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Heritage group fights Panter Hudspith’s plans to demolish Woolwich market


Heritage campaigners have objected to a 700-home Panter Hudspith-led scheme that would involve demolition of an innovative 1930s market structure in south-east London

The Twentieth Century Society wants to protect the marketplace near Woolwich Arsenal train station, and believes its roof may be the UK’s earliest surviving example of a ‘lamella system’.

It would be demolished under plans drawn up by Panter Hudspith and Glenn Howells Architects for developer Spray Street Quarter.

The proposals, for a joint venture by developer St Modwen and housing association Notting Hill Housing, include 742 homes, 6,000m2 of retail space, a cinema, a nursery, offices, a public square and new public realm.

The scheme would replace buildings including the public market erected in 1936 to cover open trading stalls. The Twentieth Century Society said it had been empty for some time but had recently been repurposed as a popular night-time venue, Street Feast.

The body said the latest application included several potential options for reusing parts of the roof structure as sculptures.

But Twentieth Century Society senior conservation adviser Tess Pinto said: ‘Reusing bits of the structure seems like a token gesture – and doesn’t conserve a key part of what is important about the market roof, which is its use as a big, uninterrupted space for people to gather in.

‘Our primary concern is the loss of the historic marketplace and the rare form of construction it exemplifies. This scheme proposes to sweep away an entire city block of buildings, which have grown up organically over the last 150 years in a part of London that has already been transformed almost beyond recognition in the last few years.’

The society has submitted the market building for listing. Decisions on both this and the planning application have yet been made.

Glenn Howells said its phase of the development did not involve the market area.

A spokesperson for Spray Street Quarter said: ’We understand that an application has been made to Historic England to consider adding the Plumstead Road Covered Market building to its List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.

’The building is not listed on the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s ‘local list’ of Buildings of Local Architectural or Historic Interest. Historic England is now beginning its assessment of whether the building should be added to its list.’

They added: ’Spray Street Quarter will continue to work with all stakeholders, including the council, Historic England and the Woolwich community to deliver new homes, including much needed affordable housing, as well as cultural and leisure facilities within a well-designed development that will provide wide-ranging benefits to local people.’


Readers' comments (3)

  • Let's make sure it is as difficult as possible to building 700 homes in London -- no wonder we have a housing problem.

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  • If the only important feature of the market building is the lamella roof, it would surely be possible to dismantle this and re-erect it elsewhere - for example, to cover a sports hall or music venue.
    Demolition usually means destruction (even to modern buildings full of elements seemingly crying out to be recycled) and sustainability is ignored in the pursuit of the fastest way to clear the site.
    So this roof, which clearly is worth saving in toto, surely doesn't have to get in the way of the very real need to provide (affordable?) homes, does it?.

    Unfortunately - according to the Spray Street Quarter website - only 35% of the new homes will be affordable, so I wonder how many of the others will land up as offshore purchases intended as commodities offering a safe investment haven with a rapid appreciation in value? rather than homes?

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  • What's interesting about London is the mix of architecture, the streets that show the pattern of time and spaces that foster varying businesses and uses. The site for this development is so large you could fit the 700 homes on the huge amount of currently empty parts of the plot. It seems a huge shame sweeping away a whole block which has interesting, historic and varied buildings to fill with nice but repetitive blocks all in similar styles. Variation and sense of human presence is lost.

    London developers and councils seem to develop away what makes cities interesting. It would be much more refreshing and relevant to see some of these big schemes seeing how they can work with elements on existing sites.

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