As you may have read elsewhere, communities secretary Eric Pickles has overturned Greenwich Council’s refusal of planning permission for the redevelopment of Greenwich Market, after a planning inspector concluded a revised scheme was fine.
The full verdict is a long and arduous read, but what can’t be disputed is that Greenwich Town Centre will face another lengthy period of major upheaval, presumably after the Olympics, when the current market is turfed out of its home and moved to the Old Royal Naval College while building takes place.
This will be on top of works to redevelop Cutty Sark Gardens for the second time in 13 years, the Cutty Sark restoration, Greenwich Foot Tunnel’s restoration, the planned pedestrianisation of part of the town centre, the Stockwell Street redevelopment (for which we’ve already lost one market) and of course the part-closure of Greenwich Park for the Olympics.
It’s possible, however, to justify all of those works as being immediately beneficial to the area – either in terms of improved infrastructure or international prestige.
But no such claim can be made for the Greenwich Market hotel, which instead of giving Greenwich a lift, will be enriching the Greenwich Hospital charity, which has very little to do with the area other than collecting rent, as well as the hotel’s operators.
None of this is to deny that there’s a shortage of decent hotel space in Greenwich – but bulldozing part of the market is a step too far for most locals.
It’s also very strange for a secretary of state who has banged on endlessly about giving power back to local people – “localism” – to overturn a decision made unanimously by both Conservative and Labour councillors.
As one of the Greenwich Phantom’s commenters has pointed out already, perhaps Greenwich Council will be regretting ever allowing Greenwich Hospital to demolish the market’s outbuildings in Durnsford Street, whose days are now numbered. After all, if they were expendable, why wouldn’t the rest of the market be vulnerable?
From paragraph 337 of the findings…
The loss of the banana warehouse and stable building within Durnford Street is necessary to make way for a re-ordered service yard and is seen as regrettable by some objectors. These buildings have a degree of charm and character and are examples of service buildings that provide an understanding of how the market functioned in times past. Nonetheless, their retention is not possible with the proposed service yard configuration and, in any event, listed building consent for their demolition already exists. The Council does not object to their loss.
For most other locals, though, I think I’m right in saying this feels like a final nail in the coffin of a market which has been in a long, slow decline for many years. The battle for the soul of Greenwich may well have been lost today.
UPDATE 3:50PM - Greenwich planning committee chair Ray Walker said in a statement: “This appeal gives the green light to a scheme totally out of keeping with the history and architecture of Greenwich Town Centre and which simply is not of a sufficiently high standard for a World Heritage Site.
“It is particularly unfortunate that the application will permit the Greenwich Hospital Estate to demolish the heart of Greenwich Town Centre just as we have shown off all its charms to the millions of visitors in 2012 and who, instead of being encouraged to return, will avoid the building site that the Greenwich Hospital Estate will turn the town into.”