Green light for Greenwich Market redevelopment

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.

Hey-ho. Still, Greenwich Hospital, Nick Raynsford, Frank Dowling (himself planning two hotels), and the unelected “guardians” at the Greenwich Society will be celebrating today.

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.”


  1. I’m not sure what the ‘soul’ of an area is but I would hope that Greenwich has more to it than the market – or indeed just the bit we now call ‘West Greenwich’.
    I could however say a lot about the Planning Inspectorate and all the awful enquiries I have sat through. A number of unpopular developments are with us because of them – and of course there was the whole issue of the amuseument arcade and the table dancing club in Trafalgar Road. I am also aware of another judgement from this this week – a smaller more local issue, but something many local people had objected to.

  2. Greenwich is more than its market indeed. But the continual erosion of the towns once glorious character has left us with a pretty town with no character.
    Greenwich is now officially a theme park ruled by Inc and Greenwich Hospital

  3. On the bright side, Greenwich Hospital Estates have been forced to keep both market floor and market roof – two vital parts of the texture of Greenwich that both Nick Raynsford and the Greenwich Society were quite happy to see consigned to oblivion.

    IN the longer term, it’s time we all had a long hard look at all the practices of Greenwich Hospital Estates. It was set up to provide education to the children of seafarers; now, its funds support a private, fee-paying school. It does provide bursaries, but there’s no guarantee that the children of seafarers who meet the eligibility criteria will get an award, which is entirely at their discretion.

    It’s hard to see how that discretionary support of children who can’t afford the fees squares with the original aims of the charity. I wonder how many bursaries the £2m or £3m they’ve reportedly spent on the applications would have supported?

    It would be wonderful to see the accounts of GHE, so we could all have an informed view of where the money goes. After all, as Greenwich residents we all indirectly support them.

  4. Excellent points paul T.
    I presume their argument will be that bulldozing through some of the market to construct a boutique hotel will raise funds for the school. All sounds very dubious
    And, yes, once again it appears that Nick Raynsford has sold out his constituents in favour of supporting more unnecessary building work. As a lifelong Labour supporter I have to say that I am sorely tempted not to vote for him again. He has lost touch with the constituent and is only interested in vanity project that will get his face in the press
    I cant even begin to imagine what the point of the Greenwich Society is. The Greenwich Society in Conneticut seems more interested in the town we live in than this shower

  5. something else about Greenwich Hospital Estates is that over the past 10-15 years they have sold off a vast amount of local housing. People might remember the row in – I think 1996?? – when Travers and Reade houses were sold to developers who racheted up rents to a group of pensioners. Since then many many houses have been sold – and I remember myself two years ago trying to help a couple (with two children) who GHE were evicting on New Years Day.

  6. A sad day. I think we’re all within our rights to complain long and hard about Pickles, Raynsford and ‘localism’ (hands up those surprised that it turned out to be a sham. Anyone?).

    But I’m not sure we can complain about the Greenwich Society. If we all pay £15 a year, we’ll have a say in how it’s run. Anyone up for a coup?

  7. The battle for the soul of Greenwich was lost some time ago, but this is the coup de grace. The over-development of the town, the completely anti-democratic process by which this scheme has been allowed, the unholy alliance of Greenwich Hospital and Frank Dowling getting their evil way with our community and the vandalism of demolishing the stable block and banana warehouse to make room for trash compactors are a scandal and a disgrace. Raynsford and Pickles should be forced to stand in the Market and be pelted with rotten eggs. How did they ever get over the objection to the traffic chaos that this hotel will cause?
    There are now only traces left of the Greenwich that I moved to in the late ’70s

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