A Chance for Some Coherent Town Centre Planning in Greenwich as Sainsburys Ditches Award Winning Store and ‘Charlton Garden City’ Launches

It was opened in 1999 by Jamie Oliver, received an RIBA sustainability Award in 1999 and last year for some unfathomable reason was visited by Jacob Zuma president of South Africa.  Yet this store with its Green Roof and two (rarely turning) turbines is due to close – in large part due to a key design problems.  According to local blog Charlton Champion – and I am a local myself

Ironically one of its greatest technological advances is believed to be its downfall. A large underfloor radiator heats the store using waste heat from its own refrigerators. But this technology is said to have caused problems with flooding and has led to the store being closed on numerous occasions.

The Store is proposed to move 400m south – from Greenwich Penninsula to Charlton, to just south of the Greenwich Retail Park and ASDA.  It will be three times bigger.  As you can see the old site was boxed in and incapable of expansion. It will be leased to a non-food retailer.

BD

The news was greeted with dismay by the building’s architect Paul Hinkin, now of Black Architecture, who said the store should be used for food retailing as originally intended and disputed that its sustainability features had been superseded.

“Bearing in mind this building was designed in 1999, the sector hasn’t really made significant improvements on that model. We enhanced the customer experience and reduced the environmental impact.”

But another architect who worked on the project conceded that a building more able to adapt to changing retail demands would have been more sustainable.

Russell Curtis, now of RCKa, said: “You wonder whether it was flexible enough in terms of its size. In hindsight it might have been more flexible.”

The history of retailing in the Greenwich Penninsula and Charlton Riverside has been episodic and uncoordinated but this now presents a real opportunity.

The Greenwich retail park was originally permitted away from the main centre of regeneration at the Peninsula.  The retailing at the Peninsular was set at its far southern end, best for easy car access but worst for those walking on the Peninsula, the retailing core at the Millenium Village is tiny and has been hindered by the slow pace of housing construction and the area around the O” and north Greenwich station is a 4th centre desperately lacking in shops that until recently you couldn’t buy a pint of milk at after getting off the tube.

Planning at Greenwich has always been very opportunistic, a virtue but its has lacked the punch of driving forward a real coherent vision over the long term.  Woolwich Town Centre for example despite massive Tesco and Crossrail driven regeneration lacks a proper masterplan and large parts of it have long since gone to the dogs and sadly been targets for rioters and arson.

The opportunity at Charlton is to create a proper ‘core’ town centre close to Charlton Station and on the main bus routes to North Greenwich Station.  But the real opportunity is to link it to the regeneration of Charlton Riverside to the immeadiate East off Busgys way.  Here there is an opportunity to relocate low grade industry and create a high value mixed use community around the Thames Barrier Riverside.  It is an opportunity area in the London Plan.

The draft Core Strategy says about the area

  • Charlton Riverside is a key regeneration area that provides a significant opportunity for new high quality river front development. The area will be transformed into an attractive and vibrant mixed use urban quarter providing around 6,000 new homes. The area has the potential to offer new community and education facilities, space for small businesses particularly within the creative industries, new employment opportunities and accessible open spaces.
  • The Strategic Development Location will exclude the current Aggregate Zone and the safeguarded Angerstein’s and Murphy’s Wharves. The total area for the site is over 100 hectares.
  • An Area Action Plan will be prepared to guide development at the site. It is envisaged at this stage that the large site could provide for a significant residential led mixed use development plus improved commercial space, retail and community facilities as well as improvements to the existing open space.
  • It is considered that the housing component at the site will commence around 2016 and could take up to 20 years to be completed. It is therefore anticipated that just over 70% of the 6000 dwellings will be delivered in this area during the plan period, with the remainder coming post 2026/27. Development of the site is dependent on the provision of increased public transport infrastructure in the waterfront area.

Hopefully the Sainsbury’s scheme should provide an opportunity to gain funding to further develop these ideas, and also look at the potential to relocate industries, aggregates and wharfs to much more suitable sites in Erith that have become available.   What is needed is the kind of framework that is at an advanced stage for other major London projects such as at Vauxhall, Earls Court and White City (just realised I worked on the early ideas on all three of those sites).

GLC planners 40 years ago had a vision when the Thames Barrier was conceived of a Park next to it on the North and South Banks, we now have the opportunity to complete the Southern part.

The first step towards this was launched this Monday, a mastrplan by Allies and Morrison and Urban Practitioners. .

“Charlton Garden City: The area will draw on the principles of a garden city with a strong landscape theme. The Thames Barrier Park will double in size and new development will take the form of a contemporary version of a traditional Georgian terraced development, for example as shown in the Olympic Legacy Masterplan with some mews style development. The area will be new build with a new secondary school.”

Ideas include a revived riverside transport scheme (a successor to the axed Greenwich Waterfront Transit), a creative quarter around the Westminster Industrial Estate (“along the lines of Fish Island [in Bow] and Hackney Wick”), keeping industry around the wharves at Lombard Wall, a new primary school and “rationalising” the retail parks

There an exhibition at The Valley on Monday 20 February (3pm-8pm) as well as at Woolwich Library on Saturday 3 March (10am-2pm). You can download the plans via the council’s website.

The plans are interesting but I think they can be bolder.

The aggregates and wharfs areas provide a breach between the Penninsula and Charlton Riverside.  Greenwich needs to work with what was the LDA to relocate these essential facilities further east to more suitable riverside areas in Bexley as until they are gone they are blighting the area.

Also it prevents a logical disposition of land uses.  The correct area for high density housing is clustered around the town centre, which the Sainsburys would make along Bugsbys Way.  The masterplan retains the industry here which is wrong.  It also prevents a dedicated public transport busway alongside the river, connecting to Greenwich Peninsula.  The masterplan also doesnt deal with the retail opportunities/town centre issues in a coherent way.  A ‘Garden City’ concept requires a ‘fan’ treatment focussed on the new town centre – and linking to the Station and the riverbus –  not the rigid rectilinear street forms of Georgian Squares – though the density and treatment of the residential buildings in the draft masterplan is excellent.

The masterplan also doesnt give transport issues, and the need to reduce pedestrian severance on the key routes such as to Charlton Station, the importance they deserve.  How exactly will the masterplan better link Woolwich and Greenwich Peninsula, an aim of the plan but nowhere shown?  Also the green space treatment is uneven, nothing part from the Barrier Park and too many inward focussed private perimeter block gardens.  The masterplan also fails to build density and value around the key riverside sites that will make it all happen.

Almost wants me to get my pens out.

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About andrew lainton

International Urban Planner

Posted on February 15, 2012, in urban planning. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. “The opportunity at Charlton is to create a proper ‘core’ town centre close to Charlton Station and on the main bus routes to North Greenwich Station. But the real opportunity is to link it to the regeneration of Charlton Riverside to the immeadiate East off Busgys way. Here there is an opportunity to relocate low grade industry and create a high value mixed use community around the Thames Barrier Riverside. It is an opportunity area in the London Plan.”

    If this is a coherent strategy then either –
    a) You are on a different planet
    b) You are getting a consultancy fee or
    c) You are a career politician

    “The aggregates and wharfs areas provide a breach between the Penninsula and Charlton Riverside. Greenwich needs to work with what was the LDA to relocate these essential facilities further east to more suitable riverside areas in Bexley as until they are gone they are blighting the area.”

    The aggregates and wharfs areas provide wharfs to deliver aggregates. What do you suggest we build communities with? Horse manure and bus tickets?

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