Plans for a street food market in the old covered market in Woolwich town centre were given the go-ahead by Greenwich councillors on Tuesday night – with operator Street Feast planning to open at the start of March.
The firm had threatened to pull out after Greenwich Council’s own officers and the Metropolitan Police objected to plans to allow outside eating and drinking on Plumstead Road until 11pm.
Both the police and noise teams recommended the outside area close at 9pm on weeknights and 10pm on Friday and Saturday nights instead.
Meanwhile, a 38-strong petition from residents of Bentham House, a new Royal Arsenal block largely occupied by senior citizens, was also presented to the licensing committee.
But the three-strong licensing committee was reassured by Street Feast’s plans to monitor what happened on site, which involved liaising with the council’s environmental health teams and keeping a dialogue open with neighbours.
It was licensed until 11.30pm on Sundays to Thursdays and 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, with the outside area on Plumstead Road open to 11pm on all nights of the week.
Street Feast founder Jonathan Downey announced on Twitter after the meeting that he planned to open up on 1 March.
Our licence for #WoolwichPublicMarket has been APPROVED. Thank you to everyone who supported us. We’ll see you all at our opening weekend 01/02/03 Th/Fr/Sa March. Which is, YIKES, just over three weeks away. We had better get a move on and build it. 😳 pic.twitter.com/pT1GaOsimR
— Jonathan Downey (@DowneyJD) February 6, 2018
Later hours ‘business critical’
Street Feast already operates Model Market in Lewisham as well as Hawker House in Rotherhithe and Giant Robot at Canary Wharf’s Crossrail Place. It had been picked by Greenwich Council to use the Public Market building ahead of plans to redevelop the site in two years’ time.
Plans to open until 1am at weekends were described as “business critical” by Street Feast’s lawyer, who said an attempt to shorten operating hours would “compromise revenue for community events discussed with the council such as a cinema”, asking the committee to bear in mind the successful 1am closedowns at Model Market and Giant Robot.
Late opening hours would also subsidise quieter daytime opening, when families would be using the facility, he added.
In a written submission to the committee, the Metropolitan Police said it “did not believe that the traffic flow after 2100 hours will cause enough ambient noise to cover any loud voices from the outside area”, adding there had been complaints from residents about “loud people congregating outside an off-licence and the bus stops close to the premises”.
But after hearing from the Met at the hearing, committee chairman Matt Morrow said: “We usually hear from police about crime and disorder matters, so it is unusual to hear about noise.”
In another written submission, Greenwich Council’s noise team said “residents have a reasonable expectation that noise levels will be reduced after 2100”.
A lawyer representing objector Keith Hunt said residents supported “the idea” of turning the covered market into a street food market, but claimed that visitors could leave the Public Market and then go to other venues in Woolwich which were also the subject of complaints from them.
Another objector claimed residents were already woken up by “arguments or loud discussions” on Plumstead Road, as well as noise from pubs.
But Cllr Morrow sought clarification that the venue’s operating manual would be a “live document”, which could be amended in line with local concerns. Street Feast said residents could “feed into the operation” of the Public Market.
‘This is the council’s big chance’
While the objectors came from the Royal Arsenal development – described by a licensing officer as “a walled community” – many of the supporters came from there too.
Among those speaking up for Street Feast was Greenwich Council deputy leader Danny Thorpe. “It would be unfair to restrict it before it’s really got going,” Thorpe told the committee, urging them to “go for it”.
“I am a massive supporter of Street Feast. Regeneration is about place-making and not just shiny new buildings,” he said.
Local councillor John Fahy pointed out other venues in Woolwich had even later licences – citing the Earl of Chatham pub, which is permitted to open to 4am – and said Street Feast would “create a positive environment in Woolwich”. He added that with the long-term development plans for the site, the night time economy in the area would grow significantly in future years.
Another supporter, Nick Day, said: “For decades, Woolwich has appeared to be dragging its feet – this is the council’s big chance… a big opportunity to bring communities together.
“The new residents of Woolwich will be able to look out on a streetscape which is less like the depressed streets of Baltimore, but more like New York’s revitalised Lower West Side,” he added, citing the change in the US city’s once-downtrodden Meatpacking District.
Summing up, Cllr Morrow, who sat on the committee alongside fellow councillors Barbara Barwick and Mandy Brinkhurst, said: “We did consider the objections made, but we believe that the open document with contributions from the environmental health officer will mitigate those problems.
“With that resolved, or at least contained, it [should] be an exciting and wonderful development for Woolwich, so good luck with your business.”
‘Have your empty building back’
Ahead of the meeting, Street Feast founder Downey reacted with anger to opposition within the police and council to the outdoor area on Plumstead Road opening until 11pm.
It’s our licence hearing for this new market tomorrow and, despite overwhelming local support, I’m pissed off. Both the Police and @LBGreenwich have objected to our application to operate an outside seating area until 11pm each evening. They want 9pm weekdays and 10pm Fri/Sat. https://t.co/9doLkkQOIB
— Jonathan Downey (@DowneyJD) February 5, 2018
“If we don’t get approval for the hours we need to make this a viable project, then Street Feast will not be coming to Woolwich. We’re tired of the constant battle to contribute positively to the community and amenity of each new neighbourhood. Have your empty building back,” he said on Twitter.
“Imagine being sat outside there on a lovely sunny summer day and then being told to move inside like a child at 9pm or 10pm. We just won’t do it.”
Speaking in the meeting, a council noise team representative said Street Feast’s plans for the outdoor area were unclear.
“That could be rather a large number of people drinking through the night [sic]… the applicant seems vague on what they want to use area for.”
But Downey told the meeting it would be a seated area with “tables, chairs, maybe some covering and planters”.
He also said speakers from a cinema screen would be pointed inwards to reduce noise, adding he wanted to reduce excess noise “at all costs”.
Street food battle for Woolwich?
The summer may see two of London’s street food giants go head-to-head in Woolwich. Alongside Street Feast’s arrival, Wool Yard is also planned for a plot behind Iceland and in front of the Lidl supermarket on Macbean Street.
While Street Feast is only likely to be at the Public Market for two years, Wool Yard, which will be made out of shipping containers, plans to be on site for five years.
It gained planning permission last year, but has yet to get a licence.
No other media outlet was present to cover this meeting. Help support 853’s coverage of issues in Greenwich and south-east London and get an exclusive monthly newsletter for the cost of a rum cocktail at Model Market. Visit patreon.com/853.