Woolwich Catholic Club: Demolition for student flats recommended

Greenwich planners are recommending that a proposal to demolish Woolwich Catholic Club be approved next week.

Plans would see the long-empty building replaced by student flats.

Buildings heights rise

The proposed building sits near Premier Inn and will rise from 9 to 14 floors in height. The building comprises 298 bedrooms for students.

Layby outside prevents cycle lane

That’s quite the boost for local business. There are also proposals to redevelop Beresford Square market over the road alongside conversion of Royal Arsenal gatehouse into a café.

Major change proposed over the road from site

Woolwich doesn’t have a great nightlife – though still far better than 20 years ago – and students will help improve the evening economy.

It’s a car-free development which makes perfect sense given proximity to the Elizabeth Line, DLR, Southeastern rail, Thames Clippers and numerous bus routes. However there are no disabled spaces which TfL raise concern about.

View from Arsenal site

Crossrail will bring numerous education establishments and Universities far closer.

Healthy living

Greenwich Council’s failure to revise Community Infrastructure Levy rates payable by developers to the local authority in 2018 – as promised by Greenwich council in 2015 – will cost income to local residents and services.

In terms of the other funding pot bringing income to the authority – Section 106 – this is notable as it includes some welcome investment such as health:

  • Health Infrastructure – £264,741
  • Extension of A206 cycle route – £158,400
  • Amend traffic order – £3,000
  • Adult cycle training – £5960
  • Increased Parking enforcement £22,500

While funding for the A206 cycle lane is noted, it appears they’ll be no money for this specific area despite concern from the GLA and TfL.

The Greater London Authority request that “contributions should be provided in respect of Healthy Streets project”. They also state “cycle parking not compliant and would need to be revised.”

It should be noted this is yet another plot that sits on a missing cycle link that if rectified would run from Plumstead to Greenwich. There are segregated or safer lanes for much of that stretch except through central Woolwich.

Many developments have been approved in the area with no funding sought to plug the gap, which contravenes Greenwich’s own policy.

Blue = segregated lanes to east from Plumstead. Orange = planned segregated lane to west heading to central London. Red = missing link through Woolwich with numerous developments alongside

People can take a rather long detour via the river but if we seek to reduce traffic, direct routes are required.

Much of the area was in effect a clean slate, and it’s disheartening that Greenwich lack such ambition to ensure active travel provision as numerous developments rise.

Development over the road refused though not due to lack of cycle lane. Revised plans expected

In response to TfL seeking funding for cycling and walking, Greenwich’s report states “on the sought contribution to healthy streets officers noted to TFL that given how accessible the site such a contribution should not be sought and be targeted to other contributions.”

So no cycle lane as there’s public transport. It needn’t be either/or in a city with a rising population and many new developments in the vicinity

Various new developments – no change in street layout

TfL also raised an issue I’d spotted when the application first went in; proposed drop-off bays in front will impact on future active travel provision: “concern is raised on the location of the proposed loading bay to the front and construction access via Beresford Street would undermine TFL’s walking and cycling improvement scheme and will undermine active travel improvements.”

Greenwich then appear to state a previous mistake they permitted ensures it’s fine to allow another: “the proposed loading bay is not considered to set a precedent as there are some existing loading bays adjacent to the A206, such as that in front of the A blocks of the Warren Masterplan and Waterfront Leisure centre that would also need to be taken into consideration for any future cycleway extension proposal or any improvements”. 

Location of new tower and bay hamper future cycle lane provision

The council permitted bays recently installed outside Berkeley Homes’ new towers to the west.

Beresford Street. No segregated lane. Cyclists share road space with heavy traffic. New builds on both sides

Greenwich officers may believe narrow, congested roads in the area are ok to cycle on – which could explain why so many developments have come and gone in this immediate area with no attempt to plug the missing cycle lane gap running from Plumstead station to the edge of Woolwich, which then disappears before it is due to again commence from Woolwich Ferry roundabout to central London via Charlton, Greenwich, Deptford and Bermondsey.

No attempt to improve

Berkeley Homes were approached about cooperating avoiding the need for a lay-by but refused: “The adjoining landowner Berkeley Homes was consulted by the applicant regards to sharing their adjoining car park and construction site access.

Base of Berkeley towers a few hundred metres west also ensures no space for cycle lane

However, the CLP submitted notes Berkeley Homes for their own construction and operational reasons access to the site is not possible via their land to the rear.”

