Area guide: Woolwich – why it's tomorrow's town

 
Melissa York
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The Royal Arsenal Hotel in Woolwich

It’s an unfortunate consequence of over-enthusiastic estate agents that an area described as “up-and-coming” is often, well, getting there but taking its sweet time about it. Woolwich was one such place for a long time, but 2016 is the year SE18 arrives on the property scene.

“Woolwich has been touted as up-and-coming for the last decade, however, that status hasn’t been fully achieved until very recently,” says Christopher Venter, sales manager at Foxtons’ nearby Greenwich office. “In the last three to five years, the area has benefitted from substantial regeneration, including the revitalised General Gordon and Beresford Squares, an impressive Tesco development on Love Lane in central Woolwich – including nearly 1,000 apartments, considered to be the largest urban supermarket in inner London – and the Civic Centre in Wellington Street.”


Farmers' market at Royal Arsenal Woolwich

If the thought of living next door to an enormous Tesco doesn’t get your property juices flowing, then there’s a host of cultural newcomers that might. Foodies will find plenty to satisfy their senses at the regular farmers’ market which is attracting up to 2,000 visitors a month. Local residents Emma Wheatley and James Yeomans are behind it, and they’ve also brought microbrewery Hop Stuff and sourdough pizzeria The Tap Room to the area, too. Bigger brewer Young’s has opened the Dial Arch pub in an old munitions factory, while Geronimo Inns has opened a gastropub called The Guard House in another industrial gem round the corner. There’s also a Cultural Quarter in the pipeline, co-curated by Tower Hamlets-based performing arts company Dash Arts.

But what has kick-started this rejuvenation? Most people think there are two main factors; the arrival of the Elizabeth Line in 2018 and Berkeley Homes’ Royal Arsenal Riverside development.

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The £1.2bn scheme is set on an 88-acre brownfield site with almost 1km of riverside frontage. In addition to retail, parks and 5,000 new homes, it will see the renovation of 20 Listed buildings from Woolwich’s rich military history and aim to make the area a tourist destination comparable with that of nearby Greenwich.

It’s set to be finished in 2018, just in time for the arrival of the first trains on the Elizabeth Line. Once that’s in place, Woolwich will be one of only two stations south of the river linking to Canary Wharf in eight minutes and Bond Street in 22 minutes. With the DLR at Woolwich Arsenal, it also has great links to the City via Bank.

Research by Hamptons International says these new homes are set to be the most expensive in the area along with those nearest the Thames, and buyers looking for a bargain would do best to look at older Edwardian family houses, which are experiencing a surge in popularity at the moment.


The Hop Stuff brewery in Woolwich

“Average prices in Woolwich have outperformed the London average as more Londoners look east to seek more affordable homes within a short commute of the city,” says Johnny Morris, head of research at Hamptons International. “With an average house costing £325,000, the area is seen as a more affordable alternative to other nearby areas such as Greenwich.”

Woolwich also appeared in Knight Frank’s 2015 London Development hotspots report, which predicted prices rising from £650psqft to £950psft by 2018. James Barton, partner at its City and East division, says, “Woolwich is fast becoming an established central London alternative for first time buyers, owner occupiers and investors alike.”

Area highlights

­­­­Woolwich has a rich military history and much of this can be discovered at the Firepower Royal Artillery Museum, which is also being given a spruce up as part of 30-year regeneration plans. More educational fun can be had over at the Thames Barrier Info and Learning Centre, where you can learn about one of the largest movable flood defences in the world. If all that learning makes you thirsty, just head to new pubs Dial Arch and The Guard House for some light refreshment , a craft beer at Hop Stuff and maybe a sourdough pizza at The Tap Room or a cake at the independently-owned Cornerstone Cafe. And no trip to Woolwich would be complete without a trip on the historic Woolwich Ferry. It’s one of London’s free gems. It carries around two million passengers a year, whether in cars or simply perching on the deck to appreciate a rare chance to travel across the river by boat.