You’ve probably heard by now that Ikea is planning to open a store in Greenwich, once Sainsbury’s has shipped up the road to Charlton. News emerged via an ad in Greenwich Council’s weekly propaganda rag Greenwich Time, rather than anything released to the local press, while some nearer neighbours have had letters.
Ikea is promising “a significant new sustainable development”, even though it’ll involve the demolition of the current Sainsbury’s store, billed when it opened in 1999 by the supermarket’s staff journal as “the greenest store in Britain”.
Since then, Sainsbury’s has found it’s struggling to keep up with demand at Greenwich, while some of the eco-friendly features haven’t worked as well as planned. So it’s moving to a bigger (and similarly “environmentally-friendly”) store at Gallions Road, Charlton, in 2015, which will also feature a Marks & Spencer as well as high street-style shops facing onto Woolwich Road. It’s an intriguing development for north Charlton, but less good news for Greenwich Millennium Village residents who lose their nearest supermarket, while Blackheath residents will have to hope TfL relents on a refusal to extend bus route 202 to serve the new Sainsbury’s store.
All of which leaves the soon-to-be redundant “eco-store”. As part of the deal with developer LXB which has facilitated the move, Sainsbury’s has stipulated that the Greenwich site must go to a non-food retailer. LXB now owns much of Charlton’s retail space, and has already shuffled one store (Wickes) around to make way for the new development. I understand another retailer is likely to take up the empty Comet store on a temporary basis.
Enter Ikea, which has put a bid in for the site. Ikea’s long been keen on this area, and is believed to have been interested about 10-15 years ago in the land to the east of Asda which became the Greenwich Shopping Park. Now the Swedish flatpack furniture retailer has returned, and this time it’s serious.
Along with Sainsbury’s and Comet, one other thing which will go is the small nature park at the rear of the Sainsbury’s site – it’s understood Greenwich Council wants this relocated elsewhere on the peninsula. Where this fits in with long-term plans to develop the area around the (separate) Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park isn’t clear. Most parcels of land on the peninsula are now earmarked for specific developments, although as we discovered with the cable car, that can change.
But the big problem is going to be traffic. Peartree Way (and the A102/A206 junction) already can’t cope with the Sainsbury’s traffic – the pictures in this post were taken on Sunday at 4pm. Pollution levels outside Sainsbury’s already breach EU limits – so much for the “eco-store”.
Ikea branches generate huge amounts of traffic – just visit its existing London area stores at Croydon, Edmonton, Neasden and Thurrock. Sainsbury’s moving down the road isn’t going to remove traffic from the area, it’s just shifting it a mile down the road. And while the Sainsbury’s site probably has the best bus service of any superstore in Britain, you can’t squeeze a flat-packed wardrobe home on a 486.
Solving this problem will be an enormous, and quite possibly insurmountable, challenge. It could well kibosh emerging plans to downgrade the filthily polluted stretch of Woolwich Road from Gallions Road to the A102 as a local road. Once Sainsbury’s moves, the Greenwich/Charlton area is likely to reach its capacity for major retail developments. While everyone loves Ikea, is having one down the road really worth seeing the whole area grinding to a halt for?
With the increasing pace of residential development in the area, seeing the mile-long stretch from the foot of the peninsula to The Valley as some kind of out-of-town retail barn nirvana is becoming increasingly out of date – something the plans for the new Sainsbury’s hint at, with the shopfronts on Woolwich Road and covered walkways to adjacent stores. Ikea may just have come to the party a decade too late.
But we haven’t seen the full details of what’s planned, yet. There’s a staffed exhibition on Saturday 9 November from 12-7pm at Sherard Hall, The Forum @ Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, while the displays will be up at East Greenwich Library from 11-23 November. It’ll be interesting to see just how Ikea faces up to these problems.