Woolwich: Crossrail boost brings hundreds of new homes and fast rail links

Get to Canary Wharf, the West End and Heathrow in record time from this south-east corner of London by 2018
Some places remain “up and coming” for years — in Woolwich’s case for about a decade. But Crossrail promises to be a game changer.

When the Woolwich Crossrail station opens in 2018, about a dozen trains an hour will link this corner of south-east London with the jobs of Canary Wharf and the fun of the West End, while providing speedy travel to Heathrow. The area already has a DLR link and there are good overland train connections to London Bridge.

Woolwich affordable homes
How the Woolwich Crossrail station and towers of Royal Arsenal Riverside, with nearly 600 new flats, will look

Last week, Berkeley Homes received planning consent for 592 apartments in tower blocks above the Crossrail station. The scheme is part of its Royal Arsenal riverside estate, formerly the munitions factory, where another 3,700 homes are to be built over the next 10 years.

Enclosed by a high perimeter wall, Royal Arsenal was closed off to the general public for generations. One of the local authority’s planning aims has been to reconnect the riverside with Woolwich town centre, achieved via new pedestrian routes and a public square.

Woolwich affordable homes
From £333,000: 189 new flats at Woolwich Central, an impressive scheme of open-plan homes, many with balconies, close to Woolwich Arsenal station. Call 020 855 7290
Revitalising the town centre is another goal, an ambition given extra impetus since the killing of soldier Lee Rigby. Supermarket chain Tesco has unveiled Woolwich Central, the first of several “flats-over-the-shop” developments coming to the capital. What could easily have been a cumbersome architectural eyesore is in fact an uplifting assembly of nine buildings which are linked by open courtyards, landscaped walkways and sky gardens.

Modern, modular apartment blocks are clad in a grid pattern of black-and-grey panels and have glass-walled winter gardens for year-round living and views of the Thames.

View houses and flats for sale in Woolwich
The Warehouse — prices from £425,000 for a three-bedroom flat — and Foundry House, a restored listed building that once formed the entrance to the main Shell Foundry, where two-bedroom apartments cost £475,000. Call 020 8331 7130.

Away from the river-hugging town centre and industrial estates, Woolwich has a common, leafy tree-lined avenues and conservation areas. Royal Artillery Barracks is a prominent landmark on the northern edge of the common, while the splendid Royal Military Academy, once a training school for officers, nestles in the slopes of Shooters Hill.

Designed in a grand baronial style, the heritage buildings include a central tower with domed turrets, a chapel and lodges. The 21-acre site has been redeveloped into an estate of 328 homes and is now called The Academy. Prices from £220,000. Call Durkan Estates on 020 3689 7823.

The vision for the area is to close the economic and physical gap between Woolwich and its more affluent neighbour Greenwich, and to promote cross-river connections.

London Mayor Boris Johnson is a supporter of a new road tunnel between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks and there is to be a new ferry service between Beckton and Thamesmead.

Thamesmead was built in the Sixties on marshland that was previously part of old Woolwich Arsenal, but the well-meant, brutalist concrete council housing fell into disrepute.

A fresh vision seeks to address past mistakes. Gallions Housing Association, which took over responsibility for the estate in 2000, is bulldozing old blocks and building a range of new homes for rent, shared ownership and private sale.

Southmere Village, named after one of the original Thamesmead lakes, will bring four new buildings with 296 homes plus a library, shops and community square. The new design by architect PRP aims to reintegrate neglected Southmere Lake, now a protected wildlife habitat, with the estate via new public paths and a boardwalk. To register call 0300 1231141.

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