The Demise of Greenwich Market

by Elizabeth Sellers on 20 January 2011 · 4 comments

I am not a fan of the current state of Town Planning in the UK. And I worked in Town Planning for 2 years. The experience did nothing to sway my thinking and only served to confirm my preconceptions that Town Planners work to impress their multi-millionaire clients with very little, if any, credibility, conscience, or ethical soundness.This might not read as a particularly glowing reflection on me, turning on former employers, but I can assure they always knew where I stood. I would often have a bitch and a moan down the pub on a Friday night about the monstrous building designs they were trying to push through. And often they agreed! But a job is a job, right? And their job is to take their clients wishes and secure a Planning Approval by whatever means.

Over and over again I was confronted with disgusting design drawings. Most of the time they were bland, faux-modernist buildings with little thought or sensitivity for the immediate surroundings. Most of the time they were an eyesore. And most of the time, they were just plain ugly.

Who wants to see ugly every day of the week?

The so-called Godmother of Urban Planning, Jane Jacobs wrote in her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities:

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

Jane Jacobs book is read by almost every Town Planning student in the country. It is practically Planning 101. And nearly every Town Planner I worked with spoke enthusiastically about it. Yet, her ideals of diverse-uses, pluralism and vibrancy are soon forgotten when they meet their clients for the first time. It would seem that those with the economic will are those who get to decide how our towns and cities are developed.

Of course, planning law states the importance and need for consultations. These are conducted with local people and important stakeholders in the process. This law is aimed at protecting the rights of citizens, and the environment, present and future. But as the case of Greenwich Market has proven, having the right influence on ONE individual – the Secretary for Communities and Local Government - can allow you to build whatever you like, damning all those local people, and councillors who have rejected the scheme. Those to whom, it really matters.

The Greenwich Market is now to undergo massive changes that seek to undermine the historical integrity of the World Heritage Site. As well as modernising the market area, a new hotel (because another is really needed?), demolition of some 1950′s market buildings,

The local council rejected the plans as ‘the proposed development would be out of keeping with its historic surroundings and would adversely affect and fail to preserve or enhance the character and appearance’ of the conservation area. Furthermore the bulk and scale of the proposed building would be seen from as far as the Royal Observatory and will hinder the enjoyment and unique character of the views that millions of people come to enjoy from Royal Greenwich Park.

The local Council had decided UNANIMOUSLY to reject this planning application and it is only by appealing to Eric Pickles that that is rejection has been overturned. That’s right; a politician over in Whitehall has the jurisdiction to make potentially damaging decisions with complete disregard to the knowledge, expertise and opinions of hundreds of others. Take a walk through Greenwich and ask anyone you meet how they feel about this. I bet you won’t find any support for this application.

Whilst an appeal is possible, it is just too costly, and with all the budget cuts that Councils are currently facing, it is unlikely they can match the fees that Greenwich Hospital Estates can muster.

I am so terribly sad to see yet another area of my beloved London, and my birthplace no less, is being set to ruin by over-zealous planning approvals and the greediness of businessmen. Greenwich will become a place for tourists, seeking to tick the sights off their lists not knowing of its previous state, and local residents; will be pushed out. Just another town planning disaster.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

LandGirl1980 January 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Disgusting. Things like this are the life blood of a community. If it ain't broke..

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HannahB January 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm

hear hear!

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Clare B January 21, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Hearing this news about Greenwich makes me really sad. I felt very similarly when I found out that Borough market was to undergo refurbishment and gentrification which I think will ruin the feel of the place.

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shopaholly January 21, 2011 at 5:21 pm

I sympathise. An oil tycoon in Aberdeen plans to fill in our only city centre green space with concrete and build a new carpark. A previous plan for an incredible on site art centre that respected the gardens had been approved so there was then a public consultation to vote on which plan we'd like the best.

Obviously the public voted for the art centre. The council overruled the decision and gave the go ahead to the super rich business man whose plan also requires around £50million from the council who are making cutbacks everywhere else. People in Aberdeen are very disappointed so do whatever you can to get people aware and onboard.

Saddened to hear this is happening. xx

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