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Greenwich observed

Dominic O’Neill, CABE advisor
21 May 2010

A decade ago, Europe’s largest former gasworks was given a new lease of life when the Greenwich Peninsula became home to a new community. Today, a stroll through the quiet streets of Greenwich Millennium Village is a pleasantly reassuring experience.

Maurer Court.

Maurer Court. Copyright Greenwich Millennium Village Ltd.

This article originally appeared in Property Week on 18 June 2010.

The housing is a zesty reminder that this country actually can achieve a continental quality of urban design. The high density first phase, with its distinctive red eaves beloved of design guidance shots, feels a little overwhelming in scale when approached through the mews-like streets of the second phase. But both phases are now sold out, providing 1,100 homes in distinctive and characterful neighbourhoods.

The streets are well-maintained and the buildings are by and large weathering well. The public spaces feel safe and overlooked. A new village square is yet to flourish, perhaps awaiting the planned 1,800 more households, but everywhere residents have made the place their own, with lush porches and well-furnished balconies.

The generous and well used green spaces balance formal geometry with an impressive wetland ecology park – all part of the scheme’s impressive sustainability credentials. More might have been made of the river frontage, but there are enticing views down to the yacht clubhouse.

It’s no Eden, of course. Empty commercial units in the heart of the site belie that mixed-use myth, the one which conjures up neighbourhood tapas bars. There are some local cafés which are popular despite being segregated in a retail park with views across a vast car park. This retail park feels like the one anomaly: its eco-superstore can’t disguise the fact it is a product of old-school planning policy and an atavistic urge to benefit from motorists rumbling past from the Blackwall tunnel.

The regeneration of the peninsula clearly benefitted from timely infrastructure: a school, surgery, central park and, critically, transport. Yet aside from a trickle of developments around the Dome, Greenwich Millennium Village still sits in splendid isolation. With tenfold development scheduled for the peninsula over the next decade, it will be crucial to maintain the high quality of place already achieved but also to support the creation of ‘true’ mixed-use neighbourhoods.

This article originally appeared in Property Week on 18 June 2010.

Read more about the Greenwich Peninsula

  • Greenwich Millennium Village

    Greenwich Millennium Village

    Phase 2a is a residential development that promotes and supports sustainable living. Designed by Proctor Matthews Architects.

  • Greenwich Peninsula

    Greenwich Peninsula

    Inspired by the role that Central Park plays in New York, the Greenwich Peninsula parkland supports a wide range of recreational activities.