A new future for Royal Greenwich: town-centre revamp and 10,000 new riverside homes

Greenwich Hospital is a powerful freeholder in this World Heritage Site and has stunning plans for the town's future
View of Greenwich
© Commission Air
Greenwich has the "most dramatically sited" wealth of architectural gems in the country yet homes they are much cheaper than similarly smart London suburbs such as Richmond or Highgate

With its post-Olympics glow and recently conferred Royal Borough status, the gracious old naval town of Greenwich is sailing forward at full speed. Already a Unesco World Heritage Site — thanks to Maritime Greenwich having “the finest and most dramatically sited architectural and landscape assembly in the British Isles” — the historic centre is in for a major upgrade, starting with the medieval market square in the heart of the town and the prized Georgian buildings both residential and retail.

“We are polishing the silver,”says Hugh Player, director of Greenwich Hospital, the ancient Crown charity established in 1694, that is spearheading the changes.

It is unusual for one organisation to have complete ownership of a town centre — an entire conservation quarter with numerous listed buildings — and the charity is wielding its power as freeholder to cherry-pick independent retailers and give them the much-loved “Marylebone High Street” look, turning floors above shops into homes.

Greenwich Market
Once threatened with demolition, Greenwich Market is to be remodelled with a new portico, roof and cobblestones
“The Olympics opened people’s eyes to the splendours of Greenwich. There are more visitors and more people looking to live here than ever,” adds Player, recently of St Martin-in-the-Fields parish, where as chief executive he masterminded the renewal of the Trafalgar Square church.

Mayor Boris Johnson has designated Greenwich one of London’s main “opportunity areas” and is promoting mixed-use development either side of the town centre between Deptford and Greenwich Peninsula, site of the 02 venue, where up to 10,000 homes are earmarked. Planners have also given the green light to a cruise liner terminal and housing complex at Enderby’s Wharf.

Tycoons are also targeting Greenwich. Lady Rona Delves Broughton, 72, a colourful socialite and the first woman to become a Lloyd’s Name, has rescued a derelict art deco police section house, transformed it into a smart new Mercure hotel, and is embarking on residential projects.

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The four-star Mercure London Greenwich hotel in Catherine Grove has 145 rooms. Lady Rona Delves Broughton has now bought a terrace of derelict houses backing on to the hotel and secured permission for a new development of in-character townhouses, taking some of the land to increase the size of the hotel car park. “It has all been done on the most gigantic bank loan. The sad thing is that we couldn’t open in time for the Olympics.”

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