Wednesday, November 16, 2005

'Heart of East Greenwich' Proposals

English Partnerships have recently engaged with local residents' groups, schools and individual residents in a series of public presentations, exhibitions and workshops. An initial presentation by E.P. and Rick Mather Architects outlined their initial proposals for the site - which is huge! As an illustration of this, one of the most memorable slides displayed was an overlay of the entire Old Royal Naval College, which can sit quite comfortably within the site boundary of the old hospital.

The overall proposals also envisage the relocation and re-development of the Council-operated facilities located at The Arches Leisure Centre, East Greenwich Library and the old Robert Owen Nursery School site and adjacent buildings, although the detailed future of these sites was not included as part of this brief.

The first session on November 7th also asked attendees to grade their reaction to the plans under each of a number of headings from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. Additional comments could be made by means of 'Post-It' notes.

On November 9th, a full day workshop session discussed six important topics with the Design Team - Public Service Provision, Quality Townscape, Making Connections, Public Realm, Environmental Issues and Prioritising Pedestrians.

An additional session on 11th saw the School Council of St Joseph's Primary School invited to contribute their views. This enjoyable and illuminating session produced some graphic illustrations, particularly for the Leisure Centre, public spaces and an apparently essential jewellery shop!

The final session was held on the 14th. Revised proposals from the Design Team based on all the feedback received envisage the following main features to be contained within the Development Framework to be presented to potential developers;

Woolwich Road traffic
A study is currently underway to review the potential for improving the junction of Vanbrugh Hill, Tunnel Avenue and the Woolwich Road. This will address the current congestion, improve pedestrian and cyclist movements and increase bus access.

Woolwich Road Frontage
The aims here are to provide a strong visual presence with the part of the building on the Woolwich Road junction while at the same time providing a sense of activity and awareness of the Urban Square. It is hoped to achieve this with an exemplary design that is no higher than the 6-7 storey 'Plaza' flats on the opposite corner of Vanbrugh Hill.

The design should include transparent elevations both to Woolwich Road and to the new Urban Square to the rear to allow visual connections whilst the proposed public facilities such as the Leisure Centre, Library and cafes can open on to both sides to allow access. Council office facilities at first floor level will have the facility to extend along the entire length of the building un-interrupted if desired. All this area will be serviced by an underground parking area occupying much the same position as the old hospital car park.

Vanbrugh Hill
The new Health Centre and apartments along Vanbrugh Hill boundary should be designed to respond in height and massing to the existing 'Plaza' building and housing opposite. The new apartments will reduce in height from 6-7 storeys (equivalent to the 'Plaza') at the northern end, down to 3 storeys at the southern end adjacent to Calvert Road. The apartments will also be set back from the road at the higher levels to reduce their visual impact. A combination of terraced houses and maisonettes are proposed with a potential to improve the overall street scene. Overshadowing of the existing flats should be avoided through careful solar modelling.

Public Square
With a sunny southern aspect, it is hoped to encourage a lively mix of uses here and to provide cycle parking with only limited vehicular access. Both passive and active supervision of the area is proposed in order to deter anti-social behaviour. Controls might also include the provision of a small police office. Public access to landscaped 'green roofs' from this area was also proposed.

Communal Residential Square
The main residential area on the site will be located to the south of the public square in the centre of the site. This would surround a largely private square. Potential managed community uses were proposed here included gardens, a creche, and a tennis court. Lying outside this, on the eastern and southern borders of the site, would be 2-3 storey terrace-style dwellings with individual gardens backing on to the gardens of the current Victorian houses in Calvert Road. 'Boulevard'-style roads with strategic calming measures including a central row of trees and controlled parking are proposed for the frontages of these properties.

What Next?
The Development Brief will be prepared with advice from Rick Mather Architects, Nicholas Pearson Associates (ecology specialists) and Mouchel Parkman (transport experts). The Brief will be offered to developers in early 2006 and once a short list has been drawn up, there will be further consultation events with the developers and the local community.

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