Greenwich: A walk around the new developments

Greenwich peninsula development The wraps have started to come off a few developments to the south of Greenwich Peninsula. Prompted by a great recent post at the 853 blog, I headed over to see how things were looking. Above we can see Knight Dragon’s first efforts. These early blocks are a mix of yellow brick, brown brick, white render and this one which has light green cladding:

Very chunky, grey window frames are a poor effort

Very chunky, grey window frames are a poor effort

Spot the really chunky grey window frames which look very out of place. The building to the left has much slimmer, sleeker black frames. Also in the south-east of the Peninsula is the newest phase of the Greenwich Millenium Village, which is now almost complete. As is the norm for the Peninsula and much of the country, building has occurred at a snails pace over the past 15 years despite the huge demand for housing. Aside from that, and I really quite like the look of this: Greenwich Millenium Village DSCF0063The scale of the buildings here are what is needed in many parts of London to provide badly needed housing. It’s the type of scale that is commonly seen in many European city centres, lining many major streets. The centre of London has a low population density compared to most other major cities, combined with very high rent and housing costs, and this has increasingly forced many out to the outer reaches placing further strain on the transport network. This sort of density should be the norm from zones 2-3 in, and even in a fair few areas outside close to stations. Also close to completion in the area beside Knight Dragon’s developments is Bellway’s ‘Platinum Riverside’. This second riverside tower (though it’s more like a slab) is located beside Bellway’s first Greenwich Peninsula development from a couple of years ago. Platinum riverside The bits revealed so far look decent enough. Heading from here over to the south-west of the Peninsula and River Gardens (Lovell’s Wharf) is progressing quickly. Previous stages were some of the worst recent builds on the Peninsula so hopes are low with this one. There’s little to see so far. DSCF0155 Close to this is Barratts development at Enderby Wharf, which for me at least has had less promotion than the others. One block seems close to completion. This should look pretty distinguished with orange cladding which has started to be applied: DSCF0148 This development will eventually have 770 homes with just 154 ‘affordable’. EGRA’s site shows the planned timeline for developing the whole site. Also nearby is a smaller development from Mulberry on a triangular piece of land between Tunnel Avenue and Blackwall Lane, opposite the Meantime brewery. The brickwork on the corner looked in a poor state even before completed. Hopefully that’s rectified. DSCF0138 There are also plans for a large Church of England backed free school on the Peninsula. A new consultation on the school is happening today (17th April from 4-8pm) and tomorrow from 10am-1pm. The plans have raised much controversy. There’s a petition about it here. Plus, nearby in Deptford there’s a consultation over the next few days on demolishing industrial units and constructing 320 homes at the Arklow Trading Estate. The site is located where two lines into London Bridge merge. Tomorrow they will be at the Deptford Lounge from 10am to 2pm. ArklowBack to Greenwich and many of the new developments at the south of the Peninsula are actually located closer to Southeastern stations than north Greenwich tube station, yet the walking and cycling routes to stations under the Blackwall Approach are pretty awful. Both trains and tube are suffering capacity problems, so spreading the load would make sense. A new post on London Reconnections highlights how tube upgrades are falling behind schedule, with an upgrade in Jubilee line frequencies possibly falling three years behind the original plan. Encouraging new passengers across different modes thus seems necessary, particularly if Southeastern ever gets 12-car trains and congestion is reduced after 2018. In a follow up post I’ll look at the pedestrian paths from these new developments to stations like Westcombe Park, and also the shops at East Greenwich. They would greatly benefit from the many newcomers, but the walk to reach them, as it stands, is far from enticing.

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More trains & more homes. How to help achieve this?

I’ve been prompted to write this after reading one of Bexley is Bonkers latest posts. It reports that Southeastern trains told a Bexley Council committee that they lack trains as the Department for Transport didn’t deem them worthy of additional stock, as we already know. They also claim that there is insufficient space to store any additional stock.

So then, a bit of idle speculation. Assuming this is true (and I have no idea about space in other areas like Slade Green) then there seems to be a fair bit of space to expand the sidings at Plumstead. This is right beside a site Crossrail where are currently building a substantial maintenance and stabling yard for 11 trains. Southeastern already have sidings in Plumstead that can accommodate four trains, and they were recently extended to take full length 12 car trains, however Southeastern lack the stock to run anymore than a handful at that length, which shows the need for more stock.

