and Thameslink the other. Numerous bus links abound. Thames Clippers are to the north.

Given all that and the prime town centre location there is naturally limited parking. For the vast majority of people moving here that will present no problems whatsoever.

There are disabled spaces for those that need them.

This is one of the most wide ranging applications I’ve seen and read through. If you want to view it click here. Please consider supporting this site as browsers block adverts and sources of income. You can make a one off payment via Paypal or being a patron at Patreon with monthly plans from £3 a month.

 

 

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John Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

7 thoughts on “Revised Woolwich plans: More homes, new cinema, shops and towers

  • December 15, 2020 at 11:15 pm
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    Great write up Murky. Not sure how 20% affordable can be justified, considering this is a borough-led scheme that threatens the removal of many existing small Black and Minority Ethnic businesses. If this was in Elephant and Castle there would be a much bigger backlash, the existing businesses serve a local community, they are thriving, it saddens me to see their removal.

    Reply
    • December 15, 2020 at 11:16 pm
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      Yep some of the offers of relocation previously were completely inadequate in terms of location and footfall.

      Reply
  • December 16, 2020 at 10:53 am
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    somebody tell the news shopper is north woolwich is north of the river and not part of woolwich! sort of thing you like to pick up on..

    Reply
  • December 17, 2020 at 10:43 am
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    How can the development go from offering 260 affordable units (and I believe around 100 were for genuine social rent levels rather than London affordable rent) to just 158 with none at social rent levels. Obviously this is a viability issue, presumably the more original buildings that are retained the less viable the scheme becomes. But then it begs the question…why go through with it at all?!

    Reply
  • December 18, 2020 at 5:23 pm
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    Soulless towers are the death of London.

    Reply
  • December 18, 2020 at 10:27 pm
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    Was extremely surprised to see a new betting shop being opened in the centre of woolwich, it’s not exactly what the area needs in all honesty.

    Reply
  • August 15, 2021 at 9:46 pm
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    I agree ruined my Greenwich

    Reply

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