Tear down this wall: Greenwich councillor wants cycle route into Royal Arsenal

Armstrong Drive wall
No way out: The wall blocks access from west Thamesmead (in the background)

A Greenwich councillor has begun a campaign to open up a walking and cycling route into Berkeley Homes’ Royal Arsenal development from neighbouring streets in his West Thamesmead ward.

The two housing developments are separated by a brick wall between Erebus Drive, Thamesmead and Armstrong Road, Woolwich. Residents have to take a roundabout route via the riverside path to reach the shops and bars in the Royal Arsenal, as well as Woolwich’s new Elizabeth Line station and the town centre.

Each side of the wall was developed separately, with Barratt Homes’ Royal Artillery Quays towers on the Thamesmead side of the wall. The entire site was once Ministry of Defence land.

Labour councillor Chris Lloyd put a written question to Aidan Smith, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration, on the issue at last night’s full council meeting, saying that early plans showed that the two roads would be linked.

Smith gave a non-committal answer, saying: “Whilst I would be happy to endorse the ambition of creating a walking and cycling link between Erebus Drive and Armstrong Road, both these roads are privately owned and maintained. The wall, too, is privately owned and maintained. Accordingly, the decision as to whether such a link is created in the future is at the discretion of those who own, and are responsible for, this infrastructure.

“Whist a connection between the two may have formed part of early illustrative layouts for the Woolwich Arsenal development, this was not translated into the detailed designs that were approved as part of that site’s planning permission.”

Lloyd, who is campaigning to be selected as a Labour parliamentary candidate in Swindon, was not present at the meeting, but later tweeted: “I will now start work on finding out who owns the wall & land, and how a safe walking and cycling route can be created for [our] residents on Erebus Drive.”

His fellow West Thamesmead councillor, ‘Lade Olugbemi, said she would work with Lloyd.

When the Royal Arsenal’s first residents moved in during the early 2000s, there was criticism that the development was cut off from the town centre by the old Arsenal walls, although many of those have now been dismantled as the development progressed. The wall separating Erebus Drive and Armstrong Road appears to be more recent construction.

There is a long history of private developments being walled off to stop outsiders getting in. In the 2000s, a developer blocked a long-established footpath to shops at Old Dover Road, Blackheath by fencing it off when new housing was built.

Most notoriously, a 7ft “class wall” was erected in the 1920s to stop people living in the Downham estate, which was being built by the London County Council, from entering neighbouring streets in Bromley. Residents had to wait until 1950 for the wall, dividing Valeswood Road and Alexandra Crescent, to be taken down.

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