The “Royal” Greenwich estate where squalor reigns

Sigh. Once again a walk through one of the most deprived areas in the country – let alone London or Greenwich borough – offers an insight into how an area of 3,000 homes is again and again forgotten and ignored.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that *every* single trip to Abbey Wood recently presents neglect in the same areas amongst an estate that is neglected.

Same old spots

An area befitting Royal status? You be the judge.

Royal Greenwich

Now this may seem a parochial post about one area but really it’s about how an inept authority can squander a once-in-a-lifetime chance to improve for residents who deserve better, while swanning around and forgetting to look after residents.

Neglect abounds. Broken walls are typical every street

Welcome to Abbey Wood estate. An area I grew up in, have family and friends and visit regularly and am pretty sick of how it’s left to rot by a so-called “Royal” borough.

Built in a time of austerity in the late 1950s it’s nonetheless a great piece of design given the constraints of the time. Spacious homes with windows that let light flood in. Homes that create neighbourly relations. Ample green areas for children to play. It’s a wonder what the London County Council managed back then with so little funds.

Abbey Wood estate’s buildings shortly after completion

It’ll never win architectural awards but it does provide a place many can live comfortably and happily. Yet it’s an area left to rot by Greenwich council for decades now – and long before cuts.

Yep, t same he council that have been dining out on that Royal title for a decade now and at this moment are making a song and dance about current events while they seem content as the poorest areas of the borough are ignored, again, much as they have been for many years even as new builds bring the council funding.

Dumping ground

I’ve been meaning to write about the state of the place quite a lot recently. There’s a lot to cover. Both macro and micro issues.

Whether it be the same old areas where rubbish is dumped almost daily for – and I shit you not – 15 years or the “improved” areas already falling apart or failing to utilise funds from big changes locally, it’s a litany of shame for departments and officers in Greenwich Council and elected representatives. Though I wonder if some (many?) even know where it is.

Every week if not every day. For 15 years. In the same place.

Outside authorities in the form of TfL and Crossrail have spent £6 million to improve some areas – though they’ve fallen into disrepair immediately.

The new pavement near the Elizabeth line station has been dug up and tarmacked over. It’s only Abbey Wood though, right?

Abbey Wood public realm months after Crossrail begun

The landscaped areas are full of rubbish.

When this was being consulted upon many people said plans were crap if no upkeep planned. Those given the job had so little clue they talked of “Bexley Heath” Council.

Authorities listened to those who didn’t have a clue. Maybe if councillors of officers themselves knew the area and could feedback it would help. No sign of it though.

Recently installed footbridge to Abbey Wood estate. Grim environment encourages anti-social behaviour

God knows what the dumped blocks of concrete are about. Security measures? It’s a shitshow.

Concrete blocks dumped down

I walked passed a certain area for years on Mottisfont Road to go to work and saw rubbish dumped on a daily basis. Nothing was ever done. It was one reason I started blogging all those years ago, and get this, it’s still happening. Daily. Fifteen fucking years of it.

No one working in the “Royal” borough has apparently ever thought to discretely put up a camera to catch who it is. For 15 years.

Sure, they’ll collect the dumped rubbish but the idea of being proactive? It doesn’t exist. Institutional failure writ large. The next day stuff will be dumped again.

Why should people in one of the most deprived areas suffer this? Would it happen elsewhere? I know for a fact people have complained but get ignored. I have emails from locals showing it. I have emailed and reported. Nothing changes.

Councillors bang on about various old shite but ignore their own patch. Officers laugh under such little scrutiny.

We seem to have a Labour council in Greenwich borough more concerned with Royal titles than helping residents. How many councillors have ever remarked or took the initiative on this? How many bang on about the Royal status? A lot more for the latter.

Money suddenly appears however to give to their own company for “investigations” and “research” into how technology can help places with this sort of issue. Obviously it’s just a trial in one small area and that is where all the money seems to be going. I’m sure after months of extensive research and many a pound spent some ground-breaking result will emerge. Like, err, put some cameras up in hotspots?

By then though the money has been spent on a trial via their own company and sorry folks, no money for other areas. Some are quids in.

No gravy train here you know with giving money to their own company DG Cities. No siree. This is incredibly important work given to their own company and its staff while deprived areas elsewhere are ignored. This is where funding simply must be given.

Sold off

In one part of Abbey Wood estate there’s a former community centre which Royal Greenwich sold to a private developer, and nothing has happened since to build homes.

The landowner cannot be bothered to keep it even in half presentable condition, and so rubbish is dumped on site. This is beside one of the estate’s shopping parades and the estate’s main park entrances.

Look closely and you can see the new towers in the background.

