In our two-part podcast, Bhavna Brooker takes the Woolwich ferry to visit a major heritage-led regeneration project. How does it balance community identity, housing viability and historic preservation?
Woolwich is being transformed through the heritage-led regeneration of the high street and the historic Royal Arsenal site.
The government is injecting over £17 million into Woolwich Town Centre as a Future High Street Fund project. A further £1.7 million of funding is being delivered through the High Street Heritage Action Zone Programme managed by Historic England and matched by an additional £2 million of council funding.
As a result, the Royal Borough of Greenwich has established a long-term investment partnership with Berkeley Homes. Together they are delivering housing, public realm and new cultural attractions to bring people to Woolwich.
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Why Woolwich has a heritage action zone
Woolwich is one of only five High Street Heritage Action Zone projects in London, in recognition of the huge significance of Woolwich and the Royal Arsenal to Britain’s social, military and cooperative history.
To find out more about this landmark regeneration project, Future of London alumni Bhavna Brooker visited Woolwich to record a two-part podcast. Bhavna explains why she wanted to find out more about the project:
“I first came across Woolwich on my way to Plumstead to visit family. I’ve always been fascinated by the area, and I wanted to know if it was working for the established community, as well as a new residents and visitors.
“How does a commercial developer ensure viability on such a challenging site and has this historic landmark been enhanced for future generations? In this podcast we try to answer those questions.”
Involving the community in heritage-led regeneration
Rob Timmer is the council’s Regeneration Delivery Manager for the Woolwich project and another Future of London alumni. In the first part of the podcast, Rob gives Bhavna and listeners a guided tour of the area. We meet community workers and people involved in the regeneration partnership who bring the story alive.
“What’s exciting for Woolwich is that this project is about the heritage and the buildings, but it’s also very much about the people and local community,” says Rob.
In the second part, Bhavna chairs a discussion about heritage-led regeneration with three key members of the partnership:
- Emma Sweeney, Head of Regeneration at the Royal Borough of Greenwich
- Morgan Roberts, Senior Development Manager of Berkeley Homes
- Richard Parish, Historic Places Advisor at Historic England
Emma Sweeney describes the role of the council as community champion:
“A primary role of the council is to protect the existing communities. An important part of that protection role is to understand the assets that are held dear by the community. It’s important to try to weave that historic element of Woolwich into whatever the new Woolwich might look like.”
Delivering new housing while keeping the historic character
Berkeley Homes came to Woolwich with plenty of experience of heritage-led regeneration, says Morgan Roberts.
“The way we approach listed buildings and heritage assets is that they need to become the focal point. When you walk around the Royal Arsenal site, the new buildings give space to the listed buildings.”
Richard Parish highlights how Historic England is committed to involving the community.
“Once you engage people, they become fascinated with the story of their place. Our aim is to champion the historic environment and we want to connect communities to that environment.”
Bhavna Brooker is Senior GLA Group Collaboration Manager and a Future of London Alumni Rep. Thanks to Rob Timmer for organising the walking tour and to Candice Stanton for recording and editing the podcast.
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