Woolwich town centre revamp plans revealed

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.

Cramped?

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.

Powis Street at present

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.

Existing street also has much clutter

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.

Woolwich town centre. Base of trees used to contain setts and uplighting before removal.

Paving in some areas has long been a patchwork.

Poorly maintained
Beresford Square

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.

Render of last upgrade. This scene did not materialise

Now we see the same again.

The current square has seen a lack of ongoing maintenance:

Beresford Square entrance. Maintenance poor since last upgrade at beginning of 2010s

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?

Road surface in Woolwich a patchwork of tarmac

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.

Animate the street level to bring people into the square

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.

Beresford Square

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.

Clutter on Powis Street

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.

TfL land

This is a small plot among others which have no firm plans such as this:

DLR site still vacant after 13 years

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

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Murky Depths

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.

9 thoughts on “Woolwich town centre revamp plans revealed

  • June 18, 2022 at 6:50 am
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    I am looking forward to the revamp of Woolwich Town Centre as we try to improve the area for local residents businesses and visitors to the area.

    Reply
  • June 18, 2022 at 8:34 am
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    There is way too much clutter on Powis Street. They need about half of what’s shown in the video.

    If they build all that on Beresford Square that isn’t going to leave much room for the market.

    Quality lighting, remove the bollards and renovate the paving would be my priority. Then add small amount of seating & planting.

    All this wooden furniture will probably look awful in 5-10 years.

    Reply
  • June 18, 2022 at 9:58 am
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    The visualisations of Beresford Square are smart, glitzy and oh-so Euro Chic ? Fine, if designing for a European city like Bruges, Vienna or Milan, with their ‘pavement’ Cafes and vibrant ‘street’ culture, but for Woolwich ? C’mon ?

    Reply
  • June 18, 2022 at 11:33 am
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    There’s way, WAY too many impediments along Powis Street according to those visualisations and the video. If I want to reach a certain shop from the DLR exit for example of a bus at General Gordon Square I’d need to navigate around so many blockages before even accounting for people milling about on what remains of paving space and it’s just hassle.

    Just why so many areas of wooden seating which I agree with CM will age badly? A few is fine but they’ve gone way over the top and added in various other items.

    Reply
  • June 18, 2022 at 11:39 am
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    What is possibly the case is that Greenwich have secured outside consultants who may not be too aware of the area – or at least future plans – and then factor in people saying they like greenery and seating. In response they’ve not considered pedestrian flow and future flows.

    For example, Murray’s Yard off Powis Street is currently pretty much a dead end lane. When the major MacBean Street development is built it becomes a main through route for potentially thousands of homes to the shops, DLR and square. That is extra footfall meeting numerous areas of street furniture seen in these plans.

    Powis Street isn’t that wide to begin with compared to, say, Bromley or Bexleyheath town centres. To further limit usable walking space for a long stretch with seating and planting along both sides may make it irritating to traverse.

    Just this week I wrote about how Abbey Wood station’s public realm is not looking good after a few weeks. The consultants brought in there also were unfamiliar about the area, its usage and what to do with the space.

    Reply
  • June 18, 2022 at 6:03 pm
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    Forget all the fancy stuff.
    Clear out what’s there and add few very very hardwearing pieces of street furniture, and the most hardy flooring, then Regularly maintain it.
    This is Woolwich not west London. Anything put down will be smashed and p*ssed on within the first week.
    Night life in Beresford square? Don’t we already have that with the gun pit and the other one?
    You want more places like this?

    Reply
  • June 19, 2022 at 1:07 am
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    Having participated directly in other consultations, this seems very similar to others – ie. the consultants recommend supposedly successful results they have been involved in before, then most is ignored. After the consultants have been paid, there is very little money left. I doubt I will be invited back! Why has the Western end of Powis St been ignored? It has been virtually dead for decades. Virtually every regeneration plan recommends that a heritage building be used for ad hoc work spaces – yet there is no evidence provided that there is any sizable uptake. I suggest that the Borough Archives and museum move into the Old Town Hall and Old Library. The records are currently virtually inaccessible and at risk of flooding. The buildings in Calderwood St are central, accessible by a variety of public transport, close to the multi-storey car park and uphill from the river and therefore safer from flooding.

    Reply
  • June 23, 2022 at 6:26 pm
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    My god, Commonplace is very irritating to use!
    No mention of what the market pavilion is for? Is it a posh word for the toilets? Will there be toilets for public or market traders? Why are they clogging up the through route between Crossrail/ Woolwich Road “super crossing” and the Beresford Square?
    Absolutely agree @Dimps – Bring back the heritage centre to Woolwich in a building so there’s enough space for research, exhibitions and space for growing archives. Would love to see the stuff that was once in the borough museum above Plumstead library.
    Greenwich is missing a trick with active travel in this scheme. They should be designing proper cycle ways within these areas. Why not get TfL Santander bikes in Beresford square and Hare Street/end of Powis street (or another bike hire firm that hires out trikes/cargo bikes etc.)?

    Reply

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