Greenwich Market’s landlord has put pressure on Greenwich Council to make the area safer for pedestrians by widening pavements around the market, rather than pedestrianising streets in the town centre.
At the beginning of the pandemic last year barriers were used to create more room for people and to allow for social distancing on the one-way system around the market.
Now Greenwich Hospital, the charity that owns a large part of the town centre including the market, has teamed up with the Greenwich Society to call for pavements to be permanently widened.
Greenwich Council has long wanted to part-pedestrianise the town centre, with plans last unveiled two years ago. Last spring the council had hoped to obtain emergency funding from TfL for a trial scheme which would funnel vehicles along Nelson Road and Greenwich Church Street, the streets to the south and west of the market, and keep King William Walk and College approach for walkers and cyclists; it was later given funding to develop a scheme to run Cycleway 4 through the town centre.
The new chair of the Greenwich Society, Kevin Fewster, said: ““Our historic Greenwich town centre attracts over eight million visitors a year from all over the world. Those visitors and local residents deserve a better experience when they visit Greenwich.
“We are calling on the council to implement proposals to widen the pavements in the town centre to create a more attractive ambience for everyone. The pandemic lockdown restrictions on the width of the roads around the market showed that this could be done without seriously disrupting the traffic flow.
“We have developed these proposals in joint talks with other interested groups, including the Greenwich Hospital Estates – the town centre’s major landowner and commercial landlord.”
The barriers were installed in May 2020 but removed after four months after complaints that they were contributing to traffic congestion. Some cyclists also complained about the lack of space to ride in.
Fewster, a former director of Royal Museums Greenwich – the body that runs the National Maritime Museum and Cutty Sark – told 853 that the society and Greenwich Hospital had written to council leader Danny Thorpe suggesting that pavements on College Approach and King William Walk be widened, rather than closing the streets to traffic altogether.
“Our idea would also provide much needed short term drop-off/pick-up bays for Greenwich Market traders at the beginning and end of the trading day,” he said. “We see these ideas as having much more chance of getting general acceptance from the myriad of different stakeholder groups than any scheme that necessitates full road closures.”
Greenwich Hospital, which operates sheltered housing for former seafarers, gives grants to naval charities and operates a private boarding school in Suffolk, is a crown charity with the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, as its sole trustee. It was sharply criticised by Thorpe and Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook last year when it proposed raising rents for market traders.
Asked if the charity would contribute financially to any changes in the town centre, Fewster said: “At this point we are dealing only in principles, thus Greenwich Hospital has not been asked to make a financial contribution.”
He also said that there had been no discussion of local businesses contributing to the changes, such as setting up a business improvement district for the town centre, which can raise funds to improve local areas.
Last month the council announced it was bidding for a £200,000 grant to improve the town centre, although some respondents on social media suggested that the money could be better spent elsewhere in the borough. “I’m sure everyone hopes that their area might receive more funding,” Fewster said.
Adding that the issue could be a factor in next spring’s council elections, Fewster said: “We await the council’s response. We cannot believe that such an initiative will be ignored.”
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