Any income from those for the local area? Don’t be silly.

Would this happen where councillors live? Do they ever visit these spots?

Former community building, Now a wasteland

If this post seems like diatribe against institutional failure then good, as that’s what it is. What the hell are the area’s councillors doing? Are they blind? Have they no idea? Do they *ever* walk around here?

Christ, how many authorities can see an £18 billion railway arrive and a number of major developments be approved yet be so blind to basic upkeep of a major area next door and “forget” to allocate related income for improvements?

Once again this is one of the most deprived areas in the country. Not just the borough, or city, but nationally.

Groundhog Day

I’m well aware I’ve covered this all before. Though much was before new developments started rising and ensuing income arrived.

Yet in recent weeks the same old problems are starker than ever and this lamentable excuse for a council bang on about their Royal status. If only the Labour council gave half as much attention to the poorest areas as their get togethers in the Town Hall to drone on about Royal this and Royal that. How detached are they from those they are supposed to represent?

Let’s also not pretend no one is telling them and the authority about this. My inbox has numerous examples of the council being informed and little happening.

New paving near station is never cleaned. It all looks pretty gloomy a short time after work finished. 

Abbey Wood councillors bang on about various things but the issue of people living in dignity and not amongst neglect and filth in various areas isn’t amongst what’s bothering them judging by what they say online. Perhaps that’s what happens if you don’t live or seemingly ever walk among it.

Never mind though, as the next jolly with a Royal title is surely just around the corner. Bottoms up.


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J 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.

18 thoughts on “The “Royal” Greenwich estate where squalor reigns

  • Labour are a mystery in Greenwich. More right wing than Tories it appears when you visit many areas. They salivate over royal status while ignoring the working class and where they live. Are there even any estates in Bexley or Bromley boroughs so ignored?

  • Keir Starmer represents Labour down to a T, a pale shadow of what they were meant to be – representatives and champions of the working class. Now they can’t even back Unions for fear of upsetting the chattering classes. Pathetic and sad. I’ve voted Green for the last 10 – 15 years.

  • Not one politician has given a single damn about Abbey wood in the past 20 years from what I can tell. The way we are treated is shameful. I say this as a Labour voter. Who else can we vote for? I hope they care every election but everyone it’s people who don’t seem to do anything. It’s hard to express in words how much we’ve been ignored for decades. Every opportunity such as the new railway is squandered by the council. None of them have the first clue about this place.

  • Quite disgraceful. Although in so many localities in this borough, the public realm is neglected and rubbish dumping has become the norm.
    Perhaps publish the responses from the elected representatives so they can be held to account.

  • Things will only change when enough people start voting for other parties other than the main 3.
    Greenwich is a safe seat for Labour so why should they bother to do anything if they know they will continually be voted in?!
    The problem is many voters are (including myself) are unaware of other options due to the money involved in campaigning.
    Maybe ‘From The Murky Depths ‘ can do article interviewing independent and smaller parties and give them a platform.

  • It’s truly saddens me too John, and I don’t think it’s ‘just’ the council or just Abbey Wood, it needs a societal rethink about our local environment. What we expect of it, what bothers us, and how to change things for the better. East Greenwich has similar problems but maybe not ‘as bad’ as Abbey Wood, but annoying nevertheless to ‘anyone who cares about these things’. I’m not convinced local residents aren’t bothered. Maybe its that the lives most lead now (full employment etc but what kind of employment and what hours of mind destroying work involved) give little spare time to either complain or to act themselves to improve things. Yes there are great examples of locals getting together to change local Environments, along Blackwall Lane area heading down to peninsula in EG for example, clearing rubbish, pruning shrubbery and even replanting/replenishing soil. It’s great for communities to get involved. Maybe the answer is to take matters out of the councils hands and they (or central Govt) provide environmental funds and community spaces where locals can gather and socialise mixed with improvement rotas (and avoid loneliness problems too, which is an issue among the older gens and infirm and disabled residents). Council might even provide and upkeep community places rather than selling off to developers for more profit making high rises. Pipe-dreams? Maybe, but things have to change John, there is little community spirit, just people complaining and getting depressed. Not an ideal world, but a Tory unequal world (oops sorry, mentioned politics). I hope AW can improve John, with your help it might.

  • That’s a thoughtful post Derek. I’ve just had a look at the map of Abbey Wood and I was surprised at the number of beautiful parks and open spaces there are. I think Lesnes is in neighbouring Bexley, but it has a thriving Friends group who seem to do a lot. And Bostall Heath is lovely. But it seems so much harder to enthuse people about a group of streets especially where there is little space for even a pocket park.
    In my locality the worst of the littering and dumping is where there are HMO’s and those who dump, move on very swiftly. There’s nothing that deters ASB as the knowledge that you will be caught and this is perhaps the first step. We all know the police are understaffed and many are inexperienced, so as well as them being proactive it really needs residents to collectively pester their local Cllrs. Not sure how you galvanise people to do that.

