A video on Youtube offers up the clearest view yet of a new Woolwich leisure centre to replace Waterfront.
The video offers a 360 degree fly-through of the site and includes far more detailed info than exists elsewhere in the public domain, including images and information in a public consultation. The video shows the construction sequence planned for contractor Morgan Sindall.
It shows the site clearly split into two with the leisure centre on one half and new homes the other – which perhaps further clarifies why so few new social or council homes are planned at the publicly owned site. With 27 existing council homes at Troy Court due for demolition, a net total of just 23 new homes are planned with 50 in all. That is 10 per cent of the overall level of a probable 500 homes to be built on site. The authority has owned the overall site for some time.
The video appears to confirm that Greenwich Council have agreed to a leisure centre without any housing component. We’ll have to wait and see, but they could then sell the rear portion of land to a developer on the condition of a minimal amount of new social homes. If so, this does little for the housing crises in the borough in terms of a shortage of truly affordable homes. With the existing Waterfront centre site likely to be sold – it sits on prime riverside land – the public gain will be minimal new council homes and an almost like-for-like new centre – minus a slide and river views. As I said though, this is purely speculation and I hope to be proved wrong.
The video highlights green hoardings around the site and eco-cabins, which I expect will feature big on PR drives. Not a bad thing of course, but somewhat ironic as Silvertown Tunnel is being built, and you just know it’ll be used to deflect from other issues if public housing totals are very low. Cynical? Moi?
Locating the new centre on General Gordon Square will be good for footfall – though low cost gyms will continue to present a challenge. Ironically, footfall the other side of Woolwich town centre will improve just as the site moves, with many new homes now being built such as Berkeley Homes’ towers and Mast Quay. The addition of 250 artist studios at Riverside House will help in the short term, but that’s only guaranteed for 18 months.
The current site would have benefitted from improved public realm on the dual carriageway outside, but that opportunity has never been taken. Car parking was sold years ago for towers, but no measure taken to make the site better when approaching on foot or cycle.
Current work on the street beside new towers is unambitious in making the area more attractive and liveable. Street clutter and barriers remain as vehicle-dominance continues There is no cycle lane planned:
What’s the odds in a couple of years it’s all dug up again for a new lane as little forward planning in evidence? Unless there’s been revisions since 2019, the above image shows little change in road layout. Some say use the riverside path, but when the waterfront is demolished will it be shut for some time? And it’s not direct when approaching and heading through the town centre from either the planned cycle lane from Charlton to Woolwich or dedicated cycle lanes from Plumstead. This is the missing piece on main roads linking those sections. Telling people to divert along the river is not good design, given it’ll slow down journeys.
The new leisure centre is due to complete around 2024-25. Viscount House, which was home to various stores over the years including Gateway, Somerfield, Blockbuster and latterly Wilko, is to come down soon. As I wrote last year, back in the 1960s and 1970s it was supposed to be a major new civic centre.
The Tramshed is remaining and will be refurbished. Click here to view the video showing the new centre. We await a formal planning application for both elements – housing and leisure – of the project.