Greenwich’s Peninsula Square: From ‘vibrant space’ to holding pen

“Equivalent in size to Leicester Square, Peninsula Square is designed to be a new leisure destination for Londoners and tourists alike. Geysers set in the square will bubble and mist and then create plumes up to 10 metres high, with vibrant lighting accentuating the square’s exciting architecture by day and by night. There will be cafes, restaurants and shops as well as a venue for special events.”World Architecture News

Five years on…

Peninsula Square, 29 April 2013

Peninsula Square, outside the O2, before a recent show (Beyonce on 29 April, since you ask). Not exactly buzzing. The strange lump in the middle is a chunk of the Kreod exhibition – which was supposed to go on tour last year – repurposed as an advertising hoarding.

One of the most perplexing aspects of the strange developments on the peninsula is the fate of Peninsula Square. Before the Dome reopened as the O2 five years ago next week, we were promised it’d be a new entertainment hub – something to draw people in from far and wide.

“There will be cafes, restaurants and shops and a venue for special events and performances around the Square, making it a buzzing, exciting place to visit.”architects Barr Gazetas

To be fair, it took a couple of years and the arrival of Ravensbourne for the square to show any signs of life. And the development around the Dome is a long way from being completed. But those promises seem a long, long way off at the moment.

Peninsula Square, June 2013

Yes, it’s somewhere people pass through on their way to the O2, or to Ravensbourne, Tesco or the TfL offices – but that’s all Peninsula Square is. I can only think of a handful of occasions when the square itself has been a destination – when fans flocked there after Michael Jackson’s death in summer 2009; and during the Olympics, when entertainment was put on in the square. But don’t expect many spontaneous happenings – this is all private property with eager security guards.

Save for the odd crummy food stall, or fairground ride, that’s been about it. The big screen is wasted on advertisements, the little platform beneath it empty, the wide open space in front unused. No entertainment, nothing to see, do, or buy. It’d be a great market place, or venue for street entertainers.

Peninsula Square, 15 June 2013

Instead, it seems to have become a glorified holding pen for O2 arena customers – seen above queueing after The Who on Saturday night. Crowd control measures seem to have got tighter after the Olympics, and we’re unlikely to see this change unless people have reasons to linger after shows (and they can be confident there’s transport to take them home) – but the poor offer inside the O2 doesn’t really provide that, and there’s not a lot outside either.

There’s still plenty of development yet to take place around the square, but this is private property – it’s not in landowner AEG’s interests to have people lingering outside the O2 rather than going inside and spending money on it. And we know from AEG’s support of the Silvertown Tunnel that it really isn’t bothered about the community around its venue. Unless this situation changes, it feels like Peninsula Square is shaping up to be yet another dud by the Dome.

(Speaking of the peninsula, next Tuesday’s Greenwich Council planning board will consider plans for the socially-cleansed Peninsula Quays development at the top of Tunnel Avenue, a plan to build a gym in unused retail space at the mostly-empty 6 Mitre Passage building, and alterations to the 21-storey hotel and 23-storey flats due to go up just west of the Dome.)

Peninsula Square, 19 June 2013

Wednesday update: Maybe some change is on its way – as mentioned in the comments, planning application is in for “marketing suites” as well as shops, restaurants/cafes and offices where the “green wall” is now.


  1. I’m sure the developers regret any perceived underachievement but their plans were not firm predictions but merely aspirations – and they will aim to put that all right with any further world-class developments that Greenwich Council, in its wisdom, sees fit to pass through the planning process. Let us not be shackled to the present when there is a bright future on the horizon (for the construction industry).


  2. I was there three weeks ago on a Friday afternoon when the sun was out – it was vibrant enough. Kids playing in the fountains, etc. Maybe it’s just in the evenings it’s a bit dead? (I wouldn’t know, I not normally there). Admittedly, it is all a bit corporate-soulless. I’d be all for a market or street entertainment to give the place a bit more life – its unfortunate that the “public” space is in fact private.

  3. A great potential (Saturday/Sunday at least) market space is the area between the Square and the fountains, alongside the newly refurbished covered pedestrian walkway. Anyone agree?

