Councillors call for new Woolwich conservation area to cover ‘Tesco tower’ site

Invicta sign, Powis Street
The conservation area aims to protect what remains of Woolwich’s heritage

Councillors on one of Greenwich Council’s planning committees have backed plans to create a conservation area in Woolwich – and suggested it be extended to cover the site of a planned tower block in front of the Tesco store.

Last year, plans for a 27-storey block from developer Meyer Homes were thrown out by the council’s main planning committee, the Planning Board. Earlier this week, London mayor Sadiq Khan announced he would not be intervening in the decision.

Now one of the local planning committees, the Woolwich and Thamesmead planning committee, has backed suggestions a new conservation area be extended to include the green that covers the site.

Tesco green
Developer Meyer Homes wants to build a 27-storey tower block on this site

853 was not at the meeting, but ANDREW BLUNDY has sent this short report…

After hearing from two local residents – including John Edwards from local pressure group Speak Out Woolwich – the committee resolved that the proposed area should be extended to the east and south east. The proposed conservation area plan is here.

The committee backed these extensions:

  • The inclusion of the frontage on Plumstead Road between Woolwich New Road and Burrage Road;
  • The green area in front of the Tesco building overlooking General Gordon Square;
  • The buildings on the north side of Anglesea Road between Woolwich New Road and Anglesea Avenue;
  • Buildings on the east side of Woolwich New Road.

The proposals for the conservation area emerged after publication of a report into Woolwich’s town centre heritage.

One of the conclusions of the report was that the town centre is not a single area of homogenous character. The sub-areas have distinct characters of their own as set out in this document. Proposed development in any one area should refer to these character areas to identify what is distinctive about each and seek to draw from this set of distinctive characteristics to produce new development appropriate to its setting.

Overarching themes for Woolwich town centre can be identified, however. Where it survives, built fabric and open spaces that reflect the following themes should be particularly valued as reflecting Woolwich’s distinctive historic character.

  • The town’s military and industrial past and its setting.
  • Social co-operative movements embodied in the buildings of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society.
  • Connections between the town and the river.
  • Woolwich’s development as a civic centre – Georgian, Victorian and early twentieth-century buildings, street frontages and open spaces that typify civic character.

The significance of designation as a conservation area is that no buildings can be demolished without consent and any planning application must be judged against the yardstick of whether or not the proposed development will preserve or enhance the character of that conservation area.

Woolwich tower plans
Meyer Homes’ plans have been rejected by Greenwich Council

Designation as a conservation area will have a major impact on several proposed developments in Woolwich town centre, and is likely to be resisted by developers.

The constraints of obtaining planning consent in a conservation area will be of particular concern to the developers of the land in front of the Tesco building. Demonstrating that any development will preserve and enhance the conservation area will be challenging – particularly bearing in mind the site’s proximity to General Gordon Square, an area recently described to the Planning Board as “a triumph of town planning”.

The time for consultation responses has been extended until 1st March 2018, following which the proposals will be considered by Greenwich Council’s cabinet.

You can have your say on the Woolwich town centre conservation area on the Greenwich Council website.


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