DSCF2513The poor state of Woolwich’s squares, streets and public spaces was one of the inspirations behind this blog. Many were terrible. Run down, filthy, and exhibiting design flaws that much of the rest of London, and other UK cities, had long moved on from. So I was very supportive of the millions spent on upgrading the two squares, along with new paving and an improved public space outside the indoor market. It couldn’t have come quick enough. The replacement squares, funded by the GLA back under Ken Livingstone, are a vast improvement. So on a recent visit I was pretty dismayed to see maintenance seemed to be non-existent by Greenwich Council.

The council were lucky enough to have millions lavished on these areas, designed by Gustafson Porter. It was transformative. Yet walking past the indoor market showed that Greenwich’s typical lack of care and effort was in evidence. The paving, which was far from ordinary cheap slabs, was very dirty. Street furniture such as bins and benches were filthy or broken. I recall the council boasting a couple of years ago of purchasing high pressure jet washers to keep areas in better condition. Where are they? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to use them on areas that saw millions in investment just 3-4 years ago? It’s undermining all the improvements taking place.


In many other parts of London, and other UK cities, it’s very common to see councils jet washing areas and showing a bit of pride. Last time I was in Birmingham I saw it along the road where the main library was built. In Liverpool last month along the new Mersey river frontage. In Bristol they did it pretty much every week. You can’t move in many European cities for the authorities keeping places looking good. After all, when spending millions it makes sense to keep it looking good. And it’s something that’s very cheap and easy to do that makes a big visual difference. With Woolwich having such a poor reputation then its important to combat that with locals and occasional visitors alike. But no. Let it rot. Plumstead High Street is also filthy, to name another example. It could see a deep clean too.

There’s more classic Greenwich Council Highways Department ‘design’ here – adding a row of bollards behind an existing one. At least it’s not the cheap wooden ones they use elsewhere that fall over as soon as touched:

Woolwich indoor market

So, what did happen to these pressure washers? And why have they allowed bodge jobs in these areas? When paving has been dug up tarmac has gone down instead of replacement paving. Greenwich council now have powers to combat that. Seemingly not used.

DSCF2514The buildings are also in a right state in many areas too. There’s a masterplan to demolish most of them, but who knows how long that’ll take. Some rudimentary building maintenance by owners and users would be nice. There also unneeded clutter like phone boxes:

A pinch point at busy times
A pinch point at busy times

The various departments in charge of all this – Cleaning, Highways etc – really do need a kick up the arse. You can gift various areas across Greenwich borough with investment and millions but without changes and reform in departments it wont last. It’s NOT expensive to maintain, especially if you’ve bought the equipment. Not when you spend a ton on an extensive weekly paper and then go to court, spending £120k, to keep it going.

I always find it amusing Greenwich Council spend a huge sum trying to give a positive slant to various towns through their paper, and then you visit those very towns and see that money squandered on trying to pull the wool over peoples eyes would’ve been better spent on actually making and maintaining areas people can be proud of. And who does it fool? Some people I know across the borough have a terrible view of many towns. It’s often valid, but it’s such a shame more effort isn’t going to combat those views with genuine improvements and maintenance. The PR bullshit in the council paper isn’t changing those opinions, built up over years of neglect.

Over the road

Across from the indoor market and Berkeley Homes’ towers above the Crossrail station continue to proceed quickly:

Woolwich crossrail towers

Another Berkeley Homes block beside the river has recently been revealed from its protective sheeting:

Woolwich Berkeley development

One of Greenwich Council biggest failings across various departments is not doing small scale stuff well that would yield big improvements. For example, a monthly deep clean on a quiet evening in these areas of Woolwich. In Abbey Wood there’s signs of a change, with all the broken, rusted and ugly fencing they ceased maintaining 15 years ago finally being removed or replaced. It’s cheap, it’s easy. This attitude is needed at Woolwich and many other corners of the borough. It needs a cultural change at departments, and it needs councillors asking many more tough questions of them, and then ensuring its pushed through.