I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from the blog recently as I havn’t been around SE London much to keep an eye on what’s new. However I have recently found a PDF on my PC from  a couple of months ago, which is a Design and Access Statement from a planning application to demolish and redevelop the Tavy Bridge area in Thamesmead. I was looking through it, and then found out that the plan for ‘Southmere Village stage 3’ has just been approved by Bexley Council. With funding in place and demolition teams on site, this is very much in motion.

Thamesmead’s fame and notoriety spreads beyond SE London, and much of that comes from its portrayal in the media. Some of the famous parts of the original estate surrounding Southmere lake were heavily featured in Clockwork Orange and Misfits, and are synonymous with the town’s image. It is those parts of the town that will shortly be levelled and then rebuilt. The area has been re-branded as ‘Southmere Village’ by Gallions Housing Association. It’s a pretty big scheme, and it also raises an interesting issue with the planning application for the new Cross Quarter scheme in Abbey Wood (see previous post) which is very close by, and also about the lack of cross-council communication.

The ‘Southmere Village stage 3’ plan is to continue the demolition and redevelopment of the Tavy Bridge area of Thamesmead, including the area which was the retail centre of the original Thamesmead development dating from the 1960s and 70s. Stages one and two of the redevelopment have resulted in two of the 1960/70s tower blocks re-clad and their original concrete exterior removed, along with the building of new flats and a health centre. The new flats are pretty dull and not much to write home about. Progress has been slow so far on the next stages of the overall rebuilding project, but funding for stage 3 has recently been secured.

Thamesmead tower

The plans will see 296 homes built, many in a new tower, as seen above (a tower in a ‘village’…) The new building will be constructed on a corner site (bottom left on image below) facing the roundabout, and a square will be created behind the tower along with an opening up of access to the lake. New shops and a library will front the square. The raised walkways and pedestrian bridges will be removed. Despite the images in the Design and Access Statement all containing ‘to be updated’ I believe these images are of what is approved.

thamsmead stage 3 overhead

The plans include the demolition of the existing Bexley Council Newacres library, and a new library constructed. Interestingly the plans for ‘Cross Quarter’ in Abbey Wood by the station also contain a possible library, which is being pushed by Greenwich Council to the developers. The ‘Cross Quarter’ development is just inside the Greenwich Council boundary on the border between itself and Bexley Council. The two sites are very close together – a couple of minutes walk. It appears each council are not talking to the other by planning brand new facilities very close together. A new Greenwich Council library would presumably replace the existing Abbey Wood library which is 10-15 minutes away. Greenwich has a history of not talking to its neighbours but surely they must be aware of the plans just over the borough boundary, which have been around for a few years.

The existing Abbey Wood library was on a leaked Greenwich Council report earmarked for closure four years ago, despite being well used and in an area with very few other facilities. It has survived but if a new library opens its days are surely numbered. Abbey Wood estate, where it is located, is pretty much forgotten and ignored by Greenwich Council. The central shops would have one less amenity, and quite a few people left with a longer journey to a library.

This potential duplication of facilities and the lack of communication also raises questions over the redevelopment of the parade of shops in Abbey Wood by the station, planned for when Crossrail begins in 2018. The borough boundary runs right next to the station. Possibly because of being on the periphery of both boroughs, the shopping parade and the wider area have had almost no improvements in many years. Hopefully the two councils can work together to improve the area so it no longer feels quite so forgotten.

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