Welcome to Woolwich: Main square fenced off due to fears of disorder

General Gordon Square in Woolwich has been fenced off blocking access to the town’s main civic space after issues with disorder in recent years.

Fencing has been installed around the entire square almost two whole weeks in advance of fireworks night after previous issues.

It’s a move replicated in few other places and what a sad indictment this is for the town and authorities in charge.

Large area fenced off

Nothing says “don’t come here” like the main public civic space fenced off for weeks on the off-chance something may happen.

And of course, it hardly prevents issues nearby. In recent years problems also arose nearby on Plumstead Road.

Maybe they’ll close that area off too next. Hell, why not just go full-on The Simpsons movie and stick a giant dome over the place.

Terrible impression

It reeks of authorities giving up and going for the easy life and to hell with any impression it gives both to local residents and visitors.

Nice

Six foot fencing is visible immediately upon leaving Woolwich Arsenal rail and DLR station.

The town has seen many positives recently with Woolwich Works, the Elizabeth line and in future major upgrade works planned across the town centre, but it really doesn’t help to do this to the heart of the town.

“Shall we stay for a drink?”

It’s not as if issues don’t arise elsewhere in other towns, and how many shut up shop like this?

The whole thing is terrible PR. It’s basically telling people don’t come to Woolwich as it’s too dangerous.

Gating off main square for weeks

Rather than addressing issues – or actually facing them if something happens – those making these decisions have done something of huge detriment to everyone.

Everyone loses access to the heart of a busy town centre for the potential actions of a few? Pretty shameful all round.

UPDATE: Greenwich Council press office were contacted for comment, but are refusing to do so.

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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 “Welcome to Woolwich: Main square fenced off due to fears of disorder

  • Until a decade or so, Newington Green in Islington had the same issues. The biggest single change they made to public behaviour was to get rid of drug consumption unit at Boots on the Green. A decade later and the antisocial element has dispersed – previously they were coming from as far as Bedford to use the unit – and the area has gone from slum cafes to the poster child for gentrification, complete with undamaged public sculptures. Boots at Gloucester Road in the mid 90s used to provide methadone for addicts and as a result the place was filled with antisocial elements. Now, both places are clean, safe and thriving.

    Woolwich would do well to get rid of the one by the railway station – having these loci for wasters removed one by one will be a positive sign, rather than turning the town back into the DMZ of the 90s.

    Reply
  • I agree that it’s ugly and uninviting but I’m not sure what other good short term solution there is? It’s not safe for people to walk through a fireworks fight, especially for those with limited mobility or visual impairment. If these ugly gates can help stop the antisocial behaviour on, and leading up to, bonfire night then I’m willing to put up with them for a few weeks in the year.

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    • Crack down if something happens is the answer rather than punishing everyone. This doesn’t solve anything as just moves it on, as seen last year when it happened round the corner. These gates are basically giving up.

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  • It’s a massive symbolic sign of failure.

    Year round Greenwich Council and the police fail to get to grips with basic issues across the town centre which attracts those who want to cause trouble. Sticking up fencing doesnt suddenly fix that. It screams were out of ideas.

    Then when something does happen with fireworks the police stand like plums failing to protect the public. A bigger sign of failure you won’t see. And my god what a terrible impression it leaves to locals and people coming to the town. It’s unsafe and hostile is the underlying message.

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  • This is ridiculous. I was in Woolwich recently and thought how it was looking much better now than a few months ago. Now the square is closed and it looks awful. This won’t solve any problem and I am baffled how anyone thinks it will.

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  • @Charles Calthrop What drug consumption unit by the station?

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  • This baffles me. The solution is obvious. More policing, tougher controls.

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  • Thank you for explaining what the solution should be. I don’t believe we should give up.

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  • The square is a popular place for older Nepalese folk to gather and chat. Turfed out now instead of addressing issues if/when they ever happen?

    Especially egregious as the popular square has been even more popular for people to mix with warm autumn weather at the moment and forecast to continue over the next week.

    Terrible decision and whoever made it needs a good, hard look at who is impacted by it and how it presents the area. Hint: It ain’t good.

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  • Genuinely curious, how else should police / local authority / parents swiftly handle the dangerous use of fireworks on Halloween night and thereafter?

    Police trust building and engagement work has been going on for decades but is inaffective and worsened due to austerity and prejudice in the police. So we can’t turn to the police and ask them to talk to the kids nicely to stop it because they wont listen. Plus police have no powers to use force against children so they are sitting ducks.

    Shops like tesco refuse to limit sale of fireworks and when the government were petitioned they also declined any limit or ban on sale. So we can’t appeal to business and capitalism.

