Plumstead High Street regeneration: Where’s the money gone?

A number of visits to Plumstead High Street recently had me thinking again about a multi-million pound regeneration project currently underway.

There’s not much evidence of any great changes from this particular fund so far. With that in mind, a new post on this site has been bubbling away for a bit and then last week a stroke of luck as a council regeneration meeting was held covering the topic.

Lakedale Road has seen no investment from project funds

The meeting saw a Greenwich council officer answer questions from councillors on the project funded in part by the Good Growth Fund. Around £5 million is to be spent with funding roughly split half via the Mayor of London and half Greenwich Council.

The meeting covered proposed shop front changes, green spaces and public realm.

It begun with mention of a new scheme on White Hart Road leading off the High Street.

White Hart Road changes are modest and away from areas of heavy shopper footfall

While it looks better than before, as anyone who knows the area will tell you this is not the main area for footfall, shops and where people spend their time. Plumstead High Street and Lakedale Road are. And they could be far better.

White Hart Road heads off the right. Main area of High Street untouched

White Hart Road is a quiet street leading to the listed Plumstead generating station – or power station. Greenwich Council had grand plans for a market which was always a bit dubious given its so far from the bulk of the high street with no passing footfall.

The street work is likely to have made the walk more appealing – but now there will be no market -and so barely any great degree of footfall.

Power station plan back in 2018

In the meeting new Cllr Nas Asghar (Labour – Plumstead Common) offered excellent questions throughout such as why, with a budget of £1.7 million for public realm, so much has been spent yet the vast bulk of the High Street hasn’t seen any changes and is still run down in terms of public realm and public space.

There was no clear answer given by the council’s officer.

Another question was about about shop front improvements. The response was that traders pay 10 per cent of costs and it’s a rolling three-stage program.

Plumstead High Street

Cllr Nas Asghar then stated that 79 per cent of money allocated for shopfronts has so far been spent on consultants.

The officer stated it was “not atypical” and totals should reduce.

Cllr Miranda Williams (Labour – Eltham Page) then followed also stating she found it concerning that a quarter of the entire spend so far has gone to consultants.

She also raised a lack of signage to the library after recent investment. The library is some way from most shops which has always been an issue for footfall.

Plumstead library located some way from many shops

I’m somewhat dubious as to whether signs will achieve very much. It’s always been a schlep there from main area of the High street and often – as someone who’s used the library, High Street and leisure facilities for 30 years – I (and others) just couldn’t be bothered when at the shops.

It’s one factor that raised an eyebrow when the council wanted to spend so much – nearly £16m and overbudget) on the site. Community buildings were also sold to fund it.

The previous leisure centre site wasn’t plush which was fine for the numbers it attracted. Trying to make a major centre in that location? Always a stretch. There’s little passing footfall.

Lakedale Road a busy area but sees barely any funding from the scheme

The same mistake looked like being made with a market some walk from the High Street yet they still allocated much of the public realm budget towards that.

Cllr Williams also raised the question of work outside Gavin House which is a council block along the High Street closer to the station.

Rather oddly Greenwich spent money in recent months on a large amount of street furniture surrounding the area for little apparent reason, let alone shortly before the whole area is due to be reworked so according to a planning application already submitted, it will all be removed shortly.

Plans running late

She raised whether it was suitable for children.  Given the proximity of a busy High Street and high levels traffic it doesn’t strike me as a play area either now or after any changes looking at what is planned.

Plans feature minimal if any space to play and appear more designed as a wildlife haven as well as a place to sit.

There was further talk at the meeting of play equipment but according to what is so far shown the area is not for outside play.

Cllr Lakshan Saldin (Labour – Charlton Hornfair) asked about funds and sought greater detail on costings, and stated that overall 15 per cent on consultants would be typical. He wanted greater details of budget in future.

There was also mention of painting on the underpass. Given much space underneath is grotty, it doesn’t really make it much more appealing to use.

Looking down. Paving beside one-way system very narrow given number of future residents

Many improvements proposed in the Plumstead Framework are not happening in spite of the Good Growth Fund and over 2,000 homes approved in the recent past in close proximity bringing Greenwich millions in Section 106 and CIL funds

Not happening
Plumstead power station

The meeting moved onto the listed Plumstead power station. £1.3 million was allocated for it and £441k so far spent.

Mo-Sys are in talks to take on the site and leave Greenwich Peninsula.

