‘Woolwich was a graveyard before we came, we built this town…’ says small business owners


Small business owners pleaded with a council leader to stop developers booting them out in a multi million-pound regeneration scheme.

Greenwich council leader Danny Thorpe sat pensively while one resident after another stood up at a public meeting, organised by Speak Out Woolwich, to make their case against plans to demolish an area that houses more than 130 businesses.

A majority of these business are run by black, Asian and minority ethnic (BME) residents.

The regeneration of the area bounded by Plumstead Road, Woolwich New Road, Spray Street and Burrage Road, dubbed the Spray Street Quarter, is a joint venture by Notting Hill Homes and St Modwen.

The scheme would see the demolition of all current buildings, which includes the covered market, to be replaced by six blocks built of varying heights up to 21 storeys with 742 homes, a new five-screen cinema, leisure facilities and a children’s nursery.

Ghulam Mustapha, who has run the Intercontinental Supermarket shop in Plumstead Road since 1965, said at the meeting on August 30: “Woolwich was like a graveyard when we first moved in, you could hardly see anything.

We small shops built this town. “When all the big supermarkets and brand names were gone, small individual shops were still there. Bringing in the customers, bringing together the community. You break us up, you will lose this.”

The initial planning application was submitted in January this year, but development was delayed.

The proposed development would have 35 per cent affordable housing, 15 per cent at social rent. Bahareh Berendji, who co-owns the Woolwich Dental Practice with her parents, said: “We’re a big family, we belong to each other.

If an incident happens, Mr Hassan and Mr Patel [shop owners in the SSQ] are there to protect us.

“If Mr Hassan has a toothache, then he can come to us. We don’t want to lose this family. We belong together as one. It doesn’t matter what ethnic group, colour, race, whatever, we are here together.”

The developers are set to come back with a revised plan in the autumn. Danny Hoggan, who is the Greenwich branch secretary of the Unite union, said at the public meeting on Monday, July 30: “When Woolwich was dying on its knees, these business were there.

That’s what has given this town the vibrancy. If I want to go to a soulless place, I catch the bus the other way to Bexleyheath.

“Danny, if you want to make a mark and have a legacy, you protect these people, you owe it to them. “If you’re not careful in this situation, you’ll know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

A spokesman for Spray Street Quarter LLP said: “Following over two years of community consultation, we submitted a planning application in January to transform Spray Street Quarter and deliver 742 new well-designed homes, as well as new places to meet, shop, eat and drink.

“To deliver maximum benefits to the local area, the site needs to be comprehensively regenerated.

“Spray Street Quarter will include a new cinema and workspaces, create about 475 new, full-time equivalent jobs and 260 new affordable homes – which will provide an anticipated £6million boost each year to the local economy.

“We have worked with residents and businesses throughout the planning process.

We continue to underpin the council’s work with GL Hearn and Tree Shepherd in order to build an in-depth understanding of existing occupier’s needs.

“This work will help us and the council to develop robust options for how their businesses can be relocated locally.”

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3 thoughts on “‘Woolwich was a graveyard before we came, we built this town…’ says small business owners

  • 7 August 2018 at 13:00

    Sorry to be an upstart gentrifier, but regeneration can only be good for the area – especially on that side of Plumstead road. The buildings are horrible to look at round there, and they really need sprucing up.

    Also Woolwich doesn’t have a cinema – it needs one.

    I hope they come to some sort of arrangement that benefits everybody. You can’t cite being there in the 60s as reason to put a stop to positive change.

    • 29 March 2019 at 19:30

      Woolwich used to have THREE cinemas, including the stunning Granada (now a ‘cathedral’).
      The cinema at the bottom of Wellington Street was allowed to fall into disrepair and demolished recently by the council.
      It is now a block of flats, of course.
      We were promised, at a council meeting, that a community space would be incorporated into the design, to ‘compensate’ for losing the original building.
      To my knowledge, this has never happened.

  • 9 August 2018 at 17:50

    This area is in desperate need of regeneration. It looks terrible and most of the properties have had no maintenance for years and years. It’s just a jumble of cheap buildings flung up behind the main road facades and a huge waste of town centre space. It is dark at night and feels dangerous. Spray Street itself is a traffic shambles of epic proportions, with large 4x4s with blacked-out windows usually parked at the town end for hours. Time for a change.


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