‘Our campaign to improve Greenwich’s neglected town centre is picking up support’

Nelson Road on Sunday
Visitors and locals have to dodge traffic in Greenwich town centre

Earlier this year, former Greenwich councillor MAUREEN O’MARA wrote for us about a campaign to widen pavements in Greenwich’s car-dominated town centre – and to improve the look of the historic area. Now she is back with an update on the campaign…

In March we reported on the coming together of the Greenwich Society – one of the borough’s largest amenity societies – and the Covered Market traders with support from Greenwich Hospital, the naval charity established in 1694 which owns much of Greenwich town centre, to press for public realm improvements to our world heritage site town. We formed a unique coalition of business and resident interests.

For too long our precious town has been neglected. Public realm is poor with cracked, stained and uneven York stone paving, street cleaning is scrappy and refuse bags stay on the pavements for too long.

Streets are cluttered with unnecessary street furniture. Shop fronts need refreshing. And Cutty Sark Gardens – the arrival point for many of our international visitors – is in a sorry state.

This historic area is in dire need of a council plan bringing together under one manager all the different services that impinge on the town. That is currently lacking.

These common concerns across businesses and local people have provided the stimulus for our coalition.

College Approach on Sunday
The coalition wants wider pavements on College Approach

Since then our support has grown to include the World Heritage Site Executive – a body that includes the Old Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum, Visit Greenwich, the University of Greenwich and St Alfege’s church. We have also leafletted the shopkeepers around the island site in the town.

The starting point for our campaign is modest – centred on lobbying for pavement widening on just two streets in the town centre – College Approach and King William Walk up to its junction with Romney Road.

We are not pursuing pedestrianisation of the town centre as previous proposals have failed because of the impact of displaced traffic onto nearby streets.

So we need to be realistic and look at new, more moderate ideas more capable of attracting public support. We believe that pavement widening is that more reasonable proposal.

King William Walk, Greenwich, on Sunday
The coalition also wants pavements to be widened on King William Walk

We presented our proposals to the World Heritage Site Executive on July 12 where they gained unanimous support.

On July 14, we had a meeting with Averil Lekau, the deputy council leader and cabinet member for transport policy.

We presented the draft costings prepared for us (pro bono) by Atkins transport consultancy and asked that officers also cost our proposals. We also presented a map prepared by the covered market traders which marked out time limited loading bays for them.

We got agreement that our proposals would be costed.

This is a major advance for the campaign and we are grateful to Cllr Lekau for her open-minded approach and willingness to listen.

We look forward to working with the council on these ideas.

MAUREEN O’MARA was first elected to Greenwich Council in 1982 and represented the former Greenwich West ward from 2002 to 2022.

See also: ‘Greenwich town centre should look a lot better – we need action to improve the borough’s jewel’

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