It’ll be 11 years next March since Greenwich District Hospital closed, and six years since work began on demolishing the old building.
Back in the heady days of 2006, when young people were commissioned to paint a mural on the site (right) as the old hospital came down, the future looked promising. Then the housing market fell to bits, and the Heart of East Greenwich project stalled.
The overall plan was to build 645 homes (170 of them for rent, 144 for shared ownership) along with what Greenwich Council calls the Greenwich Centre, to provide access to council services along with a new library and leisure centre, replacing the current facilities on Woolwich Road and at the Arches, as well as a health centre including GP practices.
While the council’s a big partner in the scheme, the delays have been down to the site owner, the Homes and Communities Agency, which booted out initial developer First Base in summer 2010, and appointed a new firm, Hadley Mace to do it instead. (Incidentally, one of the partners in Hadley Mace is responsible for building the new cable car.) But a lack of clear information about what’s happening has not helped matters.
Finally, after many false starts, things may be about to change. A report to be presented to councillors this Thursday states that work is due to start on the site “early in 2012”, and that the centre should be ready in 2014, at a cost of £30.4million.
A good idea of what to expect can be found if you travel to Eltham, where the Eltham Centre includes a library, pool, and council services, and is acclaimed by all as a success.
But the question marks are over what happens next to the library and Arches sites.
East Greenwich Library has been neglected for years in anticipation of the move down the road – recent remedial works to fix a leaking roof went wrong when, I’m told, the lead was nicked. It’s a Grade II listed building, donated to the community by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1905, and any attempt to sell it on for private use is likely to cause an outcry.
I’m not sure whether the Arches, built in the 1920s and renovated in the 1980s, commands so much affection, but its site at the foot of Greenwich Park has to be a prime one for redevelopment.
In any case, the council says it will hold onto both buildings until the Greenwich Centre is finished, and is funding the cost by selling the Greenwich Industrial Estate at Norman Road as well as land on Blackwall Lane and Commerell Street, opposite the HoEG site.
So, what could be some decent news from the council. Who’d have thought it?