Greenwich Council have announced an exciting development at the Arsenal site in Woolwich. There’s a lot to like in the announcement – a 4,000 seater venue, a theatre seating up to 450, 600 capacity courtyard venue plus a cafe and restaurant overlooking the Thames.

It’s great to see. Woolwich, and most of south east London, has desperately lacked live music venues for a long time now.

However, we need to keep an eye on this. Greenwich borough seems to have too many councillors who value being photographed cutting ribbons above maintaining decent neighbourhoods. Will we see money sucked away from poorer areas to this project? It wouldn’t be the first time.

I reported late last year how millions of pounds coming into the council’s coffers from developers was not being used to improve long-neglected areas. £11.4m was received last year and £50m over the past five. But places like Abbey Wood and Plumstead have seen little of it, even from developments located in those areas.

One obvious example is a development on King’s Highway in Plumstead. £400,000 came in recently to Greenwich council yet not a penny has been spent improving Plumstead High Street or the shopping area on Wickham Lane.

Greenwich Council did however manage to find £54,000 from the Plumstead scheme to send to Greenwich town centre to spend on the square by the Cutty Sark. To add insult it was money allocated for “local community” improvements.

This brought in £400,000 but not a penny has gone to Plumstead’s streets.

Will we see money coming into the council from imminent developments in Abbey Wood, Plumstead and Thamesmead siphoned off to Woolwich’s art hub whilst areas like Plumstead High Street and Abbey Wood estate are left to rot?

To come back to Cutty Sark gardens, the money sent from areas miles away went on a new square that replaced one that was already pretty attractive. It went on installing a water feature which broke within a couple of years, and visiting the spot last week showed the raised planters in a poor state. This is the start of spring. Flowers were in evidence elsewhere but at this site:

So as welcome as this is we don’t need money sucked away from areas that badly need it. And do it right – not a repeat of errors seen elsewhere.

Woolwich would then have a top-class attraction to compliment smaller scale ventures now arriving, such as artFIX on Powis Street, which I covered a few days ago.

 

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