Locals in Woolwich have their last chance this week to comment on plans to change part of the town centre – including a major revamp of the area’s market square.
Greenwich Council launched a consultation last month, under which Beresford Square would be partially landscaped with a water feature, new lighting, seating and a pavilion for community events, with the market stalls concentrated in the west of the square.
Powis Street, meanwhile, would be “decluttered”, according to the council. While bollards either side of the street would be removed, images released by the town hall show the current pedestrianised street surrounded by trees, rain gardens and benches.
The council says a consultation earlier this year found more demand for places to sit down in the main shopping area, which has hardly changed since it was pedestrianised in the mid-1980s.
Residents can have their say on Powis Street on the council’s Commonplace website.
The consultation does not cover Hare Street of the western end of Powis Street, where Tooting Market-style indoor stalls have recently opened in the Edwardian Co-op building, but remain surrounded by empty shop units.
But the most dramatic changes are in Beresford Square – itself only revamped a decade ago in a scheme to coincide with the Olympics.
While the historic market is a long way from its heyday when it was packed with stalls – and had buses running through it – street food vans have helped improve its appeal in recent years.
It is likely to see more footfall in future when the Woolwich Exchange development, which will be gradually completed between 2027 and 2029, brings 801 homes and a cinema to the corner of Woolwich New Road. Student housing has been given the go-ahead at the Woolwich Catholic Club site opposite.
The council now says it wants to bring a “day and night economy” to the square. Market stalls would be moved to the west side of the square, a garden area would be installed outside the Elephant & Castle pub, and a water feature would be put in place close to the old Royal Arsenal gatehouse. A market pavilion, to the west of the gatehouse, would house community events.
Despite being one of Woolwich’s most recognisable landmarks, the gatehouse always been out of bounds to residents – firstly when it was the entrance to the Royal Arsenal, then after it was taken over for office space by Greenwich Enterprise Board in 1995. The council says it is in talks with GEB – whose parent company has had former council leader Denise Hyland as a director for the past 14 years – about opening up the ground floor as a cafe.
The square would see its footpath/cycleway, installed a decade ago, removed if these proposals go ahead.
The plans for Beresford Square can be found on the council’s Commonplace website.
The revamp will be paid for by a £17.1 million grant from the government’s Future High Streets fund, which funded 72 projects across England last year. Other areas of London benefiting are the Old Kent Road, Tottenham, Putney, Sutton and Wealdstone; while a bid from Dartford failed.
Much of Woolwich is in the hands of one private landlord, British Land, hampering what the council can do about the area’s retail offer.
But land that is owned by the public sector is having money spent on it. The Future High Streets fund is also funding the renovation of the 1842 Old Town Hall building on Calderwood Street, which would be turned into “flexible, modern workspace” – although the council wants to know what kind of workspace is needed in the area.
There is also a plan to bring vacant TfL-owned land on Woolwich New Road behind Equitable House back into use for another, temporary, workspace.
A series of public events have already been held but there is one remaining event, a webinar on Wednesday.
Woolwich is also benefiting from a second tranche of government funding, the Heritage Action Zone – £1.7m topped up with £2 million of council funding.
This money is paying for the Woolwich Front Room community space and is also paying for improved shop fronts, a cultural programme and funding ways to repurpose old buildings, such as the Old Town Hall.
Aidan Smith, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said: “The views and ideas of local people are at the heart of this project. We want to make sure these multi-million pound improvements deliver what the community wants.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to capitalise on the arrival of Elizabeth line services which has really helped to put Woolwich on the map, and stimulate further investment by businesses, developers and the council. I would encourage residents, businesses and community groups to get involved and give your feedback.”
For more information and to comment, visit woolwichtowncentre.commonplace.is by Sunday night.