Woolwich town centre’s major revamp on Powis Street begins

Fencing has been erected and paving dug up as work begins on Woolwich’s main shopping street bringing a multi-million pound revamp.

A few weeks ago Beresford Square was also closed as part of the same project, which is part of a £25 million project mainly funded by government’s Future High Street Fund and Historic England topped up with council cash in a project first announced in 2019.

Looking west

Work has started at the eastern end of town along Powis Street leaving a limited space for pedestrians either side.

Not much can be done about that. Retailers won’t be too happy mind.

Restricted space as work begins

When complete, Powis Street will look a bit like this. Existing trees are remaining though little else.

Powis Street plan sees extensive landscaping and street furniture

Extensive landscaping on one side of the street will prohibit outside seating for restaurants or cafes which may hamper attempts to create a stronger evening economy.

Plans for street furniture the other side have been scaled back from initial plans to permit outside seating in future if demand comes forward.

Current seating surrounding trees will be removed and replaced.

Current seating isn’t too intrusive upon pedestrian space leaving space when heading along street. Future changes will be more restrictive.

Generally it all looks very nice though as highlighted a number of times it’s also high maintenance. Is that wise when funding is limited?

Hard wearing street furniture going with higher maintenance designs coming

The landscaping and extensive seating also limits usable space when heading down the street.

It’s not the widest street and does get very busy with high levels of footfall particularly at its eastern-most point near the DLR station.

Powis Street before work begun with 1990s paving and lighting to be removed.

There’s also bespoke street furniture coming and many councils just don’t have a good record of looking after them. Greenwich among them.

Resin-bound gravel is planned around trees. The very same material removed in Abbey Wood and replaced with tarmac within a few short years.

Seating plans

Work currently extends to near the DLR station which is where some market traders have been relocated from Beresford Square.

Others are now in General Gordon Square atop the water feature now covered over.

Work currently begins by Footlocker

To the left in the above shot is Murray’s Yard. A barely known let alone used little stretch.

In 10 years it will however be a major through route to thousands of new homes. I’m not entirely sure the designers of this upgrade have realised that looking at the position of street furniture and landscaping limiting paving space. Footfall will massively increase.

Murray’s Yard will become a major link between parts of Woolwich incoming years

The overall project extends down Powis Street but does not cover the western end past the junction of Hare Street, which is also not part of the scheme.

Prior form

We’ve been here before of course. When Abbey Wood’s public realm revamp was revealed surround the new Elizabeth line station, this site and many others highlighted potential issues.

That straddles the Bexley and Greenwich borough boundary. They went ahead and what do you know, within two years much of it looked a mess.

Overview of Powis Street plan

Landscaping wasn’t maintained which is pretty essential in an area of high footfall. Promised trees didn’t arrive. Issues are in area managed by both councils.

Greenwich Council work on Wilton Road shortly after money spent on improvements

Patches of tarmac has been put down instead of prior attractive materials. It goes on.

Similar happened in Eltham in recent years after a £6 million project. The (in)famous £40,000 light sign stopped working.

Eltham’s £6 million project mainly funded by TfL

Street furniture was hit on pedestrianised Passey Place.

The area became a car park due to poor enforcement.

Damaged street furniture at renovated Passey Place in Eltham

Hopefully I’m wrong about all this and they will do a far better job this time. Hope springs eternal and all that. Early signs aren’t good mind, as work on a small section off Powis Street was undertaken earlier this year.

Within days vehicles were parking day and night and street furniture being scratched.

Barnard Close before work begun.

One of the reasons work needed doing in the first place on Barnard Close was because they’d not properly maintained a previous upgrade.

The same was true at Beresford Square.

Beresford Square . Tarmac put down after expensive paving laid

On the flipside General Gordon Square has generally been kept in decent condition. Not great, as damaged signs lingered for years and its a bit scruffy but no great patches of tarmac appeared and the flowers weren’t all ripped out.

It’s remained a great public space and an example of what can be achieved.

10 years after last upgrade and street surface cannot cope with usage by buses. Patches of tarmac abound

The big question now is whether after £21 million has been spent, will Powis Street and Beresford Square be looked after?

Get it wrong and it’s the same old story of external consultants paid big money for schemes that look great on paper but do not work long-term in practice.

Work begins near DLR station

Woolwich afterall is a litany of projects that never got of the ground (a major civic centre in what is now General Gordon Square in the 1960s) or was built but replaced.

A 1960s pedestrianisation didn’t happen.

Powis Street plan from 1964 never happened

By the 1980s pedestrianisation did take place with raised planters installed along Powis Street (similar to forthcoming landscaping seen in this upgrade in some respects) which was removed by the 1990s as it hampered pedestrians walking along the street and needed high upkeep.

Then came the 1990s revamp which is now being replaced.

Part of what’s seen here dates from 1990s upgrade. Darker setts date from 1980s.

Oh, and then the late 2000s and early 2010s project also now being replaced on Beresford Square.

Bexleyheath Broadway’s pedestrianised area, for example, which is a competitor to Woolwich saw work in the 1990s and little needed since. Bexley Council did fill in a fountain to save a few quid but the fundamentals have lasted.

Bexleyheath Broadway hasn’t seen – nor needed- many changes since 1990s upgrade

Not so much in Woolwich where constant changes, millions spent then poor upkeep are like clockwork. Get it right now though and there’s a lot of good ideas for visitors and residents to enjoy.

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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.

    4 thoughts on “Woolwich town centre’s major revamp on Powis Street begins

    • Starting to do works in the lead up to Xmas, I bet the local traders are thrilled by the timing.

    • I wonder if the street engineers have remembered that water doesn’t flow uphill.

      Drainage in these schemes frequently doesn’t work

    • Why do these modern schemes like to use timber seating? They look great when installed, but after time they become an eyesore with stains that never seem to disappear.

    • They become eyesores with stains because this Council does not maintain its public realm .
      Huge sums of money are spent on revamping high streets and other public spaces only for them to decline within weeks.
      There are schedules for street cleaning ! How about sticking to them ?
      Why do Councillors not keep an eye on this ?
      Very poor.


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