The area to the north of the existing Southeastern sidings has been used by Crossrail in recent years whilst they dig the tunnels under the Thames. This is separate to crossrails forthcoming permanent site. It’s a sizable area and looks like it could hold a fair few 12-car trains, and provide a facility to deal with growth in coming decades. The site is awkwardly positioned and it’s difficult to see any other uses for it. It’s the entire area that appears white below:

8 car train stabled in existing siding shows scale of area that will be vacant

Crossrail will vacate this area soon now tunnelling is complete and consolidate at their large facility under construction just to the east. That major facility was not in original Crossrail plans but subsequently developed, firstly as a ‘temporary’ measure and now to be permanent. The plans to store and maintain at Plumstead came about as other yards would be too remote from the south east branch terminus, and other possible sites such as Old Oak Common deemed more valuable for residential and commercial development. Thus Plumstead as a facility to store and maintain 11 trains makes a lot of sense and will provide much local employment. Below you can see the individual areas on an aerial image helpfully outlined using expert MS paint skills – the forthcoming permanent Crossrail sidings in purple, the existing Southeastern sidings in orange and a hypothetical expanded SE sidings in red:

Plumstead sidings with Crossrail and Southeastern

So yes, all this is a bit pie in the sky right now, but an expanded Southeastern facility would provide needed storage space within London and be located alongside Crossrail’s yard. Would that be of benefit in the coming decades in reducing costs if TfL do gain control of Southeastern? There’d be a hell of a lot of bureaucracy and issues to overcome first, such as TfL awarding the Crossrail operating contract to Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation for 8 years. If they take over SE in 2018 could it be slotted into that franchise? Would any new stock ordered be similar to Crossrail’s thus allowing engineers to easily work on both railways for cost savings?

Throw in the bus garage

Getting even further carried away, and just to the west of both Southeastern’s sidings and the forthcoming Crossrail facility is Plumstead bus garage, located very close to Plumstead station and surrounded by a terrible one-way system. Could this garage could move east to a large plot of empty land facing onto White Hart Avenue, opposite the forthcoming Crossrail yard, thereby freeing up a large amount of land for housing very close to Plumstead station? See below for a larger overview of the site:

PLumstead transport sites overview

The empty area in pink is the site and its lain empty for many years, despite Greenwich council pitching it as an industrial area. White Hart Avenue is a restricted access road built around a decade ago providing a through-route for the planned industrial hub, but it has never really taken off and a fair of land has remained empty for years. The road leads north to the dual carriageways of Thamesmead (just out of image) and would offer ideal, easy access for buses. Of course, in the fragmented transport system we have none of this is easy to plan centrally. TfL can’t order it I believe but I wonder if Greenwich Council could push for it and include this in any wider Plumstead masterplan?

If the bus garage vacated its current site it would free up a substantial amount of land for residential use. It’s an ideal site for many, desperately needed new homes. Plumstead station would be just minutes away. Moving the existing bus garage a couple of hundred metres east to a site that seems to have few takers, and is unsuitable for housing, and then building housing close to a station is what London will have to do far more of. But it requires authorities taking the lead to do so. With rumours in previous months that the garage could be moving, hopefully Greenwich realises the existing site is far better suited for housing and work towards that end.

As a bonus the horrible one-way system there could be re-worked. It’s a mess, made worse by ‘bus friendly improvements’ 10 years ago that doubled my bus trip time to work. The three/four lane one way system cuts off Thamesmead from Plumstead station as well as hampering users of the Ridgeway cycle lane and footpath. It’s a huge physical divide whose substantial alteration would greatly improve walking routes. An ideal site for a future housing zone?

London is seeing record population growth, and though all avenues including the green belt will have to be looked at, there’s a huge amount of brownfield land that is either derelict or used very inefficiently within the M25. A large stretch running west of the Plumstead one-way system to Woolwich alone could accommodate thousands of new homes, and much sooner than planned under the glacial progress big developers move at. An aerial pan of the town shows swaths of under-utilised, semi derelict or empty land (much of it land-banked for years by developers). Unless power is devolved to councils and city regions it’s very hard to see much changing soon.

The ideas above are a bit fanciful but there is a pressing need to relocate certain current land users to areas where no housing is feasible, to free up that land for new homes. Thamesmead and Erith have a fair bit of land unsuitable for housing and where industrial businesses show little interest. Moving a bus garage to those makes perfect sense. The only way London will solve its growing problems is to have strong local government that can take control and push this. This is sorely lacking, but though they are lacking much power, will Greenwich Council step up to at least get things moving through a comprehensive plan for Plumstead?

