Woolwich market and Beresford Square redevelopment plan submitted

Plans by Greenwich Council to revamp Beresford Square in Woolwich have been submitted.

The project is funded by a £21 million pot from the Future High Streets Fund used to improve the town centre and follows just 10 years after the last major revamp.

Changes proposed include:

  • A water feature
  • Locating market stalls on one side of the square
  • Landscaping
Now and in future
  • New trees
  • Repaving
  • New lighting
  • New bollards (obviously).

Sadly some features from the previous change will already be lost such as lighting strung across the square:

Beresford Square lighting

It always brought to mind continental cities and squares. Squint a bit and you could imagine having a coffee watching a tram go by.

Now it’s all being removed which seems a huge waste after a decade.

That image above does show one of the main problems in that the space is dead for much of the time with an expanse of (expensive) granite paving.

Bringing life to the square including during the evenings is one key change being sought – as it was 10 years ago.

This 2011 render shows how the last upgrade was supposed to end up

I’ve been covering the plans for some time now, and consultation was undertaken over the summer.

Trees are proposed in the square to frame the area and views towards the listed Gatehouse.

It’s amusing to see yet again an external submission whether it be a report or planning application stating what everyone knows; there’s too much clutter installed by the council.

Trees planned (click to enlarge)

We know what happens after completion. Greenwich Highway’s take over – and install more clutter.

There’s no doubt though the plan looks great in CGI renders.

Planned lighting on left

The application acknowledges the expense (and waste) of changing the area after just 10 years, stating they seek “to retain existing granite where possible, re-use elsewhere and to re-pave the central space only.

It will be removed for landscaping, sandstone-coloured paving and a water feature.

Site overview. Landscaping marked at numbers 1 and 4 on land that could have seen a future cycle lane along Beresford Square to link to existing lane

The existing granite is in good condition, and it is a robust natural material. It works well on the periphery of the space, were footfall, servicing and the market lie”.

The silver bollards are to be replaced.  These actually replaced others installed in 2012 as they weren’t – you guessed it – maintained.

Peeling paint and excessive street clutter

One major concern among many during consultation seen in comments was how will any upgrade be maintained? It’s all very good looking shiny in renders – as the last upgrade a decade ago did – but is it a design that’s robust?

Landscaping is proposed beside the busy Beresford Street which could also hamper any future cycle lane.

No space for cycle lane planned here. Wide central reservation and large paving space would allow it

It’s also near to where landscaping was installed in 2012, never maintained and removed around 2020.

Landscaping beside Beresford Street next to Gatehouse

Past failures were mere metres away from planned changes:

Landscaping near Gatehouse installed in 2012, not maintained, filled with litter then removed. This is now paved over.

Have any lessons been learned from that failure or the mistakes in the 1990s, or the mistakes in the 1980s?

Woolwich has seen many a revamp – and pretty much all weren’t maintained only to be “rectified” shortly after.

Application notes poor upkeep

Street furniture this time has a bronze theme. Like tracing the past through sediment, you can trace back various unsuccessful Woolwich town centre revamps by street furniture colour. In Woolwich though it happens rather quicker.

The last multi-million pound upgrade 10 years ago saw silver street furniture.

Woolwich Road public realm also part of 2010s project. Street furniture chipped. Not maintained

They didn’t think about how it would last, and so it quickly became tatty.


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Blue lighting poles? That’d be the upgrade during the 1990s.

Blue lamps date from 1990s upgrade. Tarmac patches on paving

Hare Street is an assorted mess of various colours of street furniture. One of the basics of street design is keep it simple. Not here.

That 1990s upgrade also sought to remove clutter installed in the 1980s upgrade yet saw features such as uplighting around trees ditched within a short period of time.

1990s upgrade never well maintained

The 2010s revamp started to look shoddy within weeks with paving removed and tarmac put down.

Beresford Square market entrance saw tarmac replace paving

Basic cleaning was also absent after millions spent. Paving was heavily stained throughout the area.

This image was taken a couple of years after completion. The image may not get across just how tired it all looked.

Square looking shabby due to lack of deep cleaning

This is all recognised in the application, but then a design that requires heavy upkeep is proposed.

