A new consultation has been launched revealing details of how £21 million could be spent on Powis Street and Beresford Square market in Woolwich.
He towns main shopping street at Powis Street would see much new street furniture and landscaping introduced alongside new paving.
It all looks very nice in renders but the obvious question is whether having so many obstacles along Powis Street is wise is an area of very high footfall.
Some ideas such a cycle stands would take relatively little space depending on how they’re located, but the amount of other items really does appear to limit usable walking space.
The sheer amount of seating also looks like it could prevent businesses themselves having outdoor dining in future.
Would you rather sit and eat a meal at a restaurant’s own seating or at public benches that may or may not be routinely cleaned, and in any case a restaurant is unlikely to provide at-seat dining at such a space?
In the past a business did seek to place some outdoor seating which the council initially refused.
There’s also the perennial issue of maintenance. This looks like it would take a lot of effort to keep in good condition. Will it be looked after?
The track record in Woolwich is not good. A previous upgrade along Powis Street saw lighting installed around the base of trees. They didn’t last long as they broke before being removed.
Paving in some areas has long been a patchwork.
Proposals at Beresford Square include permanent stalls for market traders and follows a previous multi-million upgrade that completed 10 years ago.
A new market pavilion is one idea featured.
The previous upgrade offered the promise of outside dining and night life which never materialised.
Now we see the same again.
The current square has seen a lack of ongoing maintenance:
The street beside is the same. If Greenwich cannot or will not maintain their main town centre after the previous upgrade, will they do so now?
If they cannot, a simpler scheme would be needed. It’s all well and good looking great for the first two months. Not so much if looking poor after two years.
There were great ideas mentioned in the past such as converting the Gatehouse into a bar or restaurant. This could be the catalyst for a night time economy in the square and linking the Arsenal site with the area, though new CGI renders and a video do not show it.
This was one of the most positive aspects and given the building is used by an organisation that’s very close to Greenwich Council, let’s hope it’s still planned.
A water feature is also proposed. Greenwich’s track record is mixed. The water feature at General Gordon Square is excellent and a big hit. One installed at high cost over the past decade in Greenwich at Cutty Sark Gardens lasted a short time before permanently being switched off.
This may all seem a bit negative but pragmaticism is needed given recent experiences.
I’d rather Woolwich had a project that looked great in the long term than one which looks great for a few weeks before the cracks appear.
Renders also appear to give no thought to any future cycle lane provision along Beresford Street. Time and again developments in the area have failed to plan ahead for this, and this project looks to do likewise.
That leaves the missing safe cycling link between dedicated lanes from Plumstead to Woolwich and in future from Woolwich to Tower Bridge along Cycleway 4.
The consultation also reference a site owned by Transport for London that lay empty since the DLR opened 13 years ago.
This is a small plot among others which have no firm plans such as this:
Funding comes from the government’s Future High Streets Fund and Historic England with Greenwich taking the lead on procuring design work. Construction is expected to start in spring 2023 and complete a year later in spring 2024.
A number of events are to be held in coming weeks:
- Tuesday 21 June, 11am-2pm: Beresford Square market
- Thursday 23 June, 5pm-7pm outside Crossrail station
- Saturday 25 June, 10am-1pm at Woolwich Front Room, 105 Powis Street
- Wednesday 29 June, 5pm-7pm outside Woolwich DLR station (Greens End exit)
- Thursday 30 June, 5pm-7pm: Tesco superstore
- Saturday 2 July, 10am-1pm: Beresford Square