Posted in Plumstead, Thamesmead, Transport, Uncategorized, Woolwich | 5 Comments

Change coming for Greenwich borough’s neglected areas and streets?

AW village (2)

Poorly managed streets cover almost every corner of Greenwich borough and much neglect abounds. This is bringing down many areas. Local community group East Greenwich Residents Association (EGRA) have been doing a great job highlighting the very poor condition of many streets in their part of the borough, which is far from unusual. They have produced a report highlighting various failures in creating and maintaining decent areas people can take pride in. It does a superb job clearly highlighting just how poor current street management is, and what can be learnt from elsewhere. Greenwich council’s Highway’s Department, responsible for not only roads but paving, street furniture, lighting and more, still show very little understanding of good design and what is needed to improve areas to make life better for residents, business and pedestrians including the disabled and parents. Many feel the effect of these failures.

EGRA’s report includes this request:

“Immediate improvements to and monitoring of core Council services e.g. street cleaning, litter picking, footway repairs, street furniture repairs etc.”

Monitoring assets is one of the Highway Departments biggest problems. Too often we see fences, walls, railings and more become damaged or broken but then left for months, if not years. What’s badly needed is routine auditing of streets to see what needs replacing and what can be removed. Broken fixtures are left even on major roads and town centres, so it appears this just isn’t happening. It’s not a result of budget cuts either. This long pre-dates 2008 and points to real problems with the culture in some departments. As well as damage there is WAY too much clutter littering the streets which is a legacy of dated regulations from the 1970s and ’80s, long since abolished.

But hopefully changes may start to happen. Some allies of former Greenwich council leader Chris Roberts, who oversaw such widespread decline and neglect across the borough whilst in charge from 2000 to 2014, have lost important roles in charge of various committees. The head of the Planning Board has changed hands, with Ray Walker replaced by Mark James. Changes have also occurred over at the Highway’s scrutiny committee. The committee tasked with keeping tabs just didn’t seem up to the job given years of sub-standard department work. It’s former chairman was Norman Adams who is to be replaced by Aidan Smith.

Plumstead guardrail 2The practices of the department need much better scrutiny. You don’t need miles of guardrail lining every single junction or busy area if it narrows paving and puts cyclists at risk. The rules in the ’70s may have stipulated it but not in 2015. It’s wasteful to install and impedes pedestrians and vulnerable users, but Greenwich council can often seem oblivious to changes beyond their boundaries. And where it is needed only the worst quality, least attractive seems to do.

It’s as though the Highways Department’s budget is spread thinly and quantity over quality is in evidence. Instead of targeting resources where needed and doing a good job in select areas, the Highways Department instead install much rubbish that just isn’t needed in most instances. And still it goes on, wasting money and achieving little. Thousands were recently spent on yet more guardrail by Waitrose in Greenwich (the cheapest type only of course). The junction is now a cluttered mess. When I passed pedestrians were being placed at more risk by their installation. Just metres away the nearby council estate entrance has been a mess for at least six months with the top of a wall having fallen off and remained on the paving, with masonry and bricks falling out of other areas. No money to improve that it seems. The hundreds of people living in that tower block don’t deserve the bare minimum in maintenance? Such bizarre priorities.

Most authorities in the UK are removing railings. Greenwich spends thousands putting more in. When other authorities do tend to put them in they use materials that are more sensitive. Greenwich choose utilitarian rubbish and can’t be bothered to even paint it. They’re decades behind. And if they can’t do a half decent job at the edge of a world heritage site then there’s no hope for areas like Plumstead or Coldharbour without serious changes in behaviour.

So spreading the budget thinly, and unnecessarily, by placing railings and signs anywhere they can means that the default lighting, paving, landscaping and fencing is too often the cheapest and nastiest they could procure. Look at the photo below. Why have a small number of attractive bollards when you can install a dozen ‘cheaper’ wooden ones? Except you’ve saved nothing here but made it look cluttered and created more obstacles for pedestrians. Half the time these types of bollards are leaning at an angle on various streets as they topple so easily, yet the Highways Department’s guidebook must state they’re stuck up on every street whether needed or not.

