Cost overruns at Woolwich Works project and future of Heritage Centre raised at regeneration meeting

A regeneration scrutiny meeting held last night raised issues of cost overruns at Woolwich Works creative district set to open in the Royal Arsenal on 23rd September.

The project is entirely funded by Greenwich Council and had a £32 million budget. Rumours of cost increases have been recently heard, and questions to those in charge last night didn’t dispel them, though they weren’t keen on revealing much information.

Courtesy Woolwich Works

In response to a question from Cllr David Gardner (Labour – Woolwich Common) on cost increases at 11mins and 20 secs, “you hear rumours of £50 million, £48 million, £42 million I’ve heard”, Daniel Stanesby (Assistant Director, Capital Projects and Property) declined to give a figure “It’s too early to answer that specific question” and stated a report at the end of September would see more information released once the site had opened.

He stated fit out works still needed to be done.

Woolwich Works

Cllr Ann Marie Cousins (Labour – Abbey Wood) asked why an update couldn’t be given now and then a final total in late September. This was not forthcoming.

Chair Gary Parker (Labour – Charlton) didn’t push for the latest information now and was content to wait until September.

Cllr Ann Marie Cousins also wanted to know about engagement given problems locally including last week’s murder of a 15 year old. In response, we heard that KPI were in place and school engagement was ongoing.

Firepower museum previously failed to attract enough visitors

Cllr Gardner also noted he was a supporter of the project when in the Cabinet, though back then there were assurances on the return of the borough’s Heritage Centre and archive from Anchorage Point in Charlton to Woolwich. He sought to know why that had changed.

Clear and definitive answers were again not made. There were aspirations to return he was told, but that discussions were ongoing.

Since being forced to move from Woolwich, public access has been greatly curtailed and the archive is held at a Charlton industrial unit.

The meeting heard a lease remains for that site until 2024, with no certainty beyond that.

Charlton Riverside masterplan

The current location of the archives in Charlton is at the site of a new east-west route through the Charlton Riverside Masterplan area, and is due to be a main public transport link between Woolwich and North Greenwich.

A comment that any work isn’t likely on the east-west route, even after 2024, means any future bus transit system remains a long way off. A number of recently approved developments along the planned route saw Greenwich planners fail to allocate any incoming money for a new public transport link.

GWT map from the early 2000s before being scrapped in 2009. Plans remerged in 2010s with new route through Charlton Riverside mooted but no specific funding allocated from new developments

It was mentioned that they could head to Woolwich Exchange, though there was no commitment. Woolwich Exchange – aka Spray Street – was approved by the council’s Planning Board in May this year.

Financial commitment

Woolwich Works is entirely funded by Greenwich Council though not via any Section 106 or Community Infrastructure Levy income.

Seeking details of funding has not been easy. A Freedom of Information request some years ago was very reticent to reveal details, and only would confirm what wasn’t funding it.

Earlier this week I looked into a council report on finances, which revealed an increase in internal borrowing. A possible contributing factor?

One cause of possible cost increase was condition of buildings and issues discovered during construction, such as unknown tunnels.

Building refurbishment

Of course if the project succeeds and a healthy ongoing revenue flows in alongside wider economic benefits this ultimately will not be a major issue.

However delays to Crossrail and the pandemic have contributed to delays in opening, alongside increased risk for the first year.

Ownership of the site is in the hands of a Trust with Greenwich councillors on the board, with part of the site being let to Punchdrunk theatre company.

Other issues touched upon in the meeting include a grant for Historic England for a study into Charlton House’s roof.

A resulting report has revealed a figure of £1.2 million for replacement.

Shop local

Towards the end of the meeting discussions around encouraging people to shop locally arose.

It’s funny how the dots still aren’t being joined. Many estate and towns centres are severely lacking investment and don’t present much enticement to visit – on foot at least.

It’s been said a million times, if we want people to shop local and walk there, invest in better walking links and upgraded public space.

However if you allow approaches to estate shopping parades to look like this in Abbey Wood:

Abbey Wood estate. No money to improve from nearby towers

Or have walking links between thousands of new homes on Greenwich Peninsula and shops in Charlton and east Greenwich like this:

Link to amenities in Greenwich

Then its not really going to happen to the detriment of residents and business.

 

 

 

 

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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.

2 thoughts on “Cost overruns at Woolwich Works project and future of Heritage Centre raised at regeneration meeting

  • July 13, 2021 at 3:15 pm
    Permalink

    Walking links? Bicycling links? In the Burrough of Royal Greenwich…surely you must be kidding?!
    Why doesn’t the Burrough just reallocate some of the ‘silly money’ it throws at GGLaB to Woolwich Works?
    Oh, how silly of me?! One shan’t remove funding from a political ‘backhander’!

    Reply
  • July 13, 2021 at 8:09 pm
    Permalink

    No your not being silly at all Paul SuperUnknown. GLLaB receives hundreds of thousands of pounds in extra funding each year which is given to the Royal Borough of Greenwich to fund other projects like transport, public realm and other projects around the Borough. So rather than giving GLLaB any extra funding this year .

    They could easily give some funding to Woolwich Works so the regeneration can be completed.

    To be honest the services provided by GLLaB could be provided jointly with many of private training providers around the Borough. Making it easier for people to access services across the Borough as not everyone can get to Woolwich.

    Reply

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