Bus stops are being extended, to cope with the Coronavirus

This is Forthbridge Road bus stop, on Clapham Common Northside. It’s one of the first to be extended, to provide more waiting space – and to allow safe use of the pavement at the same time as the bus stop. A new section of pavement has been added to make sure that prams & wheelchairs can still use the bus boarding ramps. Note the rainbow too!

We can expect to see more of these extensions, which TfL call ‘bus stop buildouts’, at busy bus stops where pavements are narrow and traffic is fast. TfL are also considering relocating some bus stops away from places that are likely to generate crowds or queues on the pavement – for example shops with external queueing areas, and cash machines.

Lavender Hill is already in a good place in terms of bus stops as it;s blessed with unusually wide pavements. The only case where this is likely to be particularly tricky is the stops near the junction with Queenstown Road, where the pavement is unusually narrow and the bus stop is busy – but there’s not really space to add one of these extensions.

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Updates on the Queens Arms: Does a new licensee mean a reopening? And an architecturally bold extension.

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Some good news on the Queens Arms, just off Queenstown Road.  Neighbours & regular readers will know it was closed in 2017, and architects Boon Brown won planning permission to redevelop it, creating five flats (four two-bed ones and a studio) by reorganising the interior, extending the upper floors, and adding a new storey on the roof.

Conscious that many pubs in Wandsworth are now protected from conversion to other uses, the owners fought hard to be able to convert the ground floor to a shop. This didn’t, in the end, wash and the applications to change the use were withdrawn.

The building is looking good – fully cleaned, with new windows and a new roof. It’s in the Park Town Conservation Area, and is locally listed as a ‘building of merit’.

The plans preserved about 3,300 square feet of space for pub or restaurant use (most of the ground floor and basement). 

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This space was offered to let with no ties (i.e. no link to any particular brewery) and ‘nil premium’ (which means there’s no up front payment to be made to the outgoing landlord for the value of the current trade and clientele, which seems reasonable as the pub has been closed for over two years). The expectation was for a 20-year lease, the rent rising every five years in line with open market rent or retail prices (limited to between 1% and 4% a year). Adverts for the pub also noted that offers may for the long leasehold or even the building freehold might be considered.  The adverts sought offers over £60,000 a year. However there was little sign of activity and in our previous post a few months ago, we were at a bit of a loss on whether it would ever reopen.

The good news is – there is a new licensing application on the doors!  As with most licensing application notices it doesn’t give much away, other than that the prospective new licensee is Connor McLoughlin, that operating hours are generally 10am to 11pm, that the name of the pub isn’t changing, and that they are seeking permission to show films. We don’t know which pub company (if any) is behind this – a possibly-related Connor McLaughlin is linked to the recently-opened, and well reviewed, independent Woodman pub in Wimbledon Park, between Earlsfield and Wimbledon – but that’s about it.

We haven’t managed to find out much more at this stage (but as ever – any tips from our readers most welcome!) – however a license application is a promising sign. And while the current crisis is a tough time for any pub, let alone what will essentially be a brand new one, we’re increasingly optimistic that once this all passes, the Queens Arms will be able to return – after many years – to being the heart of the neighbourhood that it used to be.

The other news is that a distinctly architectural new 2-3 bed house has been built in the back yard. It’s a little hard to do it justice in a photo, but it’s definitely a one-off design that has been carefully built to a high standard. A great deal of thought has gone in to the design of the building, which includes a sunken inner courtyard over two storeys, an underground gym, and an angled roof to preserve light to buildings behind. The image below (by Boon Brown, the architects) gives some guide as to how a relatively large house has been fitted in to the plot (it’s shown from the back – so the red brick house on the left is the first house in the existing terrace along Tennyson street).

Your author thinks it makes rather clever use of the space – it occupies a very strange shaped and awkward piece of land that won’t have been easy to work with. This seems to have been mainly a back storage yard for the pub in a previous incarnation, and (partly) an old substation plot.

With a bit of luck – and assuming Mr McLaughlin gets his license for the Queens Arms – the new occupants of the house won’t have far to go to their nearest pub.

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A small block of flats may be built on Eccles Road / Parma Crescent

ParmaLavender 4One of the houses on Eccles Road is smaller than the others, but with a much larger garden. Regular readers can probably already see where this is going!…  Developers love houses like the one above – with a huge garden, as well as several garages and outbuildings.  We presume it was built on the site of a World War II bomb site, as it’s one of a small cluster of non-Victorian houses. 

And sure enough – there are plans in to demolish it all, and build a rather larger building, covering most (though not quite all) of the plot, and containing five flats (one has a single bedroom, three of them are two-bed, and one is three-bed).  Every flat has a balcony or a terrace.  The two pictures above show the current layout, and what’s proposed.Parma lavender 1The proposed design is modern, but with some nods to the general shape of the Victorian houses around.  The general design is fairly inoffensive and has some parallels with the existing much-extended house to the north, at the Eccles Road / Lavender Sweep corner.

It’s already had a few objections though – partly as it’s a major densification of one of the few relatively open spots in the area, replacing the current house which is set well back from the road with a low and fairly open garden hedge, with three storeys of building right up to the pavement.  It does seem the architects of the current house deliberately left some space here to make the street feel a bit more open, and this would inevitably be lost.  It also removes quite a lot of sunlight form the back of the houses to the north.