How many bollards are needed? Use less but better quality

How many bollards are needed? Use less but better quality

Carrying out a rolling process of street audits and repairing or removing redundant street furniture does not cost the earth. What isn’t needed can go. How much would it have cost to audit the parade of shops above on an annual basis, then remove unneeded items and improve what is needed? Very little if the will was there or the way the department operated changed so this was a priority. It’s been like that for 20 years. This is outside a station that is one of the busiest in London and sees tourists passing through. Greenwich council have often said Crossrail’s coming as if that excuses years of neglect, and now we know it won’t even cover the whole main street directly next to the station. It should never have seen 20 years neglect and the prospect of millions to do routine work. And what about Plumstead station, or many others? Same story there but no plans, even though it would be easy, cheap and achieve some pretty big immediate improvements.

Area by Plumstead station. Bodged improvement works. No visual cohesion.

Area by Plumstead station. Bodged improvement works. No visual cohesion.

For a minimal outlay a better place could be created at Plumstead. A community’s sense of well being is increased in an attractive environment. People also see that the council gives a damn. If people see the authorities care then they tend to as well. Crime is lessened. Business prosper as people want to stay and visit. It just needs drive and focus.

It's a failing council that doesn't do the simple, cheap things to improve this

It’s a failing council that doesn’t do the simple, cheap things to improve this

As the Highways department have floundered and rendered many streets a mess the scrutiny from the committee overseeing them has been lacking. Many more questions should have been asked about their routine failings and more demands placed on them. The forthcoming change of scrutiny chair could be just what is needed.

Councillors need to demand change and ensure working practices are altered within departments to improve failures blighting many areas. Ask senior members of various departments tough questions and crucially follow up to ensure changes are pushed through. I wish the new chairs of committees all the best in holding failing departments like Highways to account. What we had before has not worked.

Alongside that it’s heartening to see more community groups created and putting pressure on. EGRA are a great example but this also extends to the ever-increasing number of online groups covering local areas on sites like Facebook with thousands of members. For example, Plumstead People have many members who have had to actively sign up and be approved. It’s not the same as just clicking ‘like’. It’s a similar story with groups covering Woolwich. This, along with twitter and blogs are helping to bring people together and publicise issues, as well as directing complaints and comments to the council and Councillors. People have been contacting me about their local area and I’ve directed them to local politicians so they can let them know it’s not good enough. With all these things happening, and changes with the council scrutiny committees, the future looks better. It’s high time Greenwich council caught up with other areas and gave people decent places to live. With the sheer number of comments online its clear that the poor state of many places concerns lots of people, and as more join groups and twitter it isn’t going away.

But we shouldn’t need community groups alone to push for change. In some areas people are apathetic, detached and just too cynical for local groups to emerge anytime soon. Years of being abandoned have taken their toll. It took a very poor new development proposal for EGRA to spring into life, but I just can’t see a group happening in say, Abbey Wood, anytime soon. So to rely on community groups alone to enact change is not the answer. We need departments that function well by default, and carry out high quality work led by good design principles as standard, so it doesn’t require a big concerted community push for improvements to occur. That will happen with pressure from elected representatives towards council departments. The irony is, the more the council takes the lead through competent departments in improving various areas like Abbey Wood, the more likely community groups are to appear as stronger communities emerge and people feel as though they’ll be listened to.

Posted in Abbey Wood, Charlton, Deptford, Eltham, Greenwich, Plumstead, Thamesmead, Woolwich | 7 Comments

New Riverside block of flats at Greenwich

Greenwich new flats riverside 3

A 10 storey, 41 flat development on the riverside at Greenwich has recently secured planning permission. It was somewhat overshadowed at the same planning meeting which saw Greenwich Council refuse the next phase of Woolwich Central. The approved riverside block at Greenwich is close to the recently complete New Capital Quay development. This nine flat block is to be demolished:

Greenwich Holt Court

Greenwich new flats riverside 2

Dull and unambitious river frontage

The new block is pretty perfunctory on the whole. It’s river frontage is as conservative and plain as you can get. I’m not keen on the horizontal bands, and with this and grey cladding it puts me in mind of Lovells Wharf, or ‘River Gardens’, just along the river. A great deal of recent riverside developments in Greenwich are dull at best.

