Woolwich square changes: Beresford Square to be rebuilt again

Plans for a performance space and a new market space are included in a £17.2 million project for Woolwich that will transform parts of the town centre.

Beresford Square will be remodelled just a decade after another expensive project saw an attempt to create a buzzing area day and night. The changes never led to the destination shown in renders at the time.

Beresford Square vision from a decade ago has not come to pass

While General Gordon Square has been a big improvement and proved popular, Beresford Square hasn’t worked so well. In a surprising statement, a council report labels the area as having “no defined areas, spaces to dwell or attractive features.”

How many bollards? Clutter in the square installed shortly after completion. Some now removed

Issue such as basic maintenance have proved difficult, and the space has often not been kept clean. One issue is the use of materials that require regular deep cleaning. You do wonder why forward thinking on maintenance wasn’t considered (and still isn’t at a number of projects borough-wide).

Square looking shabby. Taken around 2018

Renders before the last project – showing outside tables, eating and drinking – are similar to what is now proposed as part of a £17.2 million project from the Future High Streets Fund, with money coming from Central Government via the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

This pot of cash is separate to another £3.8 million from the Heritage Action Zone fund to be spent in the town centre funded by Greenwich Council and Heritage England.

£17.2 million will mainly focus on three areas – Powis Street, Beresford Square and the Old Town Hall located near Sainsbury’s beside the former Woolwich library.

Old Town Hall
Beresford Square

Alongside altering area just a decade old, leftover part not included in the last revamp is included in new plans. The report states: “The triangular space adjacent to the gatehouse and bus stops is poorly designed and used as a thoroughfare from the local bus stops to the town centre. The area is cluttered with street furniture and poor planting.”

Current market

Plans include “reshaping the existing granite expanse, into a regulated public square with seating, greening and a performance space to attract visitors, residents, workers and members of the local community. New semi-permanent market stalls will be provided in the triangular pavilion site for local businesses to trade from.”

Before most recent revamp completed

A space for performances is included in plans in front of the Royal Arsenal Gatehouse “to bring additional purpose to the square, with the Gatehouse being the backdrop for creative and cultural performances from local groups and musicians to buskers during market days.”

It’s good to see things I’ve raised over the years listed here including a potential café at the ground floor of the Gatehouse. The building is crying out for such a use given it’s prime spot between Woolwich town centre and the Arsenal site, bringing footfall and life to the square. New lighting is proposed on the building.

Powis Street

Powis Street will see a substantial amount of change under plans. Greenwich Council Council seek to declutter the street (which is good) and “create better places to socialise and shop and provide an improved canvas from which to view the historic buildings”.

Woolwich retains a number of excellent building when looking above street level.

Attractive buildings

One section addresses some of TfL’s substantial sites around Woolwich Arsenal DLR station. They entered an agreement with Oakmayne for these sites 13 years ago but nothing’s ever happened. New homes and shops would bring much life to the area.

It looks like no permanent plans are imminent – at least for some parts. “The proposals for Greens End includes a new temporary workspace to repurpose a small parcel of TfL’s surplus land adjacent to the entrance to the DLR. TfL is supportive of the Council’s proposals and the employment use will enrich the offer in this location and would add to place-making objectives”.

Surplus land is my emphasis. In what way is town centre land beside a DLR station surplus? The Woolwich DLR station box is designed to be built above and around. TfL need cash and London needs housing. Surplus suggests no use.

DLR box. Designed to be built over with TfL owning land around

New residents here would bring footfall and custom to the market and town centre shops.

 

Old Town Hall

Plans at this spot are spaces for small business and start-ups. The report states: “The Council plans to repurpose the Old Town Hall in partnership with a workspace operator to encourage emerging industries, technology and creative enterprises into the area. This will help bring new employers and workspace into the town centre, acting as a catalyst for growth.

The proposed intervention will help ensure that local and displaced businesses have a flexible space to thrive and grow. The FHSF will allow the Council to encourage further investment in Woolwich from the private sector and support growth in the surrounding area for mixed-use developments that provide workspace.”

Future development

A major project not yet approved will run parallel to Powis Street for much of its length and provide new connections between Beresford Street and Powis Street:

Major development in for planning

I covered it last May, and 642 homes are included. Future Arsenal blocks are included on the above image.

Site overview

The report notes links between new housing and existing shops and public spaces.

I recently wrote about how these new development fail to create additional space for cycle lanes to link existing (or planned) lanes either side in Plumstead and Woolwich as part of Cycleway 4. Given the last project lasted barely a decade, let’s hope forward thinking is evident. Will we see millions on new streets just to be removed for cycle lanes a year or two after completion?

Plans for the adjacent Spray Street project show no cycle lanes:

No cycle lane along main road in plans. This is a busy bus stop area

Will that landscaping be maintained?

No cycle lane – note someone walking with a bike

So lots to potentially like, and hopefully we will see detailed plans soon. Mistakes have regularly been made with public realm in the area so I’m intrigued to see what they come up with. A lifespan of barely a decade for the previous multi-million pound project highlights poor practices often seen in the past. Not again please.

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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.

One thought on “Woolwich square changes: Beresford Square to be rebuilt again

  • April 21, 2021 at 9:26 am
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    I have seen mention of “surplus land” around Beresford Square before. I assumed this referred to the small area next to the DLR station that the market traders use for storage. I vaguely remember this being seen as a temporary arrangement but no alternative site has been found as far as I can tell.

    I’d welcome further development of the square but I’m not sure what the best plan would be. Seeing as we don’t buy anything from the market stalls there and the only food trucks we have bought from are Pizza Bros and Peter’s Panas we don’t spend much time stopped in that area. It doesn’t help that the shops and pubs around there are in a pretty shabby state (aside from Vib Bar).

    Reply

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