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London's Royal Arsenal To Become International Exemplar

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM.- What do you do with an old arsenal or a historic prison? English Heritage has the answer and, for the first time, it is spearheading not just a national but a European drive to bring new life back to such large and complex historic sites. On Friday 3 December 2004 English Heritage launched SHARP (Sustainable Historic Arsenal Regeneration Partnership) to roll out an international regeneration model of best practice, based on the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich.

The Royal Arsenal was once the world’s largest and most technologically advanced manufacturer of guns and artillery, and played a vital role in the expansion of the British Empire. At its peak, in the First World War, the Arsenal employed 80,000 workers in its armament factory and occupied 1200 acres. The Royal Arsenal is also the birthplace of the famous London football club. However, after the Second World War, the site fell into a rapid decline and was closed down by the Ministry of Defence in 1964.

Fortunately, the Royal Arsenal was saved from ruin in 2000 when public and private sector stakeholders, including English Heritage, the London Development Agency, Berkeley Homes and Greenwich Borough Council, joined forces to secure a sustainable future for the site. The Royal Arsenal is now nearly half-way through a 20 year regeneration programme and a large part of the 76-acre area has already been transformed into a vibrant community. The mixed-use development is achieving an important balance by integrating 21 listed buildings and two new museums with residential, commercial and leisure space. It has also restored access to the River Thames for the people of Woolwich and the general public.

The pioneering development of the Royal Arsenal will underpin the SHARP project which is launched today with a conference at Firepower – the new Royal Artillery museum. The three EU countries involved in SHARP are at different stages of regenerating sites similar to the Royal Arsenal. Using this as a template, over the next two years they will develop and refine their approaches to the conservation of some of Europe ’s finest arsenal and military heritage sites.

The Battery in Tallin, Estonia , is an historic fortress built in 1831 at the request of the Emperor of Russia. Until recently, it was a prison but now the Estonian National Heritage Board is working to develop the Battery as the new home of the country’s Academy of Arts .
The Real Caranero Arsenal in Spain is situated in the Bahia de Cadiz and is a place of great historical interest. The University of Cadiz will be exploring ways to develop the Arsenal as a cultural study centre and tourist attraction.

The Cottonera, Malta , was the site of the Arsenal that serviced the galleys of the island’s Order of Knights and later the Royal Navy’s principal Mediterranean base. The aim of the Malta Heritage Trust is to rehabilitate the Cottonera, which is within an economically depressed area, and open it to the public.

The UK , with English Heritage as lead partner, will use the Royal Arsenal project to promote sustainable regeneration in an historic context. The aim is to develop the partnership between stakeholders in the Royal Arsenal and the local community.

Philip Davies, Planning & Development Director for
Southern England at English Heritage said: “The regeneration of this nationally important historic industrial site into a vibrant and sustainable community is based on an integrated approach by public and private interests. We hope to use it as a model of best practice for the regeneration of similar military and industrial heritage sites throughout the European community. What is happening at Woolwich could shape the world!”

The Rt Hon Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, said: “There are many examples around Europe of the successful regeneration of neglected and derelict areas. However, the transformation of the Woolwich Arsenal is quite rightly being held up as a pioneering example of how to approach a major regeneration project and the SHARP initiative, led by English Heritage, will help us to raise its profile across Europe . Partnership is the key to a successful project and here in Woolwich everyone has pulled together - the local council, the LDA, English Heritage, Berkeley Homes and others - to put the Arsenal development at the forefront of European regeneration. I cannot emphasise enough just what a difference this development is making to Woolwich and the wider area.”

LDA Executive Director of Regeneration and Development Tony Winterbottom said: “The Royal Arsenal has been transformed. From a derelict site, it is fast becoming an exemplar for development in the Thames Gateway, and I am delighted that the lessons we have learned here will now be used overseas. We have formed a very strong partnership with the private sector, and the result will be new homes, workspace, jobs, services and a vibrant new centre for Woolwich."

John Anderson, Development Director, Berkeley Homes (East Thames) Limited said: “The Royal Arsenal regeneration project is providing a new thriving mixed use community for what was a very poor and run down part of London. It really is an excellent example of what can be achieved when partners work together towards a common goal.”

Greenwich Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Deputy Leader Cllr Peter Brooks, said: “The Royal Arsenal is an integral part of the history of Woolwich, and since 1993 it has become one of the biggest regeneration proposals in the country. It is our aim – and the aim of our partners – to make the Arsenal a thriving, diverse area of Greenwich . Over 76 acres, including 21 listed buildings, are being transformed into a mixture of residential and commercial buildings designed to benefit residents and visitors alike. The design has already attracted praise from the Mayor of London, and once complete it will be a startling riverside development doubling as a welcoming entrance to the City of London.”

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