Love Lane, Woolwich (1)

Greenwich

Scheme for Woolwich, south-east London, including a large Tesco superstore, housing and a new council office. Designed by Collado Collins Architects / HLM Architects.

25 August 2006

Tagged with: Commercial | Design review panel | Housing | London

We also reviewed this scheme on 4 December 2006.

In summary, we support the aspirations, principles and mix of uses proposed for the site, and think that the urban design strategy has much improved. Our general comments are as below, but we would like to clearly state that we believe that the tall building on General Gordon Square should be the subject of a detailed application. 

We welcome the positive response that has been made to our previous comments; the aspirations for the project and the scale of change proposed are appropriate and encouraging. Woolwich is a place that is in dire need of renewal and the scale of the proposal will provide something of the quantum of development that will contribute to the regeneration of Woolwich town centre. The issue for CABE is whether the proposal is of sufficient quality to provide the lasting change that the town centre requires. 

Urban design

We have previously found the scheme wanting in terms of urban design and it is this that CABE has concentrated on, believing that if the developer and design team get the underlying principles of the arrangement of streets and spaces right then the rest will follow. We are pleased to see the provision of two connections north/south across the site where previously none had been envisaged. We think the enhanced permeability of the site that this provides will be of benefit to the adjacent communities who will now be able to access services and amenity within and beyond the proposal more easily. The decision by the local authority to proceed with further land purchase to release the entire site is particularly welcomed, and we think the strategy is already paying off in terms of the enhanced connectivity it has afforded to the masterplan. 

Our only residual concern on this point is that the connection to the south of the new superstore is compromised by the change in levels required to overcome the vehicular access underneath to the carpark and service yard. Whilst we recognise that this is an outcome of the increased north/south permeability across the site we would urge the design team and clients to continue with their efforts to see if there may be a means by which both level pedestrian access across the site and vehicular access to lower level services and parking can be accommodated.

We think that the proposals for the reintroduction of Love Lane in to the pattern of streets and lanes in the town centre is now far more convincing. The access to the new library and civic building reinforces its function and animates the new space created where Love Lane adjusts its course. It is important that the design team builds in distinctiveness to the scheme such that whilst it retains coherence as a whole in terms of urban design, but allows for variety and richness to be embedded, for example through a strategy of using a variety of architects to design the component parts.

We are particularly pleased to see that the public realm has been considered in more depth and detail, demonstrated by the stronger role of the landscape architect. Much of the quality of the proposal will depend on the quality of the public realm that knits it together and into the surroundings. We would urge the local planning authority to consider how to condition this aspect of the scheme and to ensure that there is clarity between the local authority and the client in terms of the responsibility for the maintenance and management of these spaces.

In terms of the way in which the proposal now meets its edges, we are pleased that the Grand Depot Road has been considered in more depth and that the proposal now provides greater animation to the existing streets around its edges. 

Civic building

We are of the view that the important aspect of this project is to get the urban design right to deliver the most benefit to the community in Woolwich. We therefore have not commented in depth on the new civic building except to note that the route through it should be considered as part of the public realm and therefore the uses to each side should ideally be uses that will animate and enliven this route. 

Tall building

Our remaining reservation concerns the tall building located at the north-eastern end of the scheme adjacent to General Gordon Square. We have previously noted that we think it reasonable in principle to locate a tall building here, and continue to believe this to be the case; we see no reason why tall buildings should be unacceptable in this location. However, it is imperative that any tower on this location should mark the aspirations of the project as one to regenerate Woolwich, as such this will become the key building in the town centre and should therefore be of the highest quality. We would regard access by the public as a necessary part of making this an important civic building.  We do not think that the tall building as currently envisaged would meet the test of the CABE/EH tall buildings guidance. CABE recommends that tall buildings are not consented through outline planning applications. Any conditions or reserved matters should focus on significance not quantum or height; the local planning authority cannot afford to consent a tall building on this site that is not of the highest quality. It would be better not to have a tall building on this site than one that does not represent the renewal of Woolwich.

Planning issues

Much of the quality of this scheme will rely on improving upon and delivering the particularities of this scheme that make it work; many aspects of the scheme could be problematic to the quality of the public realm and as a place to live if it is implemented in a slightly different way. We would urge the local planning authority to play close regard to important aspects of the scheme such as the public realm, the access to each housing block from the street, uses at street level, and permeability. The London Borough of Greenwich will need to interrogate with care the absolute minimum requirements necessary to make this development work as a place to live and as an animated, connected part of the town centre.  It will then be for the local planning authority to condition the outline so that these principles will be delivered. We would also expect the local planning authority to be carefully scrutinising the design in terns of sustainable development. Design on this scale can incorporate significant benefits in terms of energy consumption and waste management; CABE would expect a scheme of this nature to exceed the minimum standards and set a benchmark for the renewal of Woolwich.