Woolwich’s multi-million pound town centre revamp begins

A worksite has been established in Woolwich town centre as preparations begin to transform the town centre.

A range of projects are set to commence including a complete rebuild of Beresford Square and marketplace, a new pavilion with café and digging up much of Powis Street.

Worksite

Greenwich Council recently put out a story about work beginning in September and the establishment of the work compound confirms work is imminent. The worksite is beside a toilet block set to be demolished and replaced with a market pavilion including café –

New build coming

While the structure and landscaping look great on paper, it’s an area that will require extensive maintenance – never Greenwich’s strongpoint – and may also prohibit a cycle lane through here.

Or at least limit room for one alongside the bus stops that are situated here.

Work site established

For those still wondering exactly where this is, here’s how it currently looks –

Changes coming here

It’s close to the former Catholic Club where a student block was recently approved as well as the large former site of Woolwich Polytechnic on MacBean Street where hundreds of homes will eventually be built.

Market

Beresford Square will see the bulk of funding in its second multi-million revamp in little more than a decade.

The last project in the early 2010s never lived up to expectations –

How Beresford Square was supposed to look back in 2011

Back then it was expected that an evening economy with cafes and bars would become established in a pleasant environment.

That never happened despite thousands more homes being built since and the Elizabeth line opening.

Beresford Square

Again it wasn’t well maintained.

So now much of the expensive paving and lighting is being replaced. A shame as the lighting was great and a reference back to when trams ran through the site below wires.

Beresford Square lighting set to be come down after a decade

Like much else the last expensive project saw little ongoing maintenance and became grubby very quickly.

Square looked shabby shortly after last project due to lack of cleaning

Now they’re having another go. This time market traders are being shifted to the western side of the square with fountains, more greenery and a route leading to the Royal Arsenal Gatehouse.

Site overview

The Gatehouse is due to see it’s gates opened to allow pedestrian access through when heading to and from the Arsenal site from Powis Street.

Route to Gatehouse

To create a successful space for an evening economy the Gatehouse could play a key role and link each side of Woolwich. Unfortunately what is planned – as nice as it is – doesn’t look like doing so.

Much like the 2011 renders we again see lovely images of outside seating and people watching the world go by.

No direct path to Gatehouse which will now be created

It never really happened then, so let’s just hope it does now. That means ensuring it’s a nice place to spend time – and doesn’t degrade within months of completion.

Powis Street

Woolwich’s main shopping street will see comprehensive works with removal of much of the 1990s upgrade which also still included elements of a 1980s upgrade.

Yep Woolwich has seen a few. This will be the third or fourth since the 1980s depending on what area you look at.

Powis Street

In recent weeks and months I’ve been taking hundreds of photos documenting it before it undergoes substantial change.

Because when complete it’ll look nothing like how it as has for 20 years.

Powis Street plan sees extensive landscaping and street furniture

The only thing set to remain are trees. In comes extensive landscaping and seating the length of the street.

There’s more things here which brings on a tad of weariness about long term maintenance. The greenery for one. Then simple things like the shade of colour use for street furniture such as lighting posts.

It’s a somewhat unusual shade of yellow. What’s the odds that when they become damaged or scratched that shade wont be used and it’ll become patchwork of bodge jobs.

Overview of Powis Street

There’s other issues too such as the link between Powis Street and Murray’s yard. Used by no one now, but when the vast MacBean Street site is redeveloped this’ll be a main link for thousands of residents moving between housing, shops and transport links.

Is there sufficient space for those flows? In concept it’s going full circle back to the 1980s revamp with planters and seating that was removed in the 1990s.

Similar ideas seen as with 1980s project

Powis Street can become congested as it is as things stand, let alone with even more restrictions to usable pedestrian space and thousands of new residents moving into homes just off the street.

Housing plans at Beresford Street will see new link to Powis Street at Murray’s Yard

Note also the resin bound gravel mentioned in plans for Powis Street. Guess what Greenwich did to that in Abbey Wood shortly after an improvement project there in 2018.

Greenwich Council placed tarmac down in recent months

You guessed it; its been covered in tarmac. Maintenance once again is extremely poor from the authority.

Woolwich’s main shopping street

But let’s move on from the critiques as there is much to like and investment in Woolwich is very welcome.

If they can keep on top of changes Powis Street will be an attractive space and Beresford Square may become that long hoped for place that’s worth visiting day and night.

Powis Street street furniture to be removed

Throughout the work I’ll be visiting to see and photograph changes, as well as giving the usual updates on development including more towers now rising by the Waterfront as well as work on a new leisure centre facing General Gordon Square.

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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.

9 thoughts on “Woolwich’s multi-million pound town centre revamp begins

  • The planning, efforts and resources thrown at improving Beresford Square / Powis Street are ambitious and admirable.
    Beresford Square is definitely looking shabby and untidy these days ?
    The planning visuals of the ‘Square’ look impressive enough with use of quality materials, street furniture, less ‘clutter’ and a new Cafe/pavilion to boot !
    My critical eye sees this project as a vain attempt to ‘connect’ the traditional market trading Woolwich (fruit/veg/dry goods) and high street shopping area with the burgeoning ‘affluence’ of The Royal Arsenal riverside developments (and the Elizabeth line station).
    A ‘Cafe culture’ in Beresford Square is clearly envisioned in the slick render images, but the brutal truth is that Woolwich is a divided town socio-economically and culturally ?

    Reply
  • The planning, efforts and resources thrown at improving Beresford Square / Powis Street are ambitious and admirable.
    Beresford Square is definitely looking shabby and untidy these days ?
    The planning visuals of the ‘Square’ look impressive enough with use of quality materials, street furniture, less ‘clutter’ and a new Cafe/pavilion to boot !
    My critical eye sees this project as a vain attempt to ‘connect’ the traditional market trading Woolwich (fruit/veg/dry goods) and high street shopping area with the burgeoning ‘affluence’ of The Royal Arsenal riverside developments (and the Elizabeth line station).
    A ‘Cafe culture’ in Beresford Square is clearly envisioned in the slick render images, but the brutal truth is that Woolwich is a divided town socio-economically and culturally ?

    Reply
  • On point! There is a clear divide between RA and Woolwich unfortunately, a simple sign is the fact that all nice places are located on the river side (nice pubs, M&S, new gym etc). Not to mention the opening of the new Starbucks any day now!

    Reply
  • Thanks for the article.

    Are they replacing the public toilets they are demolishing?

    Reply
    • The cafe will have toilets and a commitment to allow public use was mentioned when plans submitted.

      Reply
  • People should be aware about littering as well. They make mess,dont bother at all.Last week one dog just pooed at middle of street and the man even didnt care to clean it.it was then all over.They should be fined for such activities.

    Reply
  • I think that it would have been better to allocate most of this money to a fund to better maintain what’s already there, a lot of which isn’t bad. The rest could have been used to remove unsightly bollards.

    Reply
  • Well the phone box is still there, a lot of people seem to like using that.

    Reply
  • If everyday people don’t bother to look after their ‘public spaces’ then of course they will end up looking shabby. A bit of civic pride goes a long way. I really hope these changes work, but the fear is that no matter how many millions are spent the usual lowlifes will drag down the area and make it somewhere you simply walk through on your way to somewhere nicer.

    Reply

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