Spray Street demolitions: Heritage body fights to save Woolwich Public Market

Public, Woolwich
The building is now being used by Street Feast while its future is decided

A heritage body is battling to save Woolwich Public Market, which is under threat from a Greenwich Council-backed redevelopment scheme along with scores of small businesses.

The 20th Century Society says the covered market building, which opened in 1936, is unique because of its German design, which was more commonly found in military buildings. It has submitted an objection to the plans, and has also asked Historic England to consider listing the market.

Developers St Modwen and Notting Hill Housing’ plan to knock down shops – including scores of businesses run by and for black and ethnic minority communities – as well as the market and replace them with 742 new homes, shops, offices, a cinema and a new public square as part of a major regeneration scheme promoted by the council.

Parts of the market’s roof structure would be reused as sculptures in the current plans.

Woolwich Public Market
The roof is of a rare design more commonly used in military buildings

Today’s council elections have seen local Labour candidates speak out against the Labour council’s consultation around plans for the site.

The building had been left to decay for years before being reused by street food operators Street Feast for weekend stalls.

According to the 20th Century Society, the roof design is a “lamella” system – a lattice usually formed of steel or timber struts. These generate very strong spans that don’t require internal supports. The group says it is rare to see this system used outside of a military context.

Woolwich Covered Market in March 2017
The market before its Street Feast transformation

Its senior conservation adviser Tess Pinto says: “‘Re-using bits of the structure seems like a token gesture – and doesn’t conserve a key part of what is important about the market roof, which is its use as a big, uninterrupted space for people to gather in.

“Our primary concern is the loss of the historic market place and the rare form of construction it exemplifies, but this scheme proposes to sweep away an entire city block of buildings which have grown up organically over the last 150 years, in a part of London that has already been transformed almost beyond recognition in the last few years.”

Opposition to the scheme has been led by the pressure group Speak Out Woolwich.

Last year, the 20th Century Society objected to the forthcoming demolition of North Greenwich Bus Station, while in 2014 it failed to get the “eco” Sainsbury’s in Greenwich listed.

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