Greenwich Council have announced that a £21 million project covering Woolwich town centre is set to begin this summer.
The authority stated: “The Council is investing nearly £21 million of funding, from the Government’s Future High Street Fund and Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone complemented by its own match funding”.
Well, the majority is outside funding. A more accurate state of affairs is that outside bodies are investing most funding and Greenwich are overseeing it.
And that’s a slight concern. We’ve been here before. Sorry for repeating myself again but it’s worth noting.
£10 million was spent in the run up to 2012 at General Gordon Square, Beresford Square and surrounding streets.
To be fair, General Gordon Square is still decent in shape and a vast improvement on the old square. Well, except when they fence it off for weeks at a time.
Not so much the rest.
Road surface in Woolwich broken apart after 2012 changes. Always likely to with heavy bus use
Recently a wonderful video appeared on Youtube looking back to when Greenwich Council sought external funds in the 1990s for Woolwich.
A Woolwich town centre upgrade project was later undertaken in the mid 1990s. This may shock you, but much like the 2010s project they never maintained much of it.
Many trees now lining Powis Street were planted at that time. They all had uplighters installed around the base. All removed within a few short years after not being maintained.
Those trees replaced raised planters which can be seen in the above video. One reason for removal was to create more space for pedestrians.
Guess what the 2023 upgrade will include? More street furniture and landscaping limiting pedestrian space. We’ve gone full circle.
It all looks nice on paper. The practicalities may be rather different.
Powis Street plans set to be begin this summer can be seen here.
Another apparent missed opportunity is to use the Royal Arsenal Gate House at Beresford Square as a venue that could open late to encourage a night time economy around Beresford Square.
It could be a real pull for those in the Arsenal and link both halves of Woolwich together. As much as what is planned in the building sounds nice enough (a small gallery) the ability to be transformative and offer attractions day and night is lost.
A café is also planned at what is currently a toilet block but this isn’t going to open late.
Beresford Square plans look good though worries remain after work in 2012 saw it to become a car park within weeks.
And once again paving wasn’t maintained.
A bespoke lighting design was strung across the square in the early 2010 referencing tram lines formerly seen. When the lights were broken, they weren’t replaced.
Can we have much faith now it’ll suddenly be different with yet another scheme that will require heavy maintenance?
Well, let’s look at recently created public realm in the borough.
Directly outside Greenwich Council’s main civic centre sees this.
Thankfully for you the stench of the area isn’t apparent online. It’s full of litter and pretty much unusable for its purpose to park a bike – and a place to give a wide berth if walking by.
If they can’t keep areas within metres of their own building in decent condition, much chance for the rest of Woolwich?
Then there’s Abbey Wood on the Greenwich side of the borough boundary. Tarmac stuck down already. A general lack of care from Greenwich Council’s Highways Department in maintaining public space:
It’s not that long since the GLA helped Bexley and Greenwich boroughs fund changes with the advent of Crossrail but it already looks very tired.
So after not looking after Woolwich changes in the 1990s and then in the 2010s, what’s the odds they will after 2023?