Thamesmead regeneration wheels set in motion
Plans by Bexley Council to build 1,500 new homes in Thamesmead is approved. It’s one of the largest schemes to get the green light in London this year. Building starts next year and is expected to be complete by 2024.
New properties range from one and two bedroom apartments, and four bedroom houses. Peabody housing association will be investing a billion pounds for the regeneration. Almost half will come from the Greater London Authority. The body they replaced in 2000, Greater London Council, built the town in the first place.
Thamesmead was erected to rehouse people from inner city overcrowded Victorian houses and estates. Built on marshland previously used by the Royal Arsenal for ammunition manufacturing and storage. Greater London Authority first mooted the idea of the town in the early 1960s.
Straddling the River Thames on its eastern path past the docklands, its name was decided from a newspaper poll. In 1968, the first phase of housing was completed and the first family were moved in, previously living in Peckham. Thereafter, further housing was built around the original development.
The ’21st-century town’ had issues from the get-go, poor infrastructure being the most critical. A large supermarket and shopping units now serve Thamesmead, with road access to the nearest train station Abbey Wood. There were once talks of extending the Jubilee tube line to the town before shuttling workers to Canary Wharf proved more necessary.
Now reality is catching up with the vision. Crossrail will bring a faster link to the city and a new sense of excitement for the area, the Elizabeth Line terminating at Abbey Wood. While London Mayor Sadiq Khan has backed several new river connections in East London, including a bridge to Thamesmead.
Some of the new builds will sit across from Southmere Lake, where brutalist high-rises tower above a manmade lake. Its grey and gritty look have been a backdrop in films and television shows. Southmere Lake featured in Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange, and more recently used as the main location for Channel 4 series Misfits.
Social problems and crime frequent Thamesmead and residents have seen a decline in the area. Walkways across the blocks were supposed to promote the community feel of the area, but soon these levelled paths were avoided after dark. Southmere Lake was originally advertised to boost water features and swimming facilities. Now green sludge blankets the water, and rubbish pokes out. Once the lake was dredged and 21 vehicles were found living beneath.
Hopefully, time will not repeat itself and Thamesmead will finally get its moment half a century from conception. Above monetary investment into snazzy new homes, commitment and listening to the local people is vital to successful regeneration. Most crucially, what Thamesmead really needs to flourish is no more disappointments.