Heritage group opposes Woolwich Spray Street project

Save Britain’s Heritage have written to oppose plans for the Spray Street quarter in Woolwich which would see over 800 homes, a revamped market and new shops and square in the town.

While I’ve had many reservations about the project I do find the group’s campaign line objectionable. For a start, they claim the plan is “in what remains of historic Woolwich Town Centre in Greenwich”. Is Spray Street “what remains” of Woolwich’s history and heritage?

Courtesy Google

It isn’t. It’s mostly a lot of dross and underused space. Woolwich has so many wonderful buildings but they overwhelmingly aren’t in this area – or in line to come down.

Run down buildings to be removed

Earlier plans did remove a handsome row of Victorian buildings but revised plans now retain them.

New plan. More buildings now retained

Earlier plans also sought to remove the market, and that too will now be retained.

Retained market with cinema at basement & ground floor level

I actually wonder if they’ve ever been to the area given they link in the east end society. Woolwich is not in the east end.

Market will see late night entertainment

This isn’t to say the Spray Street plan is perfect. Far from it. There’s a number of major flaws in my eye including poor massing along Plumstead Road where tall buildings are squeezed together, while to the south just three storeys are planned which could hamper future development at the DLR site. It’s uneven in massing resulting in a poor frontage to the north as seen below.


Business too has been treated poorly with unsuitable offers for relocation.

However, let’s not pretend most of the area is currently a masterpiece of architecture and removing many of the neglected structures will ruin Woolwich – or “what remains of Woolwich’s heritage” as claimed. That shows ignorance of Woolwich. The town has fantastic buildings across the town and very few are impacted.

A far more egregious scheme that will directly impact the heritage of Woolwich is on Mortgrammit Square, which will destroy a swath of characterful backstreets to the west.

Mortgramit Square tower

Save Britain’s Heritage have never tweeted anything about this project.

Cobbled backstreets to be flattened

The problem appears to be that too many take a simplistic black and white view.

Do nothing, build nothing, keep everything even if utter rubbish.

It’s no better than the sweep everything away brigade. Sensitive development retaining what is good, and removing the bad, is key to successful schemes. Trying to portray this project as removing “what remains” of Woolwich’s heritage is flat out wrong. There’s many valid criticisms to be made about this project – but a simplistic line about supposed existing heritage isn’t it.



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    18 thoughts on “Heritage group opposes Woolwich Spray Street project

    • What a load of rubbish, they need to get this project moving ASAP and ignore these ignorant ‘heritage’ protectors. Woolwich will remain a rundown hole until the hole is filled, and built over.

      • SIm I agree with you 100%. Well said.

        Send in the bulldozers now so work can start on the Spray Street development as soon as possible.

    • I fully support your stance. Well said.

    • They’ve clearly don’t know the area. It is in dire need of a revamp.

    • Typical attitude from a heritage group. As a fan of Victorian & Georgian architecture I am appalled by the money English Heritage have wasted fighting skyscrapers in Central London while allowing listed building to literally collapse and disappear.

      This plan looks like a sensible approach and as you rightly point out saves the best architecture whilst providing new office and residential space. Whilst I personally wish the tower elements were slightly more classic and didn’t rely on design fads I understand the compromise and welcome the development.

      Always worth adding supportive or negative comments to planning apps.

      • ‘As a fan of Victorian & Georgian architecture I am appalled by the money English Heritage have wasted fighting skyscrapers in Central London while allowing listed building to literally collapse and disappear.’

        English Heritage do not own any of the buildings, so cannot do anything about the neglect other than urging the owners to do something.

        Whatever is done to Woolwich is no more than putting lipstick on a pig. Woolwich fell into decline decades’ ago and is being re-positioned as an expensive dormitory town covered in matchbox high rise developments.

    • Not sure about dormitory town. Just about everyone I know wants good amenities on their doorstep. Places to eat, pubs to drink in, venues to watch live music, shops to go to, cinemas to watch films etc. They don’t want to keep travelling to zone 1 or somewhere else for an hour like a bus to Brixton Academy. Growing up locally we were so tired of having to go into central or east London for decent nightlife. Many worked in Z1 but wanted things locally when we got home or a weekend.

      I’m optimistic about Woolwich. There’s much good in the town and it’s a lot better than the 90s and early 2000s.