Chair Cllr Laura Dinsdale (Labour) asked what returns will be gained after £1.3 spent to benefit a private business. Greenwich’s officer was reticent to give details stating “some parts of that was in private space”.

Former plans now look to be scrapped

Cllr Dinsdale responded stating that it may seem that of money given to regenerate Plumstead, much is going to a site some from the High Street that local people won’t necessarily have access or benefit from, and that even with rental returns from business that will not go towards Plumstead.

Aidan Smith talked about benefits in terms of jobs.

Cllr Nas Asghar raised the point that the only visible public realm work so far visible from more than £5 million budgeted is leading to the power station site – which itself was supposed to have public space and a market – and now it won’t. Yet the rest of the High Street has so far seen no public realm upgrades be it new paving, greenery, trees or anything else.

Car park site

Greenwich’s officer responded stating it’s not the only bit of public realm, though he again refused to give any details on other areas.

If Greenwich do manage to somehow have over £5 million and yet do very little to make the High Street a greener, more attractive place to visit and shop that’s quite some failure.

Lakedale Road

The officer spoke of sharing information with residents, but was sharing little with councillors on the scrutiny panel when it came to public realm.

The odd thing is some of this has already been submitted – and many months ago.

Greenery outside Tesco

The designs submitted were not raised by Greenwich’s officer. There are also questions over who will maintain given much of Plumstead isn’t at the moment to any great degree.

That then wrapped up the meeting covering Plumstead regeneration. So far we’ve seen a lot of the budget go towards consultants with little evidence of improvement on the ground be it shopfronts (though more are promised, public realm such as new paving and trees (very little confirmed) and yet money spent on a road leading to a planned market that no longer will operate.

Fortunately councillors asked some good questions and there’s a new Cabinet member overlooking it. It’ll be key to see how it evolves in months to come with completion expected in spring 2023.

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.

5 thoughts on “Plumstead High Street regeneration: Where’s the money gone?

  • July 13, 2022 at 8:33 pm
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    Where has the money gone? A very good question John..Well. Done on another great article..

    Reply
  • July 13, 2022 at 11:59 pm
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    Generous handouts alone will not fix Plumstead.

    The western end of the high street is blighted by the flyover-train track-underpass-gyratory fiasco. That would take millions, if not tens of millions, to unravel and there is no plan or political will to do that. That’s a shame since there has been no better time. With the Elizabeth line now bypassing Plumstead you could sever the North Kent line for a few years and run it west from Woolwich, east from Abbey Wood; and properly sort out the mess that is Plumstead.

    Besides that, the problem with the rest of Plumstead is regulation and enforcement. The pavements are too narrow to sustain a proper high street. The road is too narrow for the traffic that is allowed down it. There is too much on street parking and not enough space for pedestrians and cyclists. There is no enforcement of the few rules that are in place to alleviate this. All of this means the place is unpleasantly congested, which prevents high value businesses (restaurants, cafes, homewares and fashion) from thriving in favour of low value businesses (tat shops, informal super markets and phone shops)

    My view: Red route the whole of the high street. Add a cycle line in the former parking spaces. Properly regulate shopfronts to prevent ugliness from proliferating further. Make it easier to open restaurants and cafes by liberalising the planning process.

    Reply
  • July 14, 2022 at 5:30 am
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    Excellent analysis. Plumstead High Street is a horrific experience in every way. No enforcement of parking during busy periods when its needed. Look at Expo at 244 Plumstead High Street for example. For pedestrians its impassable from all the boxes & pallets of stock they just dump in the front. How can trading standards allow this? Dragging the area down further beyond its all ready low status.

    Reply
  • July 14, 2022 at 6:54 am
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    @ John and @ M I could not agree with both of you more..Great analysis from you both. Plumstead High Street is an horrific experience in very way. No Parking enforcement, Narrow pavements blocked as mentioned by M.. With Crossrail just down the road what a shame they have not took the opportunity to improve the area. Sadly I can see Plumstead High Street going in to further decline.

    Reply
  • July 14, 2022 at 8:00 pm
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    With the Woolwich Elizabeth Line Station just down the road and a new film studio planned nearby on Nathan Way. Now is the time to fully regenerate Plumstead High Street. Buildings and shop fronts are in need of cleaning and upgrading.

    I totally agree with M comments.

    Reply

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