Greenwich Council have launched a consultation into how £21 million in funds should be spent on improving Woolwich town centre.
In publicity the council say *they* are investing the £21 million which is not the case. Much is external funding. Investment is welcome but trying to pass off external funding as their own is a bit much.
The money comes from two sources: the Future High Street Fund (£17.2m from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) and the Heritage Action Zone fund (£3.1 million with £1.7m from Historic England).
We generally know some details of what is coming from previous documents including work on Powis Street and Beresford Square.
Beresford Square is set to see permanent market stalls and a stage in from of the Arsenal Gatehouse – which will see a cafe or bar.
Hopefully this is more successful than the multi-million pound project at the square just 10 years ago.
Obvious lessons to learn from that project just 10 years ago are to not use materials that require regular deep cleaning if not willing to do so. Greenwich have cut back on deep cleans across their town centres. Other councils are using Community Infrastructure Levy funds to do so. Greenwich have royally messed up obtaining CIL income since introduction in 2015 and lag the vast majority of London councils and their own estimates at the time.
Now they are proposing:
- improvements to the look and feel of the town centre while preserving Woolwich’s unique character
- encourage a diverse mix of uses on the high street including new businesses, creative workspaces and events
- make it easier to get around within the town centre, creating better connections between the market and high street with the riverside, the Elizabeth line station, the Arsenal and surrounding neighbourhoods
- improve the look of shop fronts and find new uses for old buildings
- encourage more people to shop, eat and socialise in the town centre
- provide more trees and planting
- make Woolwich more resilient and flexible
Trees and planting is an interesting one, as another major project in the past decade installed greenery and trees at some expense. Again, it wasn’t maintained and then removed after around five years.
This for me is the major crux when it comes to major projects and public realm. They can look gleaming on day one, but if day-to-day ability to maintain isn’t there it will not work.
While Bexleyheath’s 2010s upgrade isn’t perfect, paving looks decent as material chosen does not need so much deep cleaning to avoid looking shabby.
Though Bexley Council did install setts in the road which rarely lasts – and Woolwich saw the same. Patches of tarmac abound.
There are many successes from 10 years ago that forthcoming work will hopefully replicate. General Gordon Square is far, far better and business now have seating to enjoy the space, which is well used by many.
Landscaping is extremely good and well maintained around the square.
The former square was dingy, secluded, unloved and unused by many. Now it’s greatly imroved.
If the success of General Gorden Square’s revamp can be replicated at Powis Street and Beresford Square – and there’s no reason it can’t – then Woolwich will be majorly improved.
Powis Street has a wide range of good architecture which is to be restored and see new life.
It seems unlikely the west end of Woolwich will be revamped under these projects. I took a look at this forgotten end of the town centre over the past week. It’s a bit of a time capsule though is seeing many new homes in the area.
The council state: “The funding will be focused on the Old Town Hall, Powis Street and Beresford Square.”
This isn’t the end of the world at Hare Street perhaps, though some areas certainly need improving such as Woolwich High Street.
Ironically, while Greenwich Council are trying to pass off external funding as their own, in an area they could obtain their own funding to improve this blight on the town, they’ve failed to do so. yep, it’s S106 and CIL income again.
To have your say click here.
Events are being held:
- Wednesday 16 March, 11am to 2pm on Powis Street
- Monday 21 March, 11am to 2pm on Beresford Square
- Sign up for a night walk on Thursday 17 March, from 6pm to 7.30pm
- Register to take part in an online workshops –
- Saturday 19 March, 10am to 12pm
- Tuesday 22 March, 6pm to 8pm