    • I agree with you fully on this one. The image “New plan. More buildings now retained” looks to me like it’s taken with their back to crossrail square at the Arsenal – is that right and does that mean spray st plans will cross woolwich new road? – I’m presuming that’s what the buildings in the foreground on the right are.

    • Whilst I agree that some elements of the development such as excessive height and overbearing massing are to be regretted, the current proposal is a big improvement on what was originally proposed by the developer. Earlier plans would have seen the loss of the market structure and the Victorian buildings on Woolwich New Road and those on Plumstead Road. The latest proposal allows for all to be retained and repurposed with the exception of isolated properties on Plumstead Road. This is a sensible compromise and SAVE’s attitude on this particular case really does need to be questioned.

    • Just a few points of clarification on Save Britain’s Heritage (the organisation cited in the article) and English Heritage…

      Save Britain’s Heritage (the organisation cited in the article):
      “SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, journalists and planners. SAVE is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic environment.” Save Britain’s Heritage is a registered Charity.

      English Heritage:
      English Heritage maintains and cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites across the country for the public to visit and enjoy. English Heritage is a registered Charity.

      Historic England:
      Is a public body – which was formed in 2015 when English Heritage was split-out as a separate, independent organisation. Historic England’s remit covers listing, planning, grants or heritage research and advice.

      I believe Historic England is the organisation Adam is referring to.

    • I have lived in Plumstead all my life and remember, Woolwich in the late 50s until the 80s was a busy place. A shoppers paradise! Then they closed Powis Street off to traffic and without a place to park it killed trade to the shops! They closed the covered market, the cinemas, the Co-op, Cuffs, Garrets, Woolworths, they basically closed everything good. The betting shops and £1 shops replaced the good variety of shops. The people who now owned these shops fleeced the tenants and only opened the ground floors so that the rest of the property was left to rot! Mid 70s McDooms opened! Then the gangs of teenagers, pickpockets and other elements started to roam!! Woolwich after dark has got to be a no go area! When I was a young teen/20 something, we would go to Woolwich to “window shop”? Now I’d be too scared of being mugged or worse! I’d love to see Woolwich return to how it was but I think it has been left too long to be saved?

      • DWW, I agree with every detail of what you say. I, too, used to window shop with friends, on Saturday afternoons. Later on, when I was a working girl/woman in Woolwich it was so convenient to be able to buy quality goods in the department stores in Powis Street. Now most of it is cheap rubbish. I wouldn’t be against a gentrification of Woolwich if it brought back a decent shopping centre.

    • The new plans are a balance of keeping the covered market which has lots of potential and cramming lots of generic looking buildings in, but I could certainly live with it given the current state of the place is a complete dump.
      Heritage groups don’t have a leg to stand on now the market is saved and will do themselves a disservice by banging on about small details without trying to acknowledge the existing state of that area

      Great reporting as always, thanks

    • This is very frustrating. As other people have acknowledged, the proposed scheme isn’t perfect, but a very good compromise. In an ideal world I’d like to see some of the heritage buildings on Plumstead road retained and restored, which would also break up the mass of new blocks, but I also understand we have to look at the bigger picture here. This would be an overwhelmingly positive step forward for Woolwich, and can’t start soon enough.

    • Very frustrating that these idiotic groups that clearly have never set foot in Woolwich oppose progress like this.

      It’s inspired me to submit a comment in support of the proposal, hopefully it will do the same for others who are determined to see Woolwich improve from it’s rather forlorn state at present.

    • Woolwich is in desperate need of regeneration. I hope work on the Spray Street development starts sooner rather than later.

      Woolwich is a dive at the moment and a no go area for many people who now try to avoid going to Woolwich in the day let a lone at night after dark.

      Which is a real shame as Woolwich used to be a thriving Town Centre full of shoppers in the many stores and at the market up until the 1980’s before going in to steady decline.

      With the right investment, regeneration and management Woolwich can be a great Town Centre again.

      If Save Britain’s Heritage had visited Woolwich they would not be trying to stop the Spray Development they would be actively encouraging it.

    • I could not agree more any one who has visited the Woolwich area would understand why it is so important to regenerate Woolwich.

      With out rmajor egeneration Woolwich will continue to go in to further decline. It will then become more of a no go area than it already is.

      If British Heritage want to save our local hertiage they can join the fight to save Woolwich Barracks. Another major asset for Woolwich and a major part of Woolwich’s history.


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