The 10 storey block facing the river becomes six storeys to the rear facing Thames Street. This section is beside the former Old Loyal Britons pub, which recently saw its landlord evicted despite the work put in the rejuvenate the pub. I’m unsure if that is connected to this scheme in any way.

There are plans for just two disabled car parking spaces which is likely to place more pressure on surrounding streets unless permits and enforcement are tightly controlled. The affordable housing percentage is 44%. London & Quadrant are behind this application.

Greenwich new flats riverside 4One of the best features in this proposal is the ground floor treatment. Warmer colour tones are used and ground floor commercial unit frontages appear double height. This is far better than a single storey ground floor appearance which usually makes a building appear unbalanced, with the mass of the structure above bearing down on squat ground floor units.

Greenwich Grey claddingGoing back to the grey cladding, which the building uses a fair bit of alongside nearby developments such as New Capital Quay and Lovells Wharf. What is it with UK developers and their love of grey? It often looks miserable. Grey cladding alongside windows reflecting a normally grey sky. It doesn’t often lift the spirits.

The developers amusingly state here that using grey relates to former industrial uses. Right. Those industrial uses that havn’t been seen here for about 50 years?

More info can be found by searching for planning reference 14/1775/F by clicking here.

At the same meeting, plans for 52 flats at Artillery Quay in Woolwich were approved. I wrote about that in a recent post which can be seen here.

Posted in Greenwich, Woolwich | 2 Comments

Greenwich council’s income below expectations this year

Greenwich council are seeing a lot less income than expected this financial year across a variety of areas. The main drop is from parking income. It’s £2.1m below expectations. £1.7m of that is from on-street parking.

on street parking

This is attributed, in part, to the opening of Tesco which offers free parking. In addition off-street parking has seen £427k less income than budgeted. Has the superstore brought more problems than it has solved? It does not seem to have arrested the decline in the High Street. Marks & Spencer have departed and are moving to a giant out-of-town barn in Charlton. All the forthcoming retail sheds in Charlton offer free parking which will further increase the financial pressure, and they cover a massive amount of land. This inefficient increase in land allocated for retail sheds and car parking, during a housing crises, is encouraged in the recent council masterplan for the area. See below for all the areas of free car parking available in a couple of years once Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Brocklebank retail park opens – a huge amount of land wasted close to zone 2 London. Much of this area is a 5-10 minute walk to Charlton & Westcombe park stations.

Areas of free car parking

Areas of surface car parking, not including another retail park to east

With single storey retail barns in blue

Single storey retail in blue

Instead of adopting a long term strategy to increase housing and mixed-use developments in this retail barn heavy area, recent plans have proliferated car-dependent shops at the expense of much needed housing, as well as affecting the future of Woolwich as a destination worth visiting for shopping and will further hamper  parking income.

charlton valley houseOne developer has ignored the masterplan and is proposing housing in this area. It would be a decent addition to the area, and ticks the boxes the masterplan should have offered as a solution for the area. Retail space at street level facing onto Woolwich Road would bring life to this area. Decent density provides a large number of flats without being overbearing. The curved corner offers a decent response to the site. It’s disappointing that Sainsbury’s didn’t follow this model as many of their other London sites look to move to mixed uses including housing.

One other factor that can’t be helping Greenwich’s poor parking income is allowing illegal parking to proliferate unchallenged. Earlier I was in Abbey Wood and passing an area where a controlled parking zone is in operation. I saw, as I almost always do , numerous cars just go off-road to park on paving and grass. I’ve never seen a ticket.

About 8 parked on paving with a van on grass behind

About 8 parked on paving with a van on grass behind

See all the various bollards? More messy street furniture that clearly doesn’t work. That’s 8 cars off-road and a van parked on grass behind. To be honest, cars on the paving is not a big deal here as they’re not blocking pedestrians. But as the council never seems to stop this or ticket then other people realise they can park blocking pavements, or go onto grassed areas like the van behind. These areas are for kids play, and cars and vans turn these areas into muddy areas other a period of time. I saw a couple of other cars on grass in just a 5 minute walk. One visit by parking attendants would spot numerous badly parked cars, dissuade it in future, and bring in income but it never happens. Never have I seen tickets applied to cars badly parked on many walks in this area going back years. Clearly if they did people wouldn’t do it on such a wide level. You may expect a cash strapped department to do so.

