Woolwich community faces eviction after 60 years to make way for multi-million pound development

Plumstead Road as it is, and as it may one day look. Credit: ITV News London/Woolwich Exchange

A community in Woolwich is facing eviction by developers and the council to make way for a multi-million pound regeneration scheme.

About 27 small businesses, the majority run by residents from ethnic minority backgrounds, face compulsory purchase by the Royal Borough of Greenwich to make way for a major town centre development that is set to bring 801 new homes and a Picturehouse cinema to Woolwich.

Some of the businesses earmarked for demolition say the money they have been offered for moving is below market rate.

Councillors agreed plans for the Woolwich Exchange last year which would enable the town hall to compulsorily purchase properties between Plumstead Road and Spray Street for the new development.

The listed Woolwich Public Market will be revamped as part of the project, which is due to be finished by 2029.

Businesses on Plumstead Road in Woolwich face demolition under new regeneration plans. Credit: ITV News London
The repurposed former covered market on Plumstead Road. Credit: Woolwich Exchange

The businesses say their ethnically diverse high street has brought colour and culture to the area. The promise of the Elizabeth line was to bring more customers for businesses - but now the redevelopment of the area could be the end of these family-run shops.

Cyril Emuh, business owner and campaigner, told ITV News: "They are a lot of ethnic businesses in this area and they feel that they've not been engaged properly, they've not been consulted properly."

Ghulan Mustafa, who has run the Intercontinental supermarket on Plumstead Road since 1965, told a council meeting: “Woolwich was like a graveyard when we first moved in, you could hardly see anything. We small shops built this town.

“When all the big supermarkets and brand names were gone, small individual shops were still there. Bringing in the customers, bringing together the community. You break us up, you will lose this.”

Greenwich Council said the development has the backing of the community and that they have been in conversation with owners and tenants of the buildings on the site for several years.

The authority said it continues to discuss circumstances and relocation on a "one-to-one basis".

Traders in Woolwich protest the CPO. Credit: ITV News London

Greenwich Council said: “The Royal Borough of Greenwich is using the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) process to facilitate the acquisition of land in order to bring forward the Woolwich Exchange development. This is necessary to enable the comprehensive regeneration of the site, which gained planning consent in 2021.

“Owners and tenants of buildings on the site have been made aware of the regeneration plans for several years and we are continuing to discuss individual circumstances on a one-to-one basis, including suitable opportunities for relocation.  

“During public consultation on the plans, Woolwich Exchange was strongly supported by the local community. The regeneration will deliver a significant boost for Woolwich, including a new five-screen cinema within the former covered market building, a new public square, and a range of cultural, retail and leisure facilities in the town centre – as well as over 800 new homes of which 158 will be affordable. This will create new jobs in the area and support the local economy.    

“The CPO Inquiry has now concluded, and the Planning Inspector is expected to reach a decision in May 2023. We will provide a further update on next steps once a decision has been made, including through direct correspondence with affected parties.”   

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