  • I have lived on this estate for the best part of 60 years. When we arrived here from a beleaguered East London it was according to my parents a wonderful place, beautiful modern homes and so much green. For many years t he e communal areas were well kept but it all changed probably as far back as the 80’s. The gardeners all seemed to disappear and all areas just started looking unkempt.

    Those who live here know there are raised flower beds at the entrances to roads and around the estate that have been left – a couple of neighbours and myself are spending hundreds of pounds we don’t really have (and certainly not now) trying to keep ours looking half decent – if you let things go to rack and ruin you only encourage more anti social behaviour and we have plenty of that. Neither Greenwich or Bexley can seem to give out planning permission quick enough for new tower blocks to be built just a damn shame that those living in their property desperate for repairs and repairs of some kind to communal areas ever reap the rewards of the money coming in. When you do challenge the council you will get the standard answer about central government cuts. Just for once it would be nice if Abbey Wood wasn’t just a forgotten outpost of the borough but I won’t hold my breath.

  • I was the local councillor for the Abbey Wood Estate from 1990 until 1998, which is the only time that the area has not had a Labour councillor since it was built. Councillors after me, including one former Council leader, have assured me that they have looked after the Estate even though the neglect is there to see. It is the same in Plumstead where I live and, as someone has said above, the Council has shown absolutely not concern for the vast majority of the population of the borough this century. I am sure that this will continue, as the population continue to vote for them regardless.

  • While I agree with everything you have written I would suggest that it is the vast majority of voters, rich or poor, that this Labour run Council has ignored for this century and beyond. It’s been all about aggrandizement of the borough and in some case the councillors themselves and nothing about the lives of the people that live here.

  • It goes back even further than that. I was a local councillor for the Abbey Wood Estate from 1990 until 1998 and I won the election because my main campaigning point was the get a reversal of the decision of the Labour council not to remove asbestos from the entire housing stock (something that Officer’s in their report described as being “potentially fatal”). Once elected the work was done. However, the Labour Council then took the decision to close Weybourne Care Home on the Estate and sell off the land to developers. This went through full Council but that didn’t stop me from continue to fight to keep it there for the community it was built for. I threatened to take the Council to court, which did the trick, and Weybourne is still there around 30 years later.

  • My mom and I we are living in Woolwich for 3 years right now, and my mom is always complaining about how dirty the streets are is unbelievable, the streets parks and pretty almost all the the borough is very dirty with rubbish and debris in everywhere and to be honest I feel ashamed how bad the streets are and it seems like it haven’t been cleaned for years

  • As bad as Greenwich council is at resolving issues and taking action, it’s people who flytip, drop litter, and commit anti-social behaviour. Sadly, a significant number of people couldn’t care less about the area they live in. The council could certainly do more than it does, but it’s fighting (not!) a losing battle. It’s a vicious circle. People abuse their neighbourhood, the council doesn’t act, so the abuse gets worse.

  • Unfortunately nothing will change until people stop voting labour.

  • Setting up a town or parish council for the area might be a solution.

  • If the ROYAL title means anything then they should be ashamed , the part I have a gripe with in the ROYAL borough of Greenwich is the area as you come off the Sun in sands turn off towards Kiddebrook. The verges just before the motorway and further are absolutely Filthy with Rubbish loads of it !!! Does this NEVER get cleaned ? Disgraceful .

    • That may be TfL land, though in places like the turn off in Greenwich both TfL and RBG maintained areas are often filthy. Locals themselves do great work trying to keep it clean.

  • Warnie – of course those who dump rubbish at ultimately at fault but really only an authority can tackle that, and if they aren’t where it happens weekly for years that letting the vast majority who don’t do such actions down.

    I can’t believe how staff on the frontline must be picking it up and yet nothing is done rather than keep picking it up. Do they tell managers? Are managers that poor they do nothing proactively? Surely its logged and hotspots come up regardless of what staff verbally say as they may feel ignored? I too have seen similar in some areas. We know councils can use hidden cctv and fine large amounts now. You’d think that alone would be an incentive – let alone reducing the ongoing cost of picking it up.

    I would agree that council actions in certain areas such as not maintaining TFL upgrades simply make it seem ok for some (far from all) to treat local environments poorly. If they let things go to rack and ruin then antisocial behaviour will increase. In poorer areas they’ve not cared for a couple of decades now.


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