As for the various bollards scattered about, a simple consistent row of one simple design at that location or around grassed areas would look better and be effective. I noticed where attempts had been made to stop parking on grass really ugly stainless steel barriers had been used. So the choice at the moment seems to be grassed areas becoming car parks and muddy without enforcement or ugly barriers to stop it? Come on Greenwich council, you can do a hell of a lot better than this.

Greenwich will shortly expand the controlled parking zone here as Crossrail arrives. Even more people will simply park off-road, or head to the new Sainsbury’s superstore two minutes away opening in July, to use the free parking. At least that store has parking below the shop and a small element of housing, albeit no affordable housing. Marginally better than Charlton then, but it wont do much for the housing problem, nor council finances.

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Another new masterplan announced for Woolwich

Thomas Street masterplanHot on the heels of Greenwich Council’s rejection of Tesco’s plans for a 22 storey tower behind their Woolwich superstore we see the release of a council commissioned draft ‘Thomas Street masterplan’ from Allies and Morrison. Click here to view the entire 56mb document.

The area covered goes beyond the area refused planning and covers an area of council housing lining Wellington Street as well as area in front of the supermarket, which comprises a patch of grass (which already has outline planning for a tower) and the area of shops around Wetherspoons.

Thomas Street buildingsThe good news is that the attractive, locally-listed row of buildings at 1-5 Thomas Street is deemed an asset worth keeping. It’s a small reminder of how many buildings in the area used to look before numerous mass redevelopment schemes demolished much of the town centre. These buildings show how a big transformation can be achieved with some modest yet faithful facade improvements and high quality public realm and paving, allowing the buildings to take centre stage with less street clutter to detract from the environment. Though the opportunity to attach street lights to the buildings wasn’t taken recently leaving ungainly poles.

wellington street shop paradeThe Wetherspoons building is also likely to remain under these draft plans. The small row of buildings on Wellington Street by Wetherspoons is though in line for the chop. Not a great loss. Low rise and not providing needed housing. The plans see a 4-5 level residential building facing the street, which rises in height away from the road.

Woolwich ouline consentPreliminary Spenhill plans were awarded outline planning permission, and are shown to the left. The greater density of recently refused plans are clear to see when comparing to this model, but with outline planning already given for a 16 storey tower a precedent has been set for height in the area.

The masterplan also envisages the demolition of homes and flats in the Ogilby buildings at the top of Wellington Street, replaced with 87 flats.

The road junction here is seen as not very pedestrian friendly. The plan advocates the removal of guardrails and street clutter, as happened on General Gordon Square to great effect. It’s bizarre that Greenwich Council still installs so much across the borough at a cost of thousands unlike many authorities Thomas Street public realmwho have removed much of it. Greenwich always install the cheapest possible too. The junction by Waitrose in Greenwich is a prime example. The extensive railings detract from the street scene and cause hassle for pedestrians forced to take indirect walks. I was there last week. Pedestrians, including me, were walking in the road to cross during heavy traffic as the barriers prevented easy crossing. Nearby council managed walls and masonry at the entrance to the council estate were continuing to fall apart. The top of a wall had fallen off, and not fixed since I first saw it 6 months ago. But why fix that and maintain public spaces when you can spend a few grand making life frustrating for pedestrians? Greenwich council departments have some very odd priorities, and Councillors aren’t scrutinising them anywhere near enough.

Woolwich pocket parkBack to the masterplan, and a ‘pocket park’ is proposed to compensate for the loss of greenery in front of the supermarket. The new park would be located to the south west of the site, at the end of Love Lane.

 

Love Lane will be the main route through the site. On the subject of Greenwich Council’s bizarre management of public space, I recently noticed they’ve stuck up two street signs at the entrance to Love Lane in the area to the front of Tesco. One against the wall is enough. It’s a barely used lane in a pedestrian area. The other sign is pretty incongruous and more unneeded clutter. It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things but another example of poor understanding of how to do street design.

Thomas Street masterplan heights

Indicative building heights

The recent refusal of Spenhill’s plans have caused a bump in the road. I’d expect a re-worked scheme cutting a few storeys off the 20 storey tower. With a bigger site area a comprehensive re-working of future Spenhill phases would make more sense rather than some small alterations to that flawed scheme.

Elsewhere in Woolwich the large area of land above and around the Woolwich DLR station, now vacant for six years after the station opened, is a scandalous waste of land in a time of massive housing shortages. It’s a prime example of why plans to charge developers a levy a set time after purchasing land, and after securing planning permission, is essential. Developers would soon build, or sell on to someone who would, if punitive fines for land banking were adopted.

