New consultation on Woolwich Arsenal squares – listed building now retained

Berkeley Homes will be holding consultation events this weekend on revised plans for 150 new homes plus new squares beside the forthcoming Woolwich Crossrail station.

You can find out more by visiting Building 10 (which hosts the farmers market and next to the Tap Room pub) on Friday 20th May from 3-7pm and Saturday 21st from 10am-4pm.

arsenal consultation

Initial plans in 2014 intended to demolish the Grade II listed Building 11, or Officer’s House, and use the space for a taxi rank. Thankfully those deeply flawed plans were shelved.

The initial plan appeared to show enough space for a taxi turning circle even without demolition. Demolition would also have meant losing a sense of enclosure to both Dial Arch Square and the proposed Royal Arsenal Square.

royal square

2014 plans

Thankfully retention of the handsome Officer’s House allows the possibility that the ground floor can be used as a pub or shop. Located directly beside the Crossrail entrance, the spot will be very lucrative. That aspect was another element which made prior plans flawed. With commercial space in a carefully renovated building, Woolwich gains another decent eatery, pub or shop. Careful alterations to the building could also potentially improve permeability.

Up to 150 homes are also planned. Presumably some will be above the commercial space in Building 11 / Officer’s House.

It will be interesting to see what is proposed for the shed-like Building 10. A regular market is currently held there. Will there be space for this to continue, or could it move to the new square planned just outside or at Dial Arch Square? With news of the indoor market’s sale over the road on Spray Street, could a regular market on a site there incorporate it in future years?

 

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Cinema coming to Woolwich as market sale agreed?

Early renders

Early renders

Greenwich Council’s plan to sell off the indoor market as part of a large mixed-use development has taken a step forwards. Council documents reveal plans for a cinema, up to 650 homes and a new public square.

St Modwen and Notting Hill Housing Association were selected as preferred bidders for the wider Spray Street Masterplan site development in December 2014. Greenwich Council’s cabinet are now looking to ratify that decision, and note that:

“The ‘partnership’ of Notting Hill Commercial Properties Ltd and St Modwen Developments Ltd have decided to form a ‘special purpose vehicle’ specifically for the purpose of developing the Spray Street Quarter.”

The planning conditions reveal what will replace the decrepit market and crumbling buildings on the wider masterplan site:

“The Planning Application should include a minimum development criteria of not less than 3000 sq. metres of ‘A’ Class Uses (retail), a cinema of not less than 600 sq. metres, 1000 sq. metres of other commercial uses, 800 sq. metre of public realm and between 550-650 of residential units of which 35% should be affordable and high quality public realm including a new square of not less than 800 sq. metres.”

If a planning application is not made before December 2017 the council can terminate the agreement.

In theory this plan should be a big boost to Woolwich. It finally regains a cinema and more badly needed evening entertainment options. A re-orientated market should better connect with the existing outdoor market and provide a boost to both.

This site also links the newer Arsenal developments and Crossrail station with the DLR and Southeastern station, which is likely to be operated by London Overground by 2018.

The extensive Spray Street Quarter site

The extensive Spray Street Quarter site

It does again raise questions of why the DLR over-station development just to the south has stalled for so long. TfL are once again trumpeting their new found enthusiasm for partnerships with developers on land around and above stations. They have been making a big deal of this in regards to new Mayor Sadiq Khans housing aspirations.

woolwich oakmayne

Woolwich DLR was supposed to be a trailblazer, but 8 years on nothing has appeared on a large expanse of land both above and around the station box. Here’s what was said back in 2008:

“The sites – the airspace above the two DLR station entrances and a former works site – form part of the new DLR extension to Woolwich centre due to open during the early part of 2009.

Oakmayne were selected over Berkeley Homes, Cathedral Group and First Base as TfL’s partner for the sites as a result of their ‘design-led approach’ and ‘comprehensive residential regeneration experience in the South London market,’ it said.”

Let’s hope the crucial development at Spray Street does not become bogged down in development hell. The council have stipulated a number of terms to ensure it should proceed quickly. Why TfL did not ensure timely progress is a mystery.

EDIT: Just after posting I found this page which shows that Oakmayne (Woolwich) Ltd was incorporated on 18th May 2006. Exactly 10 years ago today and nothing to show for it.

 

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A look at Abbey Wood’s Lesnes Abbey as £4.2m upgrade nears completion

Abbey ruins with London skyline beyond

Abbey ruins with London skyline beyond

Lesnes Abbey is a bit of an undiscovered gem in south east London. It’s been a great place to visit for years, but now the Abbey ruins and adjacent woodland which gave Abbey Wood its name is seeing £4.2 million of lottery cash upgrading the area. Work is scheduled to complete by August 2016. Bexley is Bonkers has covered the somewhat torturous progress so far.

carving

Despite growing up in Abbey Wood, I oddly never really ventured to the grounds. Not many people I know did. We would generally go to Plumstead Gardens or Abbey Wood Park. Both of which have sadly been neglected a fair bit by Greenwich Council since the ’90s. But the Lesnes Abbey grounds were always well maintained up until the beginning of this work, and the removal of some landscaped parts of the grounds have not pleased all. Hopefully when complete the work will have been worth it. There’s a fair few changes.

lodge building

Render of new visitor’s centre

One of the most notable new additions is a ‘monk’s garden‘ that’s going in beside a new visitor’s centre. The improvement work did look impressive and will hopefully draw more locals to the site, plus people from further afield. Crossrail will probably help in that regard, as it’s just a couple of minutes walk from Abbey Wood station.