    Regarding public realm and licensing, I agree it is not secure by design but again not alot of options for change there again due to money, either greenwich not taking CIL money or simply to incompetent about public planning. Being an outer london council we can’t seem to attract the right talent or salaries to improve things.

    Having spoken to a young person about this, some teens are running around with fireworks because it is fun to ‘fight the feds’ and damage shops. Their parents need to set boundaries and appropriate discipline but as parents will say, it’s not the kids fault that they are naughty, its because there’s nothing for them to do. Maybe if we had more youth provision…

    There is no extra money for the local authority to run effective youth provision/evening halloween/fireworks/winter wonderland events geared at children and young people. Again due to cuts/austerity.

    The voluntary sector and schools would be best positioned to tackle the issue of secondary school kids using fireworks from the grassroots level but they are not taken seriously or severely underfunded so they have no permanent staff/facilitators. No matter how many assemblies you have at school, some of them still see it as a fun night out. They know as children they have rights and there will be no repercussions.

    It all comes down to money and there is none to be found in this economy. So what else can we do instead of putting up gates to stop children from dangerously misusing fireworks late Oct to early November?

    Personally I think the gate made a big difference last year and there was certainly less noise and police near me.
    I know they moved elsewhere so it didn’t stop the problem but I was pleasantly surprised about how effective it was for me.

    Also in my opinion general gorden square is fugly regardless of whether a fence is up. So I can put up with it for 2 weeks.

    Reply
  • Those pressures exist all over and I don’t see many towns closing a large chunk of their town centres for weeks impacting many people in the community.

    Police do have powers if teens are acting dangerously. In previous years though I watched them do next to nothing rather than act, putting people at risk and causing issues to increase.

    I’m also unsure why it’s needed as the Mayor helped fund a specific Woolwich town centre police team comprising of quite a few officers. They can now assist.

    I just fail to see this as anything but a very poor sticking plaster with so many downsides compared to minimal upsides. If a small group (and it always is watched by others) seem intent on it they will just go nearby. Then what do we do? The actual issue isn’t being addressed before, during it or after. It’s a poor version of whack-a-mole that blights a major town centre. So damaging to Woolwich too and whenever it takes a step forwards authorities come along to ensure it takes a step back.

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  • Ttally with you on that John, it’s a disgrace and as you say terrible PR for the town. if policed effectively in advance rather than reactive policing it could be open to all. Shortage of manpower? whatever the issue for not policing the area in advance it needs addressing. But as for why it happend anyway? Thats the bigger issue. Can’y people have ‘fun’ without spoiling it for others?

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  • It’s not drug users throwing fireworks at people though.

    As with any social unrest it’s likely to be worse this year cause of the economic situation. Having said that maybe people will have less cash for fireworks (we can only hope).

    It does seem to show how feeble the police are if this what we need to resort to.

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  • As a bleeding heart leftie, I am all for the softly softly public health-based approach to tackling crime and disorder, diverting potential perpetrators to other (youth) services, providing economic opportunities that these kids might worry about losing if they misbehave, and forgiving people for the past mistakes.
    But as soon as you pick up a knife or a firework and use or threaten to use it, I’m sorry but the police should use all reasonable force to stop it and go out of their way to make examples. Whether that’s through cracking heads on the night or raiding homes and schools/colleges in the immediate aftermath to arrest the perpetrators is to much smarter people than I. It won’t be hard to find out who they are – they might be all dressed in black trackies and wearing masks, but they’ll also film their own crimes and post the footage on TikTok
    So I agree, closing the square is the wrong thing to do. It suggests that the authorities are powerless to prevent disorder, and I think will only serve to encourage it. Better to let them all gather where they will and, if (or when) disorder breaks out, round up the perpetrators

    Reply
  • This has simply reminded me not to visit Woolwich for a while and that police and councils can’t get a grip of the place.

    Great job by all! The poor shops will really benefit.

    Reply
  • I thought they did a good job last year, lots of coverage in the area. Not opposed to barrier if it stops it being so dangerous.

    Don’t think it’s fair to blame it on support services for drug addicts, it’s big groups of teenagers.

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  • The fencing doesn’t work; it simply displaces the problem, as it did last year. This is another failure of the Metropolitan Police and another worrying sign that this centrist Labour council is willing to pander to authoritatian tendencies. You can’t punish everyone just because an incompetent, underfunded police force can’t deal with a classroom of kids.

    Reply
  • Why wouldn’t the firework fights happen at the main bus stops and the other non-gated parts of Central woolwich? Its only a small area that is gated so I don’t understand how it will serve its intended purpose. You then just have violence and firework fights next to the gated area?!

    Utterly bizarre way of ‘managing’ the situation as all that police resource is still needed anyway and the whole town looks like a ship hole for weeks! Why also put it up weeks in advance and not a couple of days before???

    Reply

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