‘Unappealing’ Greenwich town centre could learn from O2 at night, council plan says

Cutty Sark
Most of Greenwich’s economy is aimed at tourists or students, the report says

Greenwich town centre at night does not appeal to local residents and could learn lessons from the O2, the council says in a new strategy designed to liven up the historic heart of the area after the shops have closed.

Evening market and street food stalls, arts events and special “late” events at attractions like the Cutty Sark and the Old Royal Naval College are among the ideas put forward to boost the evening economy in Greenwich, along with more activities for young people.

Widening pavements – as supported by a coalition of groups in the centre of Greenwich – is also an option, according to the strategy drawn up for the council by Fourth Street, a consultancy.

The council is also exploring the possibility of creating a Business Improvement District (BID) – where businesses pay an extra levy towards a separate body that helps promote and fund extra services in the area – in Greenwich town centre.

There are five BIDs in nearby Southwark – for Bankside, London Bridge, Waterloo, the South Bank and the Blue in Bermondsey – but Greenwich has previously been reluctant to consider the idea.

Crowd leaving Greenwich market
The area “loses its sparkle” after the market closes, the report says

“At night, when visitors head back to their central London hotels, Greenwich town centre loses its sparkle,” the report says.

“Residents often feel the town centre isn’t for them, with the variety of shops and services geared towards tourists or closing at night when Greenwich Market closes.

“The pandemic has made these pre-existing issues painfully obvious. With the disappearance of visitors, cultural venues, bars, restaurants, and shops have had to pivot their customer focus in a short period of time.

“And with more local residents spending time at home, there is a real desire to make Greenwich town centre once again a place welcoming to locals at night.”

The report says that Greenwich relies too heavily on tourists and students while public spaces can feel unsafe and unwelcoming. It adds that “artistic lighting” could make people feel safer and the area look more attractive, while widening pavements could make the area “more welcoming to pedestrians and outdoor hospitality”.

While the report concedes that the area around North Greenwich station is a very different proposition to the town centre, it says the management of the O2 works successfully with landowners, other venues, police, Transport for London and the council to “create an expectation that there’s always ‘something happening’.”

Greenwich could also learn from Walthamstow, where Waltham Forest Council put on late night food markets, parades, art installations, comedy shows and other events to “reclaim the high street” after dark, the report says.

Greenwich Market deserted
Greenwich Market could see more evening activities

Alcohol-free options for socialising should be encouraged, it adds, along with supporting businesses to open later.

There is also a report from City Hall’s night czar, the BBC 6 Music presenter Amy Lamé , who visited Greenwich, the Peninsula and Woolwich by riverbus on one night recently. She suggested using Greenwich Market for more evening events as well as the Clocktower flea market space on Greenwich High Road.

Evening transport links in and out of Greenwich – which have suffered in recent years with reductions in bus services towards Plumstead, Eltham and Lewisham – are not mentioned.

The full reports can be read on the Greenwich Council website and will be discussed by the council’s cabinet on Wednesday.

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