Thanks to an early tip off about the £300,000 which has been allocated to
improving Wilton Road, Abbey Wood, I was able to inform traders of
their good fortune before any official word came through. Bexley councillor
Danny Hackett wasn’t slow to call on them and Teresa Pearce was there within 24
hours offering help organising a traders’ association etc. Greenwich council invited the traders to a
meeting and Bexley council has so far done the square root of sod all.
Since the news broke the traders have been discussing among themselves what their priorities are and kindly kept me informed of their latest thoughts. Last night they met two Greenwich council officers, one from ‘Traffic’ and one from ‘Regeneration’, who were accompanied by the leader of Greenwich council Denise Hyland. She happens to be the Abbey Wood ward councillor. Danny Hackett (Labour councillor, Lesnes Abbey) was there too but with the Greenwich side of Wilton Road being occupied mainly by ‘chains’, it was the independent traders from the Bexley side who dominated. Their principal concern was customer parking.
By the time the road reverts to two way working to accommodate Crossrail requirements 22 parking spaces will have been lost from Wilton Road, Florence Road, Gayton Road and Knee Hill and 16 vehicles are required to service traders’ own businesses.
Possible solutions ranged from diagonal parking on the Greenwich side to a 15-20 minute maximum waiting time. Most customer requirements could be met in that time. Councillor Hyland suggested that Business Parking Bays might be a solution but she was reminded that Bexley council had not long taken theirs away.
Councillor Denise Hyland went on to say that the £6m. to be spent on integrating the new station into its surroundings would be within a tightly controlled area and much of the money would go on alterations to the Harrow Manorway flyover. She was keen to blur the demarcation line between the new and the old, hence the £300k. for Wilton Road. Councillor Hyland mentioned extending Greenwich’s CCTV system to Wilton Road, but not from the new regeneration budget.
The council officers said they were open to reverting the road to its original village style or they could attempt a more modern approach. They would bring in expert help to advise but it would all need to be done quite quickly. The money would likely be spent within the next twelve months, 16 at most.
The money is sufficient to improve about 15 independent shops both internally and externally but little would be available for road works. Northumberland Heath has demonstrated only too well that if you dig up even a tiny section of road £100,000 disappears with almost nothing to show for it.
The road would be ‘decluttered’ to provide a more open look but there was a general feeling that the southern entrance to the road should be provided with an eye catching feature. A proscenium style arch or a statue were mentioned, but “please not a fish like Erith” was one comment.
The Greenwich council officers assured the traders that the main pedestrian access to the new Abbey Wood station would continue to be Wilton and Felixstowe Roads. Buses would continue to serve Gayton Road and there would be no car or significant pedestrian access to the high level entrance on Harrow Manorway. That would be bus only access because of the limited space available. Post 2017, when the new station is opened, passing trade should be unaffected but the intervening almost three years is critical to business survival. Parking relief is vital and it is nearly six months since Bexley council promised to look at the situation but didn’t. Maybe Greenwich council will deliver where once again Bexley has failed.
The traders are in the process of forming a formal association to negotiate with official bodies. If Wilton Road shoppers wish to influence the outcome their best bet is to make friends with the independent traders - and maybe spend some money there while they are about it.
On a related note, news of The Abbey Arms is confused and the traders seem little better informed than anyone else. They have heard that the pub will reopen under new management almost immediately which suggests it may not have been sold and the prospect of a Wetherspoons must be receding.
Teresa Pearce was unable to attend the traders’ meeting due to Parliamentary commitments.