Faint pulse detected at Heart of East Greenwich

It’ll be 11 years next March since Greenwich District Hospital closed, and six years since work began on demolishing the old building.

Back in the heady days of 2006, when young people were commissioned to paint a mural on the site (right) as the old hospital came down, the future looked promising. Then the housing market fell to bits, and the Heart of East Greenwich project stalled.

The overall plan was to build 645 homes (170 of them for rent, 144 for shared ownership) along with what Greenwich Council calls the Greenwich Centre, to provide access to council services along with a new library and leisure centre, replacing the current facilities on Woolwich Road and at the Arches, as well as a health centre including GP practices.

While the council’s a big partner in the scheme, the delays have been down to the site owner, the Homes and Communities Agency, which booted out initial developer First Base in summer 2010, and appointed a new firm, Hadley Mace to do it instead. (Incidentally, one of the partners in Hadley Mace is responsible for building the new cable car.) But a lack of clear information about what’s happening has not helped matters.

Finally, after many false starts, things may be about to change. A report to be presented to councillors this Thursday states that work is due to start on the site “early in 2012”, and that the centre should be ready in 2014, at a cost of £30.4million.

A good idea of what to expect can be found if you travel to Eltham, where the Eltham Centre includes a library, pool, and council services, and is acclaimed by all as a success.

But the question marks are over what happens next to the library and Arches sites.

East Greenwich Library has been neglected for years in anticipation of the move down the road – recent remedial works to fix a leaking roof went wrong when, I’m told, the lead was nicked. It’s a Grade II listed building, donated to the community by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1905, and any attempt to sell it on for private use is likely to cause an outcry.

I’m not sure whether the Arches, built in the 1920s and renovated in the 1980s, commands so much affection, but its site at the foot of Greenwich Park has to be a prime one for redevelopment.

In any case, the council says it will hold onto both buildings until the Greenwich Centre is finished, and is funding the cost by selling the Greenwich Industrial Estate at Norman Road as well as land on Blackwall Lane and Commerell Street, opposite the HoEG site.

So, what could be some decent news from the council. Who’d have thought it?

12 comments

  1. It looks like 2012 is going to be Year Of The Lorries around here, between the HoEG site and the Olympics site in the Park. Good luck to anyone attempting to cycle in East Greenwich next year.

    I’ve also found a tiny picture of the proposed development on Woolwich Road where once were The Old Friends (RIP Roger Romantic) and council offices:

    http://www.bptw.co.uk/news/bptwnews.html

  2. At last, is appalling that the site has sat empty for so long. There should have been firm plans and timelines in place when they first decided to close down the hospital, not close it and let it sit empty for so long whilst they decided what to do with the site, finally demolish it (which took long enough) and then again just an empty site. 11 years – what a waste.

  3. It’s funny how almost everything from the whole Queen Elizabeth Hospital project has been an abject shambles – from deciding to vacate Greenwich District Hospital with no plan for the future, to the financial disaster that QEH’s PFI scheme turned out to be, which is now ruining hospital services across south-east London.

  4. Don’t forget Greenwich’s dreadful performance in the Building Schools for the Future program. Lewisham managed to rebuild Addey and Stanhope, and an entirely new school, Prendergast Vale, where Greenwich residents will doubtless all queue to sent their children, rather than to Greenwich’s lack-lustre offerings – I suspect Lewisham managed to complete several more projects, while Greenwich managed diddley-squat.

    The head of Kidbrooke recently stated that one of the prime reasons for becoming an academy was to avoid getting bogged down in Greenwich’s delays and bureaucracy.

  5. As mentioned above, though, this isn’t a Greenwich Council building project – it’s the Homes and Communities Agency in charge.

  6. Pedro, my kids go to Thomas Tallis. The premises were opened last week.

    Is that new enough?

    And as for lorries, remember all the development to go on just the other side of the Tunnel Approach!

    Still, all-in-all its got to be good news, even although it took far too long.

  7. I’m glad Thomas Tallis is finished. Makes a stark contrast with the shambles at John Roan. If you look at the list of schools which Lewisham completed, vs Greenwich, you’ll see that they managed to get around 18 through, most of which are open, three times as many as Greenwich.

    It’s not the fault of the staff at John Roan, of course, but that project has been featured in several analyses of why the BSF project went wrong: http://m.building.co.uk/comment/bsf-schools-why-is-it-so-difficult?/3130996.article

    And yes, Darryl, the Heart of Greenwich is not being developed by the council – but it’s another example of how the Greenwich infrastucture is deteriorating, given we’ve lost a hospital, owned by the council, on a good site, and changed it for one we don’t even own, which many of the staff don’t like.

  8. Pedro – hospital ‘owned by the Council’ – I take it you are living in the early 1940s then? are you???? What happened is that In 1948 something called the National Health Service was started and they took over all the hospitals from the local Councils – so the old workhouse hospital which the Council used to own was taken over in the 1940s, pulled down and rebuilt in the 1960s by the NHS, and then closed again and the site put up for sale in the 2000s by the NHS. Not the Council. ok??
    I don’t suppose you would believe me if I told you the Council objected to it being closed and pulled down and the site sold off – but that is another story – —

  9. that’s ok – anytime – one piece of riveting historical information is that before the Workhouse was built it was a field called Cat’s Brains.

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