BY CALUM FRASER
Residents say they’re livelihoods are at risk as a regeneration project could see more than 130 businesses closed down.
Business owners marched on Greenwich Town Hall to protest against proposals to demolish homes and businesses on Spray Street and Plumstead Road.
They said the proposed Spray Street Quarter (SSQ) site will destroy their community.
Bahareh Berendji, who co-owns the Woolwich Dental Practice with her parents, said: “I’m having sleepless nights, we’re endlessly arguing. They’re breaking down our family. When people ask where we see ourselves in two years time, I don’t know what to say.
“My mum has been rushed into hospital because of the stress. Every day we’re getting letters and new information. Nothing is guaranteed.”
The dental practice has been on Woolwich Road for more than 50 years and Ms Berendji’s mother, Dr Fariba Fekrazad, bought it from the previous owners.
They are an NHS service with more than 19,000 patients.
Ms Berendji said: “We are such a diverse society, i go to my local cafe, I go to my local newsagent and they are going to demolish them all and turn it into fancybox flats and cinemas.
“What kind of pressure is this going to put on health in the area? More people moving in and they are closing down health centres.
“I’m worried about our patients. I can’t just tell a patient in the middle of a root canal, ‘sorry our surgery is going to be closed because there is a redevelopment going on and we don’t know where we’re going’.”
The SSQ development is a joint venture by Notting Hill Homes and St Modwen called Spray Street Quarter Ltd (SSQ Ltd).
The proposal would see six blocks built of varying heights up to 21 storeys with 742 homes, a new five screen cinema, leisure facilities and a children’s nursery.
Ms Berendji said: “In the exhibition the developers were showing us before and after photos. Well, they just picked some grimy parts of Woolwich. There’s grimy parts of every borough. I could show you grimy parts of Kensington. It doesn’t mean the place is grimy.
“It feels like they don’t want to help us. If they really did then we would have been in the master plan. Instead they thought, ‘hmmm where shall we put the next Starbucks, where shall we put the next Costa.’
“We are the ones that serve the community. We are the ones that know the ins and outs of Woolwich. If you remove people like us, you are just breaking the society.
“It feels like we’re just a box for them to tick saying they tried to help the local people. If you did care we would have been in their blueprint and they’re masterplan.”
There are currently more than 17,000 people on the council’s housing waiting list.
Of the 742 homes 35 per cent of them will be affordable, with 14.5 per cent at social rents.
Ghulam Mustapha has run the Intercontinental Supermarket shop on Plumstead Road, known to people in the area as the GoGo shop, since 1965.
Mr Mustapha, 71, said: “If the council’s plans go ahead this business will be uprooted. It’s a community business and the whole community will be completely destroyed.
“I haven’t got any money to start anywhere else. I own another property up the road. But they’re going to knock that down as well. I have nowhere to go. I’m gutted.
“We will have nothing if we lose the shop. All my employees will end up on the scrap heap as well.”
SSQ’s Equality Impact Assessment states that the development will lead to the loss of 173 jobs in the area.
Mr Mustapha, who lives on Plumstead Road with his wife, said: “I remember working in Woolwich back in the 70s, early 80s and mid 90s. It was like a graveyard then. The businesses here were the only ones keeping it going.
“If they wanted to knock it down, why didn’t they do it then? Now it is flourishing, now it’s our time to get our reward because of the new train links, they’ve decided to knock us down.
“Crossrail is only going to be good for business, but not good for us because we are not going to be here. We need to be here, trading, for the community to thrive.”
The protest on Wednesday was led by the Speak Out Woolwich community group.
John Edwards, a spokesman for the group, said: “We need a more proactive approach from the council for the Woowich area that determines what is needed, instead of allowing developers to come in and pick pieces off bit by bit.
“The council needs to engage with residents to ensure that whatever is planned for the area is supported by the community and not just dumped on them.”
The consultation for the project is open and residents can submit their opinions to the council until March 9.
A Greenwich council spokesman said: “The Council has been working closely with the Spray Street developer to ensure that a full audit of all the businesses is completed in the next few weeks with Aecom, who have been appointed as Equalities Impact Advisers.
“The information will be used to compile a database of all businesses so that tailored support can be offered to help them to relocate and business support can be provided where required.”
A spokesman for SSQ Ltd said: “We are working closely with the council to support businesses that would be affected by the proposed redevelopment and are supporting the council in looking at potential options to relocate businesses in the borough before they are required to vacate in 2020.
“If approved, the regeneration will deliver new homes to Woolwich, alongside a new cinema, shops, restaurants, bars, cafés and new workspace for start-up businesses, generating hundreds of new jobs for local people.”