  4. Still using that phrase “socially cleansed” without any factual basis, hey Darryl.

    By the way, from now on, I will not be ticking the box that means I get follow up comments. So I won’t see the scores of personal attacks and abuse that descend whenever I “dare” to express a contrary opinion. I don’t need to read that – and I am certainly under no obligation to respond.


  5. I would tend to see Peninsula Square as half full rather than half empty. Certainly planners should be far stricter on advertising and the owners could foster more diversity of performers and creative attractions, why cannot the screen play the work of Ravensbourne students exhibiting.

    On social cleansing, Greenwich have a long standing policy supporting a strong social housing obligation within all developments and to pepper pot to avoid ghettoes if social housing in the less desirable spots (next to roads and aggregate works) with the exclusive properties all overlooking the river. I very much trust that Greenwich planners have adhered to this critical principle of mixed developments and communities.

  6. If only they had, David.

    Actually, on the big screen (why can’t it show events like the Woolwich one does?) – seeing a silent Emilie Sande getting on a Tube train each day is starting to give me the creeps.

  7. David Gardner –

    I’m perplexed by your comment on social housing. It was, after all, your Labour Party councillors who approved the “social cleansing” at Peninsula Quays (ie., the reduction in the social housing element to 0%) back in February.

    Were you unaware of this? I’d be surprised given the prominence of the Peninsula Quays development and the implications of removing all social housing at that site. Or do you believe that segregating the private and social housing elements at two different ends of the peninsula is consistent with the borough’s “longstanding policy supporting a strong social housing obligation”?

  8. […] things online deriding The O2 as some sort of derelict monstrosity (as recently as yesterday on 853blog . I couldn’t disagree more. I think if you live right by it and use it on an almost daily […]

  9. Hi Daryl- I was actually working on a new post today about how much I love the O2 on my new blog and found your latest post when I was looking to see what it was I had previously read on your blog about it. As I say at the end of my post, The O2 actually makes North Greenwich a fantastic place to live.

  10. But what do you think of Peninsula Square, LP? Is it not a missed opportunity to create a community space?

  11. I wouldn’t say it’s a missed opportunity. I actually just spent the afternoon over there today- lots of kids in the fountains, lots of people eating outside at Costa, Cafe Rouge, and Chiquito. Tourists posing for pictures. I ran into a few different people I know and just had a chat. It does function as a community space for people who live on the peninsula, and to be honest I wouldn’t be keen on putting in too much else that would cause the tourists to linger in one spot.

    It would be nice to have something of interest on the big screen, even if they just left a mute BBC on all day. But permanent rides, street entertainers, or market stalls would cheese it up in my opinion. Now it’s a nice quiet (even when crowded like today) place to relax. They are supposed to be making a few changes in the very near future- removing that wall with the gross fountain water- and adding a small new building in its place with a cafe, restaurant, and bar. I would hope they would put some benches in to give people a place to sit as the square is certainly lacking in that if you don’t want to pay to sit at a restaurant. Otherwise I honestly wouldn’t change much.

  12. However, it was designed as a place to linger – those comparisons with Leicester Square and talk of making it a destination can’t have been added for a laugh.

    One thing I think we can agree on, mind, is that the tip of the peninsula – even now with the unplanned addition of the cable car – is shaping up to be something different from what we were told it would be.

  13. True- but I think it’s much more pleasant than what was promised. I would not want to be living on the edge of Leicester Square. It will be interesting to see how it evolves however once the new hotel and all of the other flats are in, they might tacky it out then. In the meantime, it’s nice.

  14. Hmm. I’ve never taken any marketing-speak seriously when it comes to any property – the chances are too great that things may change in the future, as a result of stuff like the economy crashing, or developers selling the project on to other buyers, and the marketers who wrote up the spiel you dug up probably knew that. I wouldn’t place any credence to the write-ups.

    Having said that, every time I’ve been around to Peninsula Square, whether it’s been an arena night or not, there are always people milling about. They’ve been hanging out after concerts in the bars after event nights, and looked busy the last two times I was there after watching movies (coming out of the movies after 11pm, the bars looked busy and the square had people wandering about. On the weekends, especially the few Sunday mornings I’ve been in the area, there’s life. I haven’t seen the eager security guards you alluded to – probably less eager after the Olympics than before.

