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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.