Proposed £4.4 million Plumstead High Street changes revealed: A good result?

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.

Shopfront plan

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.

Lighting on buildings or strung across road?

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 fronts

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 upgrade

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.

Basic design flaws off Plumstead High Street: Location of street sign blocks wheelchairs and buggies. Pavement rarely cleaned

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.

Power station plan

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.

White Hart Road rail bridge plan

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.

Looking down White Hart Road from High street. Power Station some distance away

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.

Greenery

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:

Current green space

This is what’s planned:

 

Car park

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.

Lakedale Road

One of the most bizarre things about this project is Lakedale Road appears pretty much ignored despite a budget of £4.4 million.

Few active shopfronts.

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.

Other ideas

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.

Underpass leading up to near station

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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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 “Proposed £4.4 million Plumstead High Street changes revealed: A good result?

  • July 6, 2021 at 4:28 am
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    There is a permanent junk yard clogging the pavement & road at the bottom of White Hart Road, with decrepit machinery & associated road trailers, vehicles etc being left illegally on the road. Why has no highway or council enforcement authority addressed this issue?
    The road & street renovations are pointless if illegally placed scrap junk drag the area’s appearance down.

    Reply
  • July 6, 2021 at 5:51 pm
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    Any improvements in this area along with the talked about regeneration of the White Hart Triangle will be very much welcomed and need to include Lakedale Road.

    But M is right in what he says about the scrap yard in White Hart Road. The road & street renovations are pointless if illegally placed scrap junk drag the area’s appearance down.

    Reply
  • July 6, 2021 at 8:57 pm
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    I don’t really “get” the power station scheme. All I can presume is that the Council are liable for the building, it needs repair work, and this is a way of funding that. That’s understandable in itself, but I can’t see the regeneration potential. It’s not really even in Plumstead proper – it’s in an industrial estate on the other side of the railway lines.

    I’m looking forward to improvement to shop fronts and the greenery improvements. Some of those choosing not to improve could do with s215 notices though…

    Reply
  • July 6, 2021 at 10:23 pm
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    Is Lakedale Road really going to be left ‘as is’? It’s at the hub of ‘lower’ Plumstead, yet it is a traffic-ridden jumble, a hazard for pedestrians and a waste of retail opportunities – not helped by its being a ‘rat run’. It wouldn’t take an urban design genius to create a plan to turn this spot into a people-friendly area instead of a scruffy no-man’s-land. Greenwich Council is beyond belief! No vision, no imagination, no ‘forward thinking’.

    Reply
  • July 7, 2021 at 5:14 pm
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    The underpass and footway round to Mallard Path is so decrepit when i have visitors (i live round there) they avoid it because it is so unsafe. The pavement is missing, there is ASB all the time, the lighting is poor, the tunnels seem beyond repair and one of them floods meaning you cant walk to Plumstead if its been raining even slightly. £4.4M and none of that is being looked at – some one is making a lot of money from my tax

    Reply
  • July 12, 2021 at 11:29 am
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    I think the whole of Lakedale Road should be 20mph, possibly with speed humps, to avoid the rat run effect. I say ‘possibly’ because I am unsure of the effect on fire engines.

    It’s crazy that almost all of the Plumstead Common area is 20mph (including the main Plumstead Common Road / The Slade) but Lakedale Road is still 30mph despite fronting directly onto a common with a childrens’ play area and padding pool.

    Reply

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