Government announce £17.2 million Woolwich town centre improvement fund (again)

Housing and Community Secretary Robert Jenrick popped up in a video yesterday to announce (again) that £17.15 million in funding was to be spent on Woolwich town centre.

Back in April this site covered various projects the money would be spent on including rebuilding Beresford Square, a potential event and music space near the Royal Arsenal gatehouse, a cafe/bar within the Gatehouse alongside improving Powis Street.

Permanent market stalls are one idea

Funding comes from the Future High Streets fund. An additional £3.8 million from the Heritage Action Zone fund is to also be spent in the town centre.

Beresford Square entrance

As ever with big Woolwich projects – usually announced to great fanfare – the question arises of whether they’ll be maintained. You don’t have to go far in the town to see the last major public realm project – just a decade ago – wasn’t well maintained in places with certain materials unsuitable.

Road surface never held up

It wasn’t all bad of course, the new General Gordon Square was a vast improvement and well used.

General Gordon Square

But other parts didn’t fare well, as a post on this site as long ago as 2016 showed.

Road surface after about four years

Street furniture became chipped and scruffy, dirty streets weren’t deep cleaned and a sparking multi-million project became a bit of a mess. Basic things again just weren’t being done.

Let’s hope some engagement occurs on plans to ensure mistakes aren’t made once again.

Powis Street

There’s much to like elsewhere. Beresford Square has always felt like a missed opportunity, and so using the Royal Arsenal Gatehouse as a place to eat and drink is something I’ve suggested for years. It shouldn’t be too difficult to do given close links between owners and Greenwich Council.

Ground floor place to eat and drink with outside tables will bring life to the square – particularly in the evenings

It could bring Royal Arsenal residents to Woolwich town centre, offer more life to the square including in the evenings and hopefully offer support to existing market stalls and food outlets like Vib.

Powis Street like much of Woolwich is full of wonderful buildings – though many have removed original ground floor frontages.

It’d also help if owners who neglect buildings are forced to invest. Powers exist to do so, and too many are in poor condition.

Not in great shape with weeds growing out of buildings

This area is now a Conservation Area. That new status was a key factor in a rejection of a 27-floor tower in front of Woolwich Tesco.

Despite the status, existing buildings show little improvement in many areas. Much like not maintaining parts of public realm, allowing business owners to neglect buildings will hamper Woolwich regardless of multi-million pound investment.

Click to enlarge. Conservation Zone area

The authority privatised town centre enforcement in recent years – with no apparent impact upon some businesses cluttering up the town with junk impeding disabled pedestrians and parents with buggies.

Street clutter

Further consultation on changes should be announced in due course. Hopefully they are actually genuine this time and mistakes of the past are not repeated. A recently constructed public realm project in Abbey Wood shows like repeating some of the same mistakes. Again, those issues were highlighted before it was built – and ignored. A post on that will follow shortly.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Government announce £17.2 million Woolwich town centre improvement fund (again)

  • May 21, 2021 at 11:50 pm
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    Woolwich, plumstead are great places to live, but needs modernisation, up market furniture shops, blind shops, classy clothes shops, like battersea have done. I was born in clapham and lived and went to school in Battersea. It was a dump when we were younger with junk shops along battersea park road, brick and brack shops. But look at it now tjis is what woolwich and plumstead need. Bring in richer classier shop keepers and people to bring the town up market.

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  • May 22, 2021 at 7:02 am
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    This money from the Government is good news for Woolwich as the town centre is in need of regeneration I hope the Woolwich Gateway building will be brought back in to public use as a cafe overlooking the market.

    However, I agree with John once completed how will it be maintained going forward. Sadly we have seen many other projects quickly fall in to decline where they are not properly maintained on a regular basis.

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  • May 22, 2021 at 8:50 am
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    Excellent news for Woolwich this money will allow the town centre to be fully regenerated.

    I really hope this will help to make Woolwich a go to place again so people can enjoy Woolwich in the evenings and at the weekends rather than the no go area it has become over the last fews years due to anti social behaviour. .

    I hope the Council will also work with landlords so buildings including older buildings around the town centre are externally deep cleaned and refurbished where necessary.

    I am looking forward to seeing this project finished and then properly managed and maintained.

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  • May 22, 2021 at 2:26 pm
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    @Yas: who will be customers of those ‘richer classier shop keepers’? Woolwich and Plumstead are solidly working class with a large immigrant community with shops that cater to them already.

    I knew Plumstead and Woolwich very well having gone to school in the area. Woolwich is not even as good as it was back in my day and bringing it up to the mark of Battersea will be a tall order. Perhaps the American embassy could have a satellite office in Woolwich.

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  • May 23, 2021 at 7:08 am
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    @anonymous201481 I agree with you to an extent. Wooolwich does have a large immigrant community and working class people on low to moderate incomes and a high unemployment.

    However, with the cost of properties on the new developments in amd around Woolwich being out of reach for most local people to afford to buy or rent come to that matter on local salaries. We are seeing more higher earners coming in to the area. Who also need to be catered for.

    I agree the Town Centre is in need of urgent regeneration. In the 1960’s and 1970’s it was a thiving town centre with the Cuffs and CO-OP department stores and a market that sold everything.

    It then went in to decline over the last couple of decades..

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  • May 24, 2021 at 6:11 pm
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    I think it is a combination of slick marketing (the riverside, leafy Greenwich, Blackheath etc) and desparate buyers that has filled up the Woolwich highrise developments. People discovered that what they can afford to buy does not match where they want to live, so the push is ever further out – Abbey Wood and Thamemead are the new frontiers.

    The incomers to Woolwich do their shopping online or go elsewhere. They are not hankering for a Waitrose (never going to happen), hipster clothing shops or a thriving arts scene. What Woolwich needs it already has.

    Reply

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