Planting at monks garden

Planting at monks garden

entrance 2A grander entrance has been installed facing Abbey Road. It’s a shame no at-grade crossing is to be installed outside here.

Instead, for some it will mean using the bridge. An incongruous piece of Thamesmead’s 1970’s estate stretches out to this area in the form of the aforementioned bridge and elevated walkways, heading a fair way away from the iconic houses and flats and into the site.

bridge

I admire just how bold and uncompromising the structure appears in its surroundings, particularly the section closest to the Abbey grounds on the stretch above and around Abbey Road. A taste of the future, circa 1970, leading up to an 12th Century ruin. It’s a lingering remnant of the idea that elevated walkways would stretch for miles in all directions, separating pedestrian from cars.

Only a fraction of what was intended to be built was installed, and now the vast majority has gone or is gated off and doomed to imminent demolition. The concrete at this far outpost of Thamesmead’s walkway network is though in poor shape:

bridge concrete

WallA viewing area has also been constructed and looked pretty much complete, and the site does offer good vantage spots across London comprising Thamesmead’s retro-futuristic estate, Victorian terraces, conventional post-war buildings plus the skylines of Canary Wharf and central London.

The Woods

Beside the ruins and gardens are a number of paths leading into the woodlands. At this time of year a carpet of blue is present with numerous bluebells lining the ground. A newlt created wood carving is also visible here:

bluebells 3

carving woods

The woodland paths, part of the green chain walk, stretch off for miles. A number of events occur at the Abbey grounds with details here.

I’d definitely recommend a visit, even before it’s complete in August. A large amount of the site is now accessible and of course there’s the extensive woodlands. Plus, the bluebells wont last too much longer. Though check the trains beforehand as Crossrail weekend closures are common.

Plus, don’t expect much in the way of places to eat in Abbey Wood en route from the station. There’s a greasy spoon which is ok, a refurbished pub (the Abbey Arms by the station) which I havn’t visited though they appear to be trying hard, and some takeaways. More decent restaurants can’t come soon enough and hopefully Crossrail is the trigger.

And of course the walk to the site is through the grotty old shopping parade by the station. Still no sign of upgraded shopfronts as part of the £300k funding bid (£100k+ already gone on consultants and fees) but what is usually visible are people hanging around  the bookies often causing hassle. God knows what visitors will make of it, particularly the tourists at the tourist camp site hidden in the woods (108 pitches and very busy in peak spring and summer season).

To their credit, Greenwich Council have put in more cash from the HILL’s project to upgrade the street, but it’s still far from enough; £450k is not going to fix it. Lobbying Peabody for greater investment in this area, or bidding for additional and substantial outside funds is what it needs. Plus, there has to be some effort in cracking down on a number of the people and businesses around there. The bookies are holding the area back but there’s such great potential.

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Big weekend of Crossrail changes at Abbey Wood station

30 April 2016 (4)

Crossrail weekend closures have been a frequent occurrence this year at Abbey Wood. Much has been achieved, and when a long weekend rolls around it’s a chance to get a fair bit done. And so this bank holiday period sees a closure for three full days.

So what’s on the agenda? Well, most visibly, the main station structure is taking shape. The Bexley is Bonkers blog has been doing a brilliant job documenting and photographing the changes. Those covering this weekend are here, the full list going back years is here, and a post covering the specific changes this weekend (track alignment etc) can be seen here. Chris Mansfield has also been photographing progress, and again some great photos taken. The photos are far better in quality and scope than those seen here so I’d recommend clicking through.

Felixstowe Road shops

Felixstowe Road shops and flats

Abbey Wood Crossrail Felixstowe

abbey-wood-station-design-architects-impressionAs the blog points out, there’s only around 18 months to go until completion of the station. Until recently that may have seemed a tall order. But recent weeks have seen much visible progress. The corridor for Crossrail tracks (which currently halt at Plumstead) has seen seen much clearing and leveling of land all the way up to the station.

Looking west from the station area to the Crossrail track corridor

Looking west from the station area to the leveled Crossrail track corridor

The island platform serving Southeastern trains is scheduled for completion in August, allowing a period of just over a year to complete the Crossrail island platform, station building and tracks. The first test trains could be visible in late 2017, as TfL recently revealed in a submission to the Greater London Assembly:

testing schedule

Abbey Wood to Paddington via Canary Wharf is the first section planned to officially open in late 2018. The section from Shenfield in Essex to Paddington, and the section to Heathrow and Reading in the west from Paddington, follow in 2019.

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Greenwich Council to buy Woolwich Jobcentre for housing?

Woolwich job centre

Greenwich Council are looking into the possibility of acquiring Woolwich Jobcentre on Wellington Street. The building is located by the Town Hall.