    Mark’s experiences and London Peanut’s experiences definitely track with mine. The Square seems to be working out just fine. Perhaps you’re expecting too much from what is, in reality, just an open space.

  15. Apologies for the length of this, but some following this thread may be interested.

    I actually attended a meeting of the Greeenwich Peninsula Forum on October 19th, 2004 when a presentation was given of the proposals for the Millennium Square. This is part of the report I wrote that appears on my own web site about the history of the Dome (


    Millennium Square Proposals

    Lawrence Robertson for Meridian Delta began by specifying the area under discussion. It forms the ‘L-shaped’ area from the Dome-side entrance to the North Greenwich Station to the ‘main’ entrance to the Dome as it was for the MEX. The plan is for the area to eventually be surrounded on its three sides by buildings, but at most, only one of these is likely to be built before the Dome Arena opens in Spring 2007. The design of the Square aimed to see it develop an international recognition on a par with Trafalgar Square, Somerset House, etc..

    Alistair Barr for the Architects Barr-Gazitas then took over to describe the proposals in detail. These will go to Greenwich Planning Department in November 2004. The key elements will be in place for the Arena opening in Spring 2007. The design envisages building on the fact that the ‘Square’ lies just a few minutes Latitude east of the Greenwich meridian which passes through the N.W. of the Peninsula. The plans therefore revolve (sic) around using this theme, combined with the ‘watery’ local environment of mudflats and ripples, etc, to develop a ground pattern of concentric, but logarithmically spaced granite and quartz setts with lights that radiate out from the perimeter of the Dome, together with lines of Latitude marked out with further setts and lights. All floor materials to be smooth and easy to maintain. The focal point of the Square, nestling in the angle of the ‘L’ shape, originally known as the ‘Bandstand’ is to be a slender conical spire built to a naturalistic ‘shell’ form with triangular elements in front of a copper patina ‘wall’ that will cover the existing emergency exits and air vents to the Station. The spire and wall will be elaborately lit, as will the entire square, with a series of multi-coloured LEDs to provide various lighting effects to match the seasons and associated events. There would also be a 12 metre wide canopy sweeping to the left from the Station exit to the Dome which will be protected to its left by a Story Wall. The right-hand side of the area would be planted with semi-mature English lime trees. These would front a substantial, but nevertheless temporary Living Wall comprising a series of waterfalls designed to mask the noise of the Station which then become more sparse towards the River, interspersed with greenery including seasonal bulbs and under-planting. At the river end, leading towards the Millennium Pier it is proposed to provide space for artists to develop ideas for the surface of the wall. The outer (southern) side of this wall would also be covered by plants. The third side of the square will be planted with flowering pear trees.

    Questions were posed regarding the ability of the space to cope with the possible volumes of pedestrians leaving a major event. Tets have been conducted which indicate that there should be no problem, and in any case it is hoped that the attractions offered by the facilities under cover of the Dome would encourage both a phased arrival and dispersal of crowds.


  16. “The design of the Square aimed to see it develop an international recognition on a par with Trafalgar Square, Somerset House, etc…”

    Gosh – that’s interesting. Thank you, David.

  17. H’mm ‘Aiming to be on a par with Trafalgar Square, Somerset House etc’, I hope the council members recognised BS when they saw it. So far there have been no buildings built on a par with those spaces, design wise or even of similar use. No Central London uses were ever going to appear here,

    Architects are just as adapt at speaking crap as Developers, after all they have to sell you their design.

    But the Square does have a major attraction on one side, that guarantees large numbers of people for most of the day. All that is required is that what development occurs has plenty of ground floor commercial spaces surrounding the square. The market will take care of the rest. With all those people milling around with down time, they will have no problem filling it with restaurants and bars. As long as it’s busy the square will be a successful space. Hopefully as it is surrounded by buildings a more urban feeling will creep in, with the addition of different uses.

    It might be nice for some competing leisure attractions, or some shopping streets etc.

    The only problem for the Pennisula is that still landlocked, with limited access. The Jubilee line is great, But is often packed it’s capacity limits might stymie commercial growth.

    For it too develop it needs more crossings, probably both road and rail.

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