Major works to change the look of Woolwich town centre will begin next month, Greenwich Council has confirmed – including the second revamp of its main market square in less than 15 years.
Beresford Square will be partially landscaped with an interactive water fountain, new lighting, seating and a pavilion for community events, with the market stalls concentrated in the west of the square – something the council says will reintroduce the historic layout of the square. The square was last revamped in the lead-up to the London Oympics in 2012.
The old Royal Arsenal Gatehouse will be lit up at night with the gates opened for the first time in many years. The building itself has been used as office space since the mid-1990s.
Powis Street will also be “refreshed”, according to the council, with bollards removed and new paving, seating, planting, play spaces and lighting.
Market stalls will be relocated temporarily to General Gordon Square and Green’s End, allowing them to continue trading during the works, which will include the toilet block being demolished so the pavilion can be constructed.
The council has previously said it wants to bring a “day and night economy” to Beresford Square, which will have more footfall in future when the 801-home Woolwich Exchange development, including a cinema in the old Woolwich Public Market, is completed. The council is currently awaiting the outcome of a public inquiry into compulsorily purchasing buildings needed for the project.
Student housing has also been given the go-ahead at the Woolwich Catholic Club site opposite the square.
Much of the money for the work has come from the government’s Future High Streets Fund, which has put £17.1 million into the project.
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, improved shop fronts and the murals that have been appearing around the area in recent months.
The money has also gone into renovating the Old Town Hall building in Calderwood Street, which is to become workspace for creative businesses.
Last month the council indicated that big stores were unlikely to return to Woolwich town centre because of competition from retail parks in nearby Charlton, and that instead it wanted to focus its efforts on expanding the quality of shops in the area and expanding its leisure and cultural offer instead.
Cllr Aidan Smith, the cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Our vision for Beresford Square will create a more defined but flexible and useful public space with new public toilets, café, urban garden and refreshed street market.
“We’ve already launched the Woolwich Front Room, refurbished the Tramshed theatre, opened Woolwich Works, started work on a state-of-the-art leisure centre, and unveiled a series of colourful murals across the town centre.
“I’m looking forward to seeing work get under way on Beresford Square and Powis Street as well, to provide the high quality public spaces our residents deserve.”