Cycleway 4 set to miss town centre

The planned Cycleway 4 project always ended west of this development at a spot beside the ferry, where cyclist provision into the town centre was never clear. How that is to be resolved has never been answered.

Even the section to Woolwich ferry from Charlton is now uncertain with TfL funding issues, and for now cyclists share a bus lane from Charlton until the ferry with no provision at all beyond along Woolwich High Street, Beresford Street and Plumstead Road.

No cycle lane. Wide central reservation

With TfL’s problems Greenwich departments and officers could have requested funding to conduct a study. There’s no calls for one here. Instead such a lack of strategy is used as an excuse not to think ahead and plan for any provision.

In addition, if they had set higher Community Infrastructure Levy rates from developers in 2015 – or revised in 2018 – they would see funding to improve the area.

There’s further notable snippets throughout. One is when Greenwich’s Officer mentions public transport and footways when it comes to developer funding – but not cycling.

TfL respond that there is need for funding for cycling rather than public transport given good existing levels in the area: “However, TFL clarified they are not seeking a contribution towards improving the network only a contribution on walking and cycling.” 

Wide paving = space for cycle lane. Opportunity not taken at recently approved 801-home Woolwich Exchange

There’s little here that shows the local authority grasp issues a short distance from their own HQ compared to organisations based miles away.

The Woolwich town centre manager had nothing to say on any element of the project .

No cycle lane along busy, wide road outside proposed Armourers Court

Will we now see various plots built up and only then thought into a lane which could limit bus lane space and cause much disruption while built, rather than ensuring sufficient space at the outset?

35 per cent of rooms will be “affordable”. The ninth floor of the scheme would include the external rooftop shared amenity for the prospective occupiers.

Former plan

This project replaces one approved in 2017, which would have seen “the demolition and redevelopment of the former Woolwich Catholic Club for a part 7/part 11 storey building providing a mixed use development comprising gym use (Class D2) at basement and ground level and 59 flats above”.

Public gym space isn’t the most pressing given others in the vicinity and recent plans from Puregym to open nearby. This plan includes a small private gym.

The proposal will be decided next week. Will any Greenwich councillor raise why there is no study into plugging the cycle lane gap and why no funding calls from Greenwich Highways?

Dated public realm with towers rising

As stated, we’ve already seen a number of large developments in the area be approved with little thought to active travel such as Berkeley Homes towers above Crossrail, Premier Inn, Woolwich Exchange, Berkeley Homes’ six towers and Callis Yard tower to name just five plots.

This site is the sixth, and then there’s the large Beresford Street plan that will be revised alongside Armourers Court.

Wide road, wide central reservation, towers to left, Woolwich Exchange to right, no cycle lane

All should have ensured income to provide alternatives to driving and linking existing cycle lanes east and west to ensure a continuous safe route.

All could have brought greater income if Greenwich had revised CIL rates and committed S106 income. Little of that has happened – and Greenwich Highways show little desire to push for it now.

As a private renter with a young family, the cost of living is extremely high.

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Thank you

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.

3 thoughts on “Woolwich Catholic Club: Demolition for student flats recommended

  • March 28, 2022 at 3:49 pm
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    Thanks John for your very detailed and informative reports of planning and development issues in and around Woolwich. I really like your use of photos and visualisations. They really help to illustrate the topics.
    Thanks again. David.

    Reply
  • March 29, 2022 at 12:40 pm
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    Forward thinking isn’t in Greenwich council DNA.

    I bet they’ll decide to do something in 5 years causing it all to be dig up delaying lots of buses and causing big traffic jams rather than think ahead and install before new homes and so minimising disruption.

    Cyclists will then be blamed for the authority’s mistakes.

    Reply
  • March 29, 2022 at 2:26 pm
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    Just picture a dedicated direct lane all the way from Plumstead to central London. It’d be transformative and used by students moving in and new residents if safe to cycle. No foresight to do it. Greenwich need a clear out of officers and cllrs who are out of touch.

    As for political leadership – or lack of it – I think this is all trying to please drivers in Eltham where Labour hope to gain seats while ignoring their own seats in the north where they take people for granted. Residents are being treated as doormats and not just with transport. From Greenwich through Charlton Woolwich Plumstead and Abbey Wood they ignore a number of issues.

    Reply

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