Market

Stalls are to be located in a strip running down the western side of the square, opening up the rest for clear sightlines when approaching from Woolwich DLR station and Greens End.

Current market

In the view above, all stalls to the right will be shifted to a strip along the left parallel to shops.

Nightlife

As in the early 2010s, this upgrade seeks to bring more life to the area both day and night. Make it a place for people to linger.

Gatehouse render during consultation

One key idea there was to convert the ground floor of the Gatehouse into a bar, café or restaurant. That would help in framing the square and offering a focal point, plus ensure more life day and night.

Gatehouse currently blocked and hidden

However earlier talk is suddenly quiet. If it doesn’t happen it’s a great waste as the council could push for it given the Greenwich Enterprise Board occupy the building have very close links to Greenwich council.

Bar at street level? Install windows and breath life into area

Water feature

Beresford Square will gain a water feature to match one in neighbouring General Gordon Square.

The application states inspiration comes from a comment on the Historic England website:

“During the landscape resurfacing of Woolwich Town Centre in 2012 the contractors unearthed the buried ground floor canals through the Gatehouse main entrance and archways.

It was revealed that the ground level was raised during the development of the barracks in 1829. It was believed that this ground floor level was designed with three lanes for punting and river-boating through Woolwich Town Centre.

Water feature

This was a significant and popular place of recreation, built for the demure Lady Woolwich in the 1800s, who according to her diary entries found the slow rocking motions of punting relaxing to her nervous disposition”.

Hopefully this water feature lasts as the one nearby did, and not one installed at high cost in Greenwich town centre back in 2012 that yep, wasn’t maintained (well, it was almost always off), deemed dangerous and removed.

Other public realm projects

We often see a failure to maintain public space at a number of recent public realm changes in the borough, with poor upkeep seen in east Greenwich and Abbey Wood to name but two places (though Abbey Wood straddles the borough boundary so Bexley too have a role).

Abbey Wood public realm months after Crossrail commenced

My last trip to Abbey Wood saw even worse conditions than seen here. Wilton Road shops the other side which is completely under Greenwich control was in a sorry state.

Basic maintenance is so poor in so many borough shopping parades and town centres one wonders how they will manage it in Woolwich.

Market pavilion

Plans for a pavilion appear to be on the back burner where public toilets currently sit.

Future pavilion site?

At one point the application for Beresford Square mentions further cycle stands, but as recently covered on this site Greenwich do not seek to fund safe cycle routes to the area and have all but ignored TfL requests for funding from major developments in the area.

I’ll end saying there’s much to like but I’m very wary Greenwich Council can or will maintain it. They’ve failed to do so in Woolwich just too many times. Like much else, unless they reform internally it won’t stand the test of time.

To view all the documents associated with this proposal, they can be viewed by clicking here.

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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.

3 thoughts on “Woolwich market and Beresford Square redevelopment plan submitted

  • Not going to lie, I laughed when I read “New bollards (obviously).”
    Pretty sure they’re cluttering up everywhere due to a mentality of “We’ve got to spend this money they’ve given us or they won’t give us as much in future!”.

    Reply
  • No they won’t maintain it. They almost never do. That’d be half understandable if they didn’t keep commissioning upgrades they are incapable of doing the basics to look decent. They’ll blame cuts and ignore ways other boroughs manage to conduct themselves despite the same cuts (hint: all those towers can help with funding)

    But WHY are they so incapable? Bexleyheath doesn’t look so bad after 30 years. Bromley doesn’t look so bad. Lewisham isn’t great but that’s better. Go beyond to other parts of London and its quite similar whereby public space is welcoming and maintained.

    In Greenwich? Same old boys that fail again and again.

    Reply
  • What a COMPLETE AND UTTER WASTE OF MONEY!
    The good Citizens of this confused and delusional Burrough would be better served with the money in our pockets, than to throw it away on half-baked, poorly thought out “improvements” that will be poorly maintained, and thoroughly trashed, after the Councillors get their smarmy faces snapped at the obligatory photo op! Let’s not forget the accompanying article that explains how well they’re improving our lives, with all the street clutter and lack of bicycle lanes!
    HINT: Use the money to keep our bus routes in operation!

    Reply

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