Major Woolwich town centre revamp plan at Powis Street submitted

Following hot on the heels of a planning application to rebuild Beresford Square in Woolwich comes the linked – but separate – application for major works on Powis Street.

I took an in-depth look at Beresford Square plans yesterday with a follow-up application appearing today covering Powis Street. Both form a £21 million project funded by the Future High Street Fund.

For over a century it’s been the main thoroughfare and shopping area in Woolwich. For many decades it had a road running through, with plans to pedestrianise seen as early as the 1960s.

Powis Street plan from 1964

Eventually the area was pedestrianised in the 1980s. Some remnants remain but much of it was replaced in the 1990s, with the 1980s work being seen as too cluttered with various raised planters and seats obstructing shoppers.

The 1990s upgrade generally remains today though many details were lost as maintenance proved either too difficult or presumably expensive – such as lighting installed around the base of trees lining the street.


Base of trees now tarmac. Not as built

Both schemes also clearly made sure it was to be used as a road at certain times, with materials and street furniture clearly differentiating “road” and paving space despite it being pedestrianised for much of the day.

Powis Street bollards and materials – plus yellow lines – make clear it’s also a road

The new application from LDA Design highlights the amount of clutter.

“Currently the hard landscape materials are dated and damaged and the public realm is dominated by bollards, digital advertising boards and under utilised seating. There is huge potential to de-clutter the space”.

Woolwich town centre. Raised area around tree was once cobbled setts

One really quite odd statement is “Powis Street did not originally have street bollards. We understand their placement was a reaction following the poll tax riots”.

Greenwich Highways have never missed a trick in decades installing more street clutter, but even that seems ludicrous.

More obstacles?

The 1980s upgrade didn’t last for many years given the amount of impediments to movement it presented with red brick planters.

There is a danger of that being repeated again now, with plans stating they seek to “provide a series of anchors / locations to dwell along the street and areas”.

Powis Street isn’t that wide for a shopping street with high footfall. Think of the Broadway in Bexleyheath for example in comparison.

It already presents numerous pinch points and obstacles making browsing shops more difficult than need be, and that’s with limited major retailers.

View of Powis Street. January 2022

If it does gain further popular retailers and restaurants as the authority hopes alongside greater footfall – think of thousands more local residents – shouldn’t permeability be a major consideration?

The application states: “By narrowing the ‘vehicular’ zone down to a consistent 3.7m further pedestrian/ planting/ seating space can be gained” yet during most of the day the road space isn’t in use anyway.

Adding more features or making the “road” less stark doesn’t magic up more usable pedestrian space.

Powis Street. The “road” is well used by pedestrians

High footfall

Some aspirations sound good but may be less so in practice including “Utilising subtle variation in paving colours at each side road intersection with Powis Street, these spaces can then read as an informal neighbourhood square – one that could be activated (during pedestrian hours) with a coffee cart, or used for small scale events and on-street performances.”

Many areas of landscaping and seating prevent many units offering outside seating in future.

Large amounts of seating

Some street furniture originally proposed on both sides of the street have been removed, but extensive amounts remain.

The application nates previous feedback: “The overwhelming response from stakeholders and the public was that we replaced clutter, with new clutter”.

Given high levels of footfall squeezing shoppers into narrows areas it could still replicate the mistakes of 1980s pedestrianisation.

Narrow space for shoppers to traverse street

As seen above, a hefty chunk of usable space on a relatively narrow pedestrianised street is taken.

Powis Street

This could be a challenge with current levels of shoppers, but as stated there’s big changes coming that will increase footfall.

One obvious factor I’ve covered before is that a major new pedestrianised link at Murray’s Yard will feed into Powis Street.

Murray’s Yard off Powis Street

In years to come this will be a link for thousands of residents from a number of developments to the High Street and public transport including Woolwich Arsenal DLR station.

Development within the Beresford Street site will also offer shops and an attracting for those coming from Powis Street.

So they’ll be high levels of footfall to-and-fro along Murray’s Yard meeting an area of limited pedestrian space on Powis Street according to plans now submitted.

However, the application makes little mention of this forthcoming major development.

Central area

The image below shows Murray’s Yard linking to any new development and Beresford Street alongside proposed new squares.

It’s similar at MacBean Street with limited pedestrian space at major junctions for pedestrian flow.

Macbean Street and Beresford Street plan

One welcome change is removing barriers with less obstructive measures for pedestrians.

Powis Street

With landscaping there’s again the issue of whether it’ll be maintained. we know other parts of Woolwich weren’t in the last major upgrade and then removed.

We know in Abbey Wood the £6 million upgrade hasn’t been maintained mere months after trains begun.

Landscaped area in Abbey Wood

With maintenance often so poor, materials and design are key.

Images in the Design and Access Statement show what is proposed.


Larger areas of seating and landscaping can be seen here:

I can actually see Greenwich making an effort to keep this presentable – at least in the first couple of years – but will that be at the expense of already tired areas of the borough?

Paving and seating beside shops in Abbey Wood is rarely cleaned

What we have in Woolwich is a proposal that looks great on paper but may well struggle to accommodate existing levels of pedestrians given substantial levels of obstacles proposed.

Factor in increased footfall and major developments feeding into Powis Street and in future it’s possible we’ll be talking of changes in another decade – or less.

In the meantime the chance of an evening economy developing look limited as the design hampers many units placing outdoor seating.

Powis Street at present

If they do, that’ll limit usable space yet further.

It’ll pass. These things always do. It’s not as if no one warned about the Abbey Wood design, for example, which has quickly come to pass. But there we are.

Plans can be viewed 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.

    2 thoughts on “Major Woolwich town centre revamp plan at Powis Street submitted

    • There needs to be considerable provisioning for the many delivery bikes that use Powis Street. With a McDonald’s, Greggs, Nando’s, Taco Bell and soon GBK right beside each other the street is very busy with cyclists rushing through.

      I’ve been clipped a few times and seen a few near misses. It’s really puts you on edge when someone silently flies past you.

      The bikes like to congregate opposite McDonald’s waiting for the next orders on some evenings 10-15 are there.

    • I am all for Woolwich being revamped with pedestrians safety first and foremost. With crossings etc well lit and clearly marked out. I would have liked for the scheme to be extended to cover Hare Street too which is also in need of upgrading.

      What times will the road be made accessible for traffic?


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