Greenwich Council have issued a news story featuring details of changes proposed for Plumstead High Street after £4.4million was allocated for the area.
Half the funding comes from the Greater London Authority which is match-funded by Greenwich Council. Since I first covered this story in March 2018 it appears total spending has reduced. It was £5 million then.
We know shopfront improvements are coming, which the press release leads on. I covered them when they were first submitted nine months ago.
The press release covers a few things, which the old legacy press such as the News Shopper have pretty much copied and pasted as they tend to do.
If you want an uncritical rehash, put out a press release and they’ll duly oblige – often months after news breaks such as the shop front applications. Though that required actual digging and research.
Let’s take a look
Having lived nearby for many years (and even worked on the High Street) I’ll offer a bit of my perspective on what is planned – and not an uncritical puff piece.
The authority realises the obvious to anyone who has ever visited – it’s a very congested area with narrow pavements. They state: “Due to restricted space on the High Street many people suggested using murals on walls, shopfronts, shutters and lampposts.”
Ah, lampposts. Just last week they announced they will replace thousands of lampposts. At the time I raised the possibility of attaching lighting to buildings or using lights strung over the road, removing poles and excess clutter from narrow paving.
Their description means they are likely to stay.
The council should however come in for praise for removing excess clutter in the recent past, including guardrail in many areas and clutter by the station. Though it could well be that blindingly obvious improvements are often only happening as outside consultants advise doing so at high cost.
That basic capability appears missing from within Greenwich council departments. It is funny how things when this site and other residents advocate something it’ll happen years later, yet only after they’ve paid hundreds of thousands to outside consultants.
Most of it pretty basic modern design guidance available to departments.
Shop front improvement works are coming, though alone they do not change an area. However they can offer a quick pick-me-up in terms of visual appeal to improve town centres.
Abbey Wood recently saw similar at Wilton Road with trees, new paving and shopfront.
Wilton Road did however only cost £100,000 versus £4.4 million in Plumstead.
Despite 90 per cent of costs for shop fronts being paid by the public in Plumstead, it appears most shops will not see improvement work. Many owners appear unwilling to pay 10 per cent costs.
Town centres also need regular maintenance and this is an issue where Greenwich council often fall down.
They ordered street cleaning machines to jet wash areas like Plumstead High Street and used them a couple of times. Sometimes they stated in public they had – when they hadn’t which this site highlighted before they finally did so.
But now those very same machines costing tens of thousands are mothballed.
White Hart Road
A big element of their plan is to refurbish the former power station (which was never actually a power station) for small start up business space.
One major problem is its isolation. It gets next to no passing footfall. A problem is hoping to attract start ups and even a mooted market.
The main access route is from White Hart Road is pretty dire on foot. It’s a regular spot for flytipping and illegal car parking and dumping.
Enforcement has been weak for years and so it continues.
The authority intends to paint a mural underneath the rail bridge and turn the road one-way to encourage people to venture.
I hope I’m wrong but I feel it’s simply too far away from other shops to gain critical mass for a market.
This sort of also related to Plumstead library. The council made a big song and dance about it’s refurbishment and extension (though only after the library was listed were damaging demolition plans scrapped) yet it’s so far from other shops.
Since opening it’s been unfortunate with the pandemic, but visitor numbers were not impressive the month before March 2020 nor since limited reopening n comparison to other leisure centres and libraries in the borough.
Areas along White Hart Road are seeing greenery added beside the road as it’s narrowed and made one-way with a contraflow cycle lane.
Further west and an area of grass outside Gavin House is to see investment:
This is what’s planned:
Abery Street car park has had a “temporary” sign outside since around the time of the last multi-million Plumstead High Street project in the 2000s.
It appears it will stay, with work to be undertaken from the autumn.
Oh, that 2000s improvement project? A lot of it wasn’t maintained, though there was some really good stuff. Buildings were painted and spruced up, but sadly some owners didn’t keep it up.
One of the most bizarre things about this project is Lakedale Road appears pretty much ignored despite a budget of £4.4 million.
It’s home to a number of shops – though public realm is poor and cluttered. Parking is often abysmal.
Yet it seems to be ignored except for the junction with Plumstead High Street.
The plan attempts to portray massive downgrades elsewhere as successes. Plans to rework the gyratory around the bus garage are all but scrapped with far more limited improvements coming despite 1,750 homes directly beside, and 333 more going in for planning last week at a spot nearby.
Promotional boards for Plumstead attempt to state the downgrade as an improvement. Well, yes, but far less than needed and what was stated.
Public realm work around the station is also years late.
There’s no definitive plans on show. The walk to the station isn’t great.
While there’s a lot of good things in the plan it again raises the old issues of maintenance. Are Greenwich Council up to it, and if business let things slide or the public continue with poor parking and flytipping will they enforce?
These are all crucial issue for success. While the old press may simply cut and paste happy clappy Greenwich Council PR, those who live and work locally know the history and have other questions.
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