Building on that site would also help link the old and new areas of Woolwich alongside the Spray Street redevelopment which includes the indoor market. Connecting the two areas of Woolwich, with more people moving into the town centre, would increase the viability of retail sites and local pubs. As it is, stores like Marks and Spencer continue to leave. A 99p store is to take over soon which sums up its decline. Greenwich council continues to permit inappropriate and wasteful out-of-town retail at Charlton in its recently adopted masterplan, instead of retaining successful industry and developing much needed housing plans for that area. One masterplan seems conflicted with another.

Posted in Uncategorized, Woolwich | Leave a comment

Tesco’s 22 storey Woolwich tower plan rejected

Woolwich central new phase 2

A surprising decision has seen Greenwich Council block Tesco’s plans for a large residential development on land adjacent to the Tesco superstore in Woolwich. Tesco, through its developement subsiduary Spenhill, were seeking approval for up to 550 flats.

You can imagine Councillors recalling the barrage of terrible press the town and council received from the earlier stage of this development as they turned it down. The first stages won the ‘carbunkle cup’ for worst building of the year and saw it featured heavily across national media.

Woolwich Central Phase 4This wasn’t much better. I’m in favour of tall buildings in London and UK cities. They’re desperately needed to provide the homes needed, and to enable greater density in the centre of cities and around major transport nodes.

However there’s some important conditions, particularly in the UK to convince the public, where post-war planning, design and construction gave tall buildings such a bad reputation. They need to be in suitable locations. There’s many areas in Woolwich that are, but this isn’t one of them. Locating towers in clusters is ideal yet this is next to low rise buildings. Towers need to be good design. Goes without saying really but if you’re going to make an impression then make it positive, not this tedious block. Again, this seems to fail, seeing as it’s an uninspiring, oppressive grey slab. Despite dwarfing nearby areas it appears pretty stumpy given its girth, with little in the way of elegance. Like the supermarket before it, street level saw a lot of dead frontage. Lastly, it needed to include social housing. It didn’t.

God-awful earlier stage

God-awful earlier stage

And that’s before any post-approval alterations, which did so much to ruin the side of the supermarket facing onto shops and the church on Woolwich New Road.

I doubt this is the last they’ll hear from Tesco. There’s also the atrocious tower they planned to build directly next to General Gordon Square on the patch of grass in front of the supermarket. That plan hasn’t gone away.

Away from this part of town, and the half-empty retail area to the west by Travelodge, the art-deco Co-op and the Waterfront has seen a Powis Street estates sell up to Mansfield Pension Fund. According to council documents

“Mansford Pension Fund have recently acquired a significant interest in this part of the Town Centre from Powis Street Estates. Woolwich has become one of their key and largest assets and they are looking to actively own and manage their sites in partnership with the Council, including the potential to improve the appearance of their units, as well as the public realm and general shopping environment. They are also interested in acquiring further sites, particularly along Powis Street to fill in “ownership gaps”.

 

There’s a lot of potential around there with much of it unrealised.

Finally, Greenwich Council have decided to take Eric Pickles order to stop publishing their weekly propaganda newspaper to a Judicial Review. It is the only Labour council in the country to print a weekly paper at large expense. This will cost taxpayers even more money than is wasted on publishing and distributing a newspaper that exists to big up those in charge. It’s not as if much of Greenwich’s public realm is a crumbling mess is it? But why fix that why you can splash large sums on favourable PR? It’s a nonsense. Who reads the puff pieces about ‘royal’ this and that believing it anyway, and even if some gullible people do buy into it their bubble is soon burst when the step outside and see the state of many places, looking like this:

Usual Greenwich Borough public realm maintenance. Really, this is common!

Usual Greenwich Borough public realm maintenance. Really, this is common!

A mess

A mess

Royal borough? Forget the rubbish and look at the crumbling bricks and masonry. Streets and public spaces are in a crap state in every corner of the borough, along with 95% of street furniture. I’m often travelling to areas all over London and can honestly compare to many other boroughs, and really, Greenwich are terrible at this.

Save the hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on weekly PR waffle and fix the state of the place. Greenwich council have the money. They just choose not to spend it on improving public areas and streets to create decent places to live. This all says so much about what the leadership and councillors seem to value most.

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