Upgrading the big screen in Woolwich town centre is costing Greenwich Council £123,850 in money from developers, it has told 853.
The screen has been a fixture of General Gordon Square since 2009, when it was first installed as part of a BBC initiative in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics, with Walthamstow the only other London town centre to get one.
It is used to show events such as major sporting fixtures and is also made available to community groups. The screen also regularly shows council promotional videos.
But with the screen showing its age, the council has decided to upgrade the equipment. When work is finished this week, it will be able carry subtitles for all programmes and show a wider range of events.
The screen, which sits in front of Equitable House, has divided opinion, with some finding it an eyesore, while others find it a community asset. “Big Brother is watching,” one Facebook user commented.
Funding for the revamp is coming from Section 106 payments made by developers. These are meant to offset the impact of a development – and its residents – on a community and can be used to fund things like the public realm, education, training, healthcare, transport and culture, with the categories agreed in advance. In Greenwich, the council’s decision to spend much of its Section 106 money on its Greenwich Local Labour and Business job brokerage rather than the public realm, as happens in other boroughs, has come in for criticism.
However, the council insists residents are not losing out from the money being spent on the big screen revamp. Today’s revelation comes as the council’s cabinet prepares to sign off on a £7.1 million, four-year package of cuts which include closing an adventure playground in Plumstead and stopping jet-cleaning streets in Woolwich and other town centres.
A spokesperson said: “The big screen in General Gordon Square, Woolwich, was beyond economical repair. The only two options were to remove the screen all together, which would incur a cost of £30,000 and leave the area devoid of a focal point, or the alternative option was an upgrade.
“The upgrade is funded entirely by section 106 contributions from developments in Woolwich at a cost of £123,850 – this has no financial implications for the council or residents. Section 106 funding is allocated based on a predetermined arrangement and funding cannot be used outside of these terms.
“The big screen is a key focal point for Woolwich as an information and events arena for the community, as well as an opportunity for community organisations to promote their services. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of residents are drawn to the screen during broadcasts of popular events and other programmes. Beyond screening popular events, programmes or films, the big screen is a central location of social value in Woolwich, bringing residents and visitors from all walks of life together and supporting community cohesion. The upgrade will include new features such as sound and subtitles, making it more inclusive and accessible to an even wider audience.”
The council was asked which developments had contributed to the screen, but it did not answer.
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