Whilst a very great deal has changed in over 20 years since this article was first written, it has to be said that developments have been extremely slow, and some Phases that were planned in the year 2000 for completion in just a few years have still to be constructed. In addition to the apartments in the Village itself, there have been extensive developments closer to the Dome including a campus for Ravensbourne University, the InterContinental Hotel, an office building for TfL and a golf driving range! There has also been the construction of the Emirates cable car link across the river to Silvertown, the commencement of works on the new Silvertown Tunnel road link and the demolition of the remaining South Metropolitan gas holder. A further loss has been the, albeit temporary, David Beckham Football Academy constructed in 2005. Closed by Beckham in 2009, after a further 5 years under different management, the building was dismantled and moved to Southend as a facility for SUFC.
Progress report from 2001 and background to the Village development
Properties in Phase 1A were due for completion in September 2001.
Phase 1B is currently being built in the area behind this site.
The Ecology Park was formally opened on February 20th 2002.
Visits can be made at any time from 10am – 5pm Wednesday – Sunday inclusive.
It had been hoped that the first houses would be ready for occupation by late summer 2000, with the whole scheme being complete by 2002, but delays meant that, in fact, a small number of Phase II houses, the new Millennium School and Health Centre were completed in advance of Phase IB and that only Phases I and II will be completed in this time frame. Phases III and IV will probably not begin until 2003.
Work on new premises for the Greenwich Yacht Club, the Millennium Village Visitor Centre and the Ecology Park Warden’s Hut were completed early in 2000.
Delays were caused partly by Government holding back on final approval for the scheme, as well as by the fact that in early July 1999 one of the key partners in the first phase of this scheme walked out at a time when Ralph Erskine was away on holiday! There were apparently major disputes at that time over changes to the original plans for the scheme relating to the provision of ‘community’ buildings and the tenure mix.
Background to the Village Development
Work began in early December 1999 on Phase 1A of the Village. A visit to the site on July 3rd 1999 revealed that road infrastructure and much of the basic planting of roadsides and the Central Park area had been completed, but there was no sign of any building work whatever except at the site of the Greenwich Yacht Club, located at the extreme S.E. tip of the site on the river bank at the old Peartree Wharf. A new slipway had also been constructed at this point.
The Millennium Eco-Village, at the southern end of the Greenwich Peninsula, was the subject of a design competition initiated by English Partnerships, the owners of the previously British Gas-owned site. It is located opposite the Bardons/St. Albans Sand and Gravel complex, and the roundabout at the Bugsby’s Way-end of Horn Lane, which has undergone a major replacement/widening scheme.
The Village is just part of the overall redevelopment taking place on this enormous 300 acre expanse. To give a feeling for its total north-south length, a comparison has often been made in the Press with the distance from the Embankment near Charing Cross through to the Euston Road.
The residential development in the Millennium Village occupies around 32 acres of land. The architect of the winning scheme, Ralph Erskine, will work with Countryside Properties and Taylor Woodrow on a development that originally comprised some 1377 mixed-tenure houses, including 172 for rent, 54 for shared ownership and 40 available to local people on a flexible tenure basis. Highest quality urban design and innovation will be the hallmarks of the entire project, with all homes being linked with IT
terminals to a system providing information on transport, health and community services. There will also be computer-controlled security, heating, lighting, entertainment, metering and communications systems in each dwelling. All dwellings will be set amongst a new continuous Ecology Park which originally consisted of a canals and lakes feeding out to a ‘beach’ area on the eastern edge of the site. The links through to the River Thames and linking canals have now been scratched from the plan. There will be ready access for all sustainable transport; pedestrian, cycle and public transport, with only limited road and parking provision.
4500 square metres of speciality retail outlets, cultural workshops, restaurants, commercial offices, a school, health clinic, a visitors centre and a community tele-services centre will combine to make the Village a showcase for British urban regeneration.
Infrastructure work began in the autumn of 1998 with the first homes originally planned to become available in late 1999, with the entire development programme continuing until 2004.
An unfortunate side affect of the preliminary works for the scheme, which at night before the clocks went forward in March 1998, seemed to involve hundreds of scurrying diggers, graders, scrapers, bulldozers and JCBs, all with wildly flashing orange warning beacons, has been the almost total stripping of any kind of surface vegetation. This had been a veritable wildlife haven in recent years providing cover for numerous birds including finches and tits as well as the larger kestrels, herons and owls, as well as many foxes that were helping to keep down the population of rats in the area. However, this should be just a temporary ‘glitch’ with the overall development calling for a major artificial watercourse emerging into a large pond and wetland area before naturally exiting the site direct to the river through a saltmarsh ‘estuary’ and reconstructed river terrace. At the time of original writing, almost all that could be seen of this was a scoured outline of the waterway with numerous survey posts and markers. By November 1998, major parts of the utility network and the feeder roads to what is, after all, a totally brown-field site, were well advanced.
An ‘environmentally friendly’ Sainsburys store was opened in early September 1999 at the S.W. corner of the Peninsula site nearest to the A102 flyover. Now the proud winner of multiple awards, the use of refrigeration coolant within an underfloor heating system, extensive use of earth banking to retain/conserve heat at relevant times of the year, together with a pond for water recycling and an Internet ordering and home delivery service using battery-powered vehicles have all been included in the development. This latter idea was the subject of a letter from the Westcombe Society’s Environment Committee Chair to English Partnerships in 1998, so it is nice to think local residents might have had some impact on the scheme.
Associated, and extensive, ‘non-food retail’ premises for Comet, Jewsons and Homebase were originally located to the north of the Sainsbury’s store. All these were complete and open for business by the end of November 1999. Unfortunately, owing to Sainsbury’s sale of their Homebase division, this store closed in February 2001 after just over a year. The premises were then purchased by B&Q for yet another of their huge DIY superstores.
Update: Twenty years later, the Sainsbury’s building, despite it’s iconic design, was demolished and replaced by a large IKEA store.
A new Holiday Inn Express has been completed near the Ellis & Everhard Chemical Works at the upgraded Bugsby’s Way/Blackwall Lane roundabout roughly on the site of the old ILEA coach depot. The first guests were due on December 13th 1999, although it appeared very quiet on December 19th. On the same roundabout, despite only being planted up in the summer, planning permission was given in late November for a ‘high quality, winged, stainless steel advertisement structure’. The structure, and renewed planting, was nearing completion on December 19th 1999. Following the closure of the Dome on 31/12/00, this was rapidly removed and the roundabout replanted yet again.
A planning application was made in October 1998 for an ‘innovative’ circular, 20-screen multiplex cinema, including an IMAX. The application was subsequently rejected by Greenwich Council, since it flew full in the face of a new Council ruling that aims to locate multi-screen cinemas in local town centres such as Eltham, Greenwich, Thamesmead or Woolwich. However, an appeal against this decision resulted in a revised application being eventually passed with a restriction on floor area resulting in a reduction to just 14-screens and no IMAX. Work finally began on this in spring 2000, and it opened on April 7th 2001.
It is hard to believe that more imaginative uses that might have included something like a full-blown indoor, Center-Parc-style leisure complex including an ice-skating or roller-skating/blading rink were not considered for this important site.
Last updated, February 21, 2022
Web’d by David Riddle