Andrew Gilligan

Andrew Gilligan: Eight days to save the market

July 22, 2010 by  

“You pig,” said the text message on my phone. “You are such a low life. You kill Dr Kelly again, you putzer.”

As you might guess from the somewhat obscure nature of the deadly insult (whatever is a “putzer?” Even the OED can’t tell me) it was another billet-doux from Greenwich’s Favourite Restaurateur, Frank Dowling, showing all the courtesy we have come to expect from his much-loved industrial catering empire.

Frank often reacts badly to criticism. Last year, after I pointed out that some of his most expensive outlets had failed their hygiene inspections, he rang me up to call me a “c***.” My report of this conversation is still the top item when anyone Googles you, Frank!

Let’s wait to see if anyone from Greenwich Hospital sends a rude text after this week’s column. I’ve been looking in detail at the changes submitted to the planning inspector as part of the Hospital’s appeal against the refusal of planning permission last year.

The Hospital – no doubt hoping to head off inconvenient calls for the whole application to be re-run – itself describes its changes as “minor alterations.” They are indeed relatively minor, and therefore change few of the objectionable features of the scheme which led to its unanimous rejection by councillors.

The most significant change is that the existing market roof will be kept, certainly an improvement on the Bluewater/ Stratford Bus Station combo we were promised before. However, the shops at the sides will still be demolished and a large new hotel, rising to four storeys, will still be built. The number of rooms in the hotel has been reduced fractionally (but is still “approximately 100”) and its roofscape profile has been slightly changed by removing louvres from part of the central block.

The overall effect of the changes is to reduce the built footprint of the hotel by just 2.6 per cent – from 5625 square metres to 5477 sq m. The overall built footprint of the scheme will fall by 4 per cent. This still represents a more than doubling of the footprint on the site, an increase in density which lay at the heart of the council’s reasons for rejecting the scheme.
As the council’s decision notice stated, the new build would have “an unbalanced and detrimental relationship with the established urban fabric of the area;” would be “visually obtrusive…to the detriment of the adjacent Grade II listed buildings;” would be “out of keeping with its historic surroundings;” would have “an adverse effect on the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage site in which it is located;” would cause “the overdevelopment of the site and…adversely affect the existing patterns of development;” would “lead to ‘town cramming’;” would “impact on the free flow of traffic;” and would “result in additional congestion and obstruction on the local highway to the detriment of pedestrian and highway safety.”

All these objections are related to the height and density of the hotel, which would poke visibly up above the existing buildings, and none has been significantly changed by the Hospital’s “minor alterations.”

The Hospital continues to make the ridiculous claim that its redevelopment will create only 18 extra person movements per hour, 16 of them by public transport, a proposition rejected by councillors. The proposed hotel alone will accommodate around 200 guests, with the vast majority (since they are carrying luggage) likely to arrive by car, taxi or coach. The hotel’s main entrance is in the middle of the one-way system and will almost certainly cause significant congestion.

Do not for one moment imagine that the retention of the roof should end objections to this scheme. The eviction of traders during the construction period (without enough space in the temporary market for many of them) will drive many out of business. The mix of shops and traders in any new market/ shopping centre is likely to change fundamentally, since higher rents will need to be charged to recoup the cost of the redevelopment. Whatever the Hospital says now, a redeveloped market has a Hays Galleria and Starbucks future.

The law says that the appeal ought to be decided on whether the council properly applied its planning policy, the Unitary Development Plan, and national planning policy guidance. It seems clear that it did. The council said the original market proposals contravened the UDP in ten places, and also breaches national planning policy guidance twice. The amended plans are still in breach of PPG and of at least nine policies of the UDP.

The public inquiry into the proposals will be held on 7 September. You have until 30 July to object to the Planning Inspectorate. The address is: Alan Ridley, Planning Inspectorate, Room 4/02, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN.


8 Responses to “Andrew Gilligan: Eight days to save the market”

  1. Just Weight on July 22nd, 2010 11:59 am

    I was reading a profile of Frank Dowling ( where it is claimed that he will be:

    “…building a 100-room hotel in Greenwich and tapping into the huge potential that the 2012 Olympics will bring to the area…”

    Has anyone any ideas where, in little old congested Greenwich, Frank might find a site for such a venture?

  2. Russell on July 22nd, 2010 3:34 pm

    Having re-read your entry about the conversation with Frank D – I realise that I don’t go into any of those establishments!!

    Give me Inside, Nevada Street deli, Rhodes, Richard 1st, the market food stalls any day…


  3. Otter on July 22nd, 2010 4:03 pm

    I think this was the Trafalgar Hotel proposal, behind the pub, where the little (disused?) hall now stands. Illustrations on the architect Eva Jiricna’s website Can’t quite believe there were 100 rooms in there. It has not gone for planning permission, so don’t know whether still a live possibility or not.

  4. the watchman on July 23rd, 2010 1:24 pm

    The same profile of Frank Dowling states that “I live, breathe and stalk Greenwich.” This seems rather at odds with his earlier declaration that he had nothing to do with the food court’s dismemberment. Even Edward Dolby of the Hospital Trust is on record as saying that complaints from other restaurants led them to shut down the food offering.

  5. Russell on July 23rd, 2010 1:50 pm

    Easy – let’s not go to any of those restaurants!!

  6. Peter on July 28th, 2010 4:14 am

    This is simply to say thank you for articulating the mass of real problems that beset Greenwich today. It is sad that there is no organisation capable of galvanising our views in the face of authorities and developers who wish to impose their flawed vision on our town.
    There are many individuals who hate what is happening but they feel marginalised and powerless and I fear that the full horror of what is going on at present will only be fully realised in twenty years time. For a stark warning of soulless heritage development I suggest a visit to Portsmouth.

  7. A strange brew in Greenwich’s Old Brewery « 853 on August 3rd, 2010 1:17 pm

    […] The reason I bring this up is that The Old Brewery is important. It’s not run by the awful Inc Group, it’s not run by a soulless chain, it feels like ours, owned by a firm that’s based in […]

  8. Celia Turner on August 27th, 2010 12:09 pm

    I attended the consultation meeting regarding the proposals and can report that the owners of Greenwich market seemed to have no idea of the actual nature of the market at all. The point of a market as opposed to the sterile shopping area that is proposed is that the market offers a vibrant, lively camarderie between traders and customers, some 7 million customers visit the market each year and a lot are repeat customers as they have built up good relations with traders and value their wares. As a stall holder I can vouch for the friendly, warm shopping experience that the market offers. At the consultation meeting, which was rather more of a bully boy attack on traders, I had the impression that the owners drew their experiences of market life from a computer programme which would obviously be devoid of real feeling for what they were dealing with, i.e Real people.
    The proposed hotel would be built above the shops surrounding the market.
    I suggest the owners of the market read the history books and educate themselves on the marvellous history of Greenwich and show some respect for our heritage.