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
- New trees
- New lighting
- New bollards (obviously).
Sadly some features from the previous change will already be lost such as lighting strung across the square:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s also near to where landscaping was installed in 2012, never maintained and removed around 2020.
Past failures were mere metres away from planned changes:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 2010s revamp started to look shoddy within weeks with paving removed and tarmac put down.
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.
This is all recognised in the application, but then a design that requires heavy upkeep is proposed.
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.
In the view above, all stalls to the right will be shifted to a strip along the left parallel to shops.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Plans for a pavilion appear to be on the back burner where public toilets currently sit.
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.