The owners have previously sought to convert the building to residential housing under the Government’s permitted rights scheme, as noted in this post from last November.

With the severe shortage of truly affordable housing this is to be welcomed. It will likely save a substantial sum as the council are obliged to house certain individuals and families classified as vulnerable, yet central Government actions have led to an ever-increasing reduction in social housing in which to house people. Families that councils have a statutory duty to house lets not forget. Authorities are thus left in a difficult spot. So they often end up in expensive private lettings, or forced to move many miles away.

Whether the housing would be provided directly or under the council’s arms-length property company ‘Meridian Homestart‘ remains to be seen.

One other building I’ve long thought would go down the resdiential conversion path is Riverside House, which the council have mostly (completely?) vacated yet own the freehold. It seems HM Customs and Probation Services occupy some floors which provide a regular income but I’ve been told some floors are now vacant since departments moved to the Woolwich Centre. Will additional income and/or savings achieved by residential conversion, either directly or by selling to a developer, lead to a sale?

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Another Lewisham development gains approval

87 Loampit_Vale

After revisions from earlier plans, this project at 87-89 Loampit Vale has been approved by Lewisham planners.

Original plan

Original plan

It’s had a reduction in height from earlier drafts. This approved scheme tops out at seven floors.

It’s adjacent to the western railway lines by Lewisham station, and is just the other side of the viaduct from the recently completed towers at ‘Renaissance’.

Architects BPTW designed the scheme for Family Mosaic. 49 flats are to be included, and a new link created between Loampit Vale and Bertrand Street. ‘Affordable’ home levels are 31%.

87-89 Loampit Vale

Other Highways improvement works, as part of a Section 278 agreement includes:

• Enhancing lighting on Bertrand Street

• New footway on Bertrand Street (along site frontage)

• Enhancing the pedestrian environment under the railway bridge on Bertrand Street adjacent to the site (surface treatment (footways & walls), lighting, works to prevent birds roosting

Also in Lewisham, the 410-bed student block at Sherwood Court is seeing external cladding applied. Beside that site is a 13 floor tower named Flora Villas, with work imminent there.

Thurston Central is seeing the finishing touches applied. ASDA are due to occupy the ground floor commercial space but it seems to have recently gone quiet on that front.

Lewisham Gateway’s third block is now up to around the fifth floor.

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Woolwich riverside towers on the up

riverside towers

I havn’t wrote a post for a good few weeks, and so after being contacted to ask if the blog is on hold, I thought it right that I should add something to give the appearance it’s ticking over.

So anyway, a post to show how Berkeley Homes first towers by the river at Woolwich are shaping up. The block on the right in the above image completed a few months ago. Pretty perfunctory. The first two blocks of another six are now rising.

RRoyal Arsenal Riverside Tower

And here’s a render of the eventual six riverside towers:

Arsenal entire site showing 6 towers

Work is now also underway at Phase 3 of the Arsenal masterplan at a section named Laboratory Square. Here’s a very uninteresting shot showing little, except a couple of cranes. It does though signify that this phase is now well underway:

phase 3

phase 3 laboratory square

This development will mirror the buildings on the opposite side of No 1 Street in terms of scale and materials. There’s a few 1980s-esque elements in there such as the arch. Some of the Arsenal wall has been removed to open up the area.

Work on the Crossrail station is proceeding. Here’s how it’s looking with the now reprieved listed Officers House on the left. Berkeley were proposing demolition for a taxi rank.

woolwich crossrail station

Over at the town centre, and this shot of Beresford Square below shows the almost complete towers above the forthcoming Crossrail station. The square was pretty barren even early in the evening. The hopes of the square becoming a lively, attractive place at night are far from realised.

Beresford Square

Beresford_Square_Night

I always thought this would be a better spot for the big TV in General Gordon Square. Perhaps positioned where the toilets are by the Gate House. For one thing, being a hard surfaced area it can handle crowds for events. General Gorden Square is less suitable, as it comprises an extensive water feature and stepped grassed sections. Holding events on it has seen patches of greenery die off. I doubt the designers of the square envisaged large crowds hence the lack of suitable landscaping. And the back of the giant TV is a poor first impression when leaving the station.

Beresford Square was also pretty filthy with in-grained dirt and graffiti (see pic below). If Greenwich Council cannot clean major town centre squares then what hope for other areas? As I’ve wrote before, they have the expensive equipment to do so. They boasted about it on the front of their own newspaper. And they have multi-million pound squares paid for by the GLA less than five years ago. Why not maintain to a decent standard? There’s still much wrong with RBG’s design and maintenance of public spaces. An hour with a jet washer would make this appear as good as new:

beresford sq

Lastly, work is underway on upgrading the dual carriageway to Plumstead. £1.2m is to be spent on improving this stretch of road. The scheme looks very good. Though I’m not entirely sure this particular section is part of it:

woolwich central res work

The work will bring back the removed westbound bus lane and introduce properly segregated cycle lanes. All good news. As I passed the area by Plumstead station there was, as ever it seems, many cars parked terribly blocking the existing cycle lanes and bus stops. Enforcement seems non-existent at that spot, like many others, as it’s a constant issue there.

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