The developers behind controversial plans to develop a chunk of Woolwich town centre have confirmed they will be keeping the old covered market when they submit new proposals for the area.
St Modwen and the housing association Notting Hill Genesis had planned to demolish the former Woolwich Public Market in their plans to build 742 new homes, shops, offices, a cinema and a new public square at Spray Street as part of a scheme backed by Greenwich Council.
But the plans generated an outcry locally – particularly over the loss of scores of business run by and for black and minority ethnic communities in the area. Amid the controversy, the Public Market was given Grade II listed status a year ago.
The uncertainty has left many traders in limbo, while the scheme was even criticised by Greenwich councillors when they were seeking election last year.
Now the developers have confirmed they are revising their plans and will be keeping the market, which was closed in 2017. It was briefly used as a street food market before the operator, Street Feast, which leased it from the council on a rent-free deal, abandoned it in a row with the council over a £20,000 bill to fix botched electrical works.
In a press release issued late on Friday, St Modwen and Notting Hill said they would be reviewing the plans to focus on “delivering an exciting new place to live and visit, whilst experiencing the heritage and the richness of the area”, and planned to release further details of their new scheme in early 2020.
“[We are] currently assessing potential options for a revised scheme, all of which will include the retention and re-purposing of the Former Covered Market as well as planned new housing, cinema, shops, bars, restaurants, workspace and public spaces,” they said, adding they were “committed to working with the community and local stakeholders and will fully engage and consult before any amended plans are submitted”.
“The regeneration of this major site is crucial to the renaissance of Woolwich town centre and we are determined to get it right,” Gary Morris, the senior development manager at St Modwen, said.
“As well as delivering high-quality homes to meet the needs of the whole community, we will respect and enhance Woolwich’s rich heritage and look to breathe new life into the former covered market. The site’s unique position nestled between Royal Arsenal Riverside and the wider town centre creates an opportunity to forge stronger connections and provide new facilities for the growing community.
“We hope to start conversations about our draft plans early next year and we look forward to working with the local community to help us shape the future of the site.”
“We are committed to working with the community and the Royal Borough of Greenwich to provide much-needed affordable homes in the centre of Woolwich in a way that honours the historical importance of the covered market,” said John Hughes, the group director of development at Notting Hill Genesis.
“By working together, we can create a vibrant new district with new facilities, shops and leisure activities – providing a boost to the economy and reinvigorating the local nightlife.”
The covered market was built in 1936 and was listed because of its unusual and distinctive roof. It has been left empty since February, when Street Feast pulled out less than a year into a three-year lease. A break clause in the contract means the council can retake possession of the site in January, but while other operators are said to be interested in the site, Greenwich Council has warned it could take six months to get the market fit for use again.
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