If you want to see the detailed plans, and maybe make a comment (whether to support, oppose or just make a general comment) you can do this on Wandsworth’s planning website – where you should search for planning application number 2020/0906.  In theory comments had to be in by the 14th April, but our Council planners are pretty sensible people and will usually pay attention to late comments if they can.

Posted in Environment, Housing, Planning | 1 Comment

Classic Ealing comedy The Lavender Hill Mob, which gave our street some fame, is showing on BBC2

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Pendlebury and Shorty, at the Balmoral Private Hotel on Lavender Hill – Capture from ReelStreets

Friday 10th (Good Friday), 4pm, BBC2, and then probably on Iplayer for a while.

Staying in on Easter Friday?  Aren’t we all! Luckily the BBC has come to the rescue, with another showing of the vintage 1951 Ealing Comedy that made Lavender Hill famous – The Lavender Hill Mob.  It’s a well-made film  with a simple plot that has aged well, and which the British Film Institute ranked the 17th greatest British film of all time –

“One of the most famous of the 1950s Ealing comedies. An unassuming bank clerk, in charge of gold bullion deliveries for almost 20 years, hatches a plot to steal a consignment.  His plan comes to fruition when a lodger who owns a small foundry making Eiffel Tower paperweights arrives at his digs.”

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The film poster – from Wikimedia Commons

The digs in question are the Balmoral Private Hotel on Lavender Hill, which is quite is key to proceedings as the place where the protagonists plan an audacious bank robbery.  Lavender Hill was apparently chosen as a location that was a plausible place for a slightly down at heel guest house, which sounded genteel but wasn’t really (at least in 1951).  Edie Martin plays the landlady at the property – described as “a small world of Victoriana and strict rules – ‘wipe your feet, no business occupations may be performed on these premises'”.  It’s where Guinness and Stanley Holloway .

The strange thing is that despite being partly set on Lavender Hill, none of the film was actually filmed here – or indeed anywhere in Battersea!  The guest house in the film was apparently actually a film set, and the exteriors seem to be somewhere in Ealing.

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TV Guide listing (though note BBC’s online listing now seems to have shifted the time to 4pm)

That doesn’t mean the locations aren’t pretty interesting though – you’ll see shots around the City of London (notable for the vast areas of rubble and bomb damage, interspersed with a handful of surviving recognisable buildings), as well as the riverside when it was still lined with working wharves.  As well as many residential streets in Gunnersury, Acton and of course Ealing.  And a few scenes in Paris.  For a very thorough ‘then and now’ guide to the locations, which really shows just how much London has changed since the 1950s, see the ReelStreets page on the Lavender Hill Mob which compares stills from the film with photos of the same locations now.

Thanks, by the way, to one of our readers for the tip that this is showing again!

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Retail takeovers explained… why squatters now target empty shops rather than flats

Mrs Le’s Banh Mi, at 178 Lavender Hill, is unusual in that it’s the only shop on the street that is currently in use as a temporary home! Here we explore, for our readers’ curiosity, the occasional phenomenon of shops being surreptitiously taken over as flats.

The restaurant was only open briefly, for the first half of 2018 – but was generally well reviewed. It was branded very similarly to Mien Tay next door (Mr’s Le’s was run by the same people as Mien Tay, but with a shorter and more focussed menu)  – but the interior re-used most of the equipment that was left when Salisbury’s Fish and Chips closed. 

After it closed in summer 2018 most of the interior fixtures and fittings were removed, leaving a rather messy shell with no lights and dangling wires.  And our readers may have noticed that it’s now been taken over and converted to a makeshift flat – with a “squatters’ rights” notice attached to the door (pictured above – though we’ve edited it to remove any personal details).

These notices used to be a familiar sight on all sorts of empty and abandoned buildings, but following concerns that ‘professional’ squatters were emerging – and that the line between squatters and burglars was becoming rather blurred, and that the effect was pushing up insurance premiums (and hence the cost of renting flats), the law was changed in to make squatting in houses or flats illegal – punishable by 6 months in prison, an chunky fine or both.

The government did, however, recognise that many squatters had a genuine need for somewhere to stay (and it’s worth noting that at the time the law was changed your author knew of several buildings along Lavender Hill and Wandsworth Road at the time where squatters were living quietly and respectfully).  So they deliberately left open an option for squatters in non-residential buildings – which was not made a crime (although it’s a crime to damage the property – obviously it’s hard to gain access without causing some damage, but the well worn line is “oh, the lock was already broken…”).

The thinking was that these kinds of buildings will have professional landlords and (when not empty) tenants, and the risk and potential cost of squatters can be more easily accommodated.  Most squatters go for low-grade office buildings in the inner suburbs, but factories and even shops are sometimes occupied, as is the case here.  By and large this compromise approach seems to be working reasonably, despite a few horrifying cases where working businesses have been trashed and held to ransom by ‘squatters’.  We haven’t heard any reports of the residents at Mrs Le’s causing chaos, and in the current crisis are safe and have a roof over their heads.

One day, the unit will get back in to retail use.  Frankly it doesn’t look particularly appealing for a prospective new business at the moment, and it’ll certainly need some TLC, but the current shabby state seems to be more a result of flyposters – and what was left behind when Mrs Le’s left – than the current residents.

Posted in Housing, Retail, Useful to know | Leave a comment

Lavender Hill’s local businesses are still open, and need our support! Here’s a list of restaurants and shops offering delivery, takeaway & collection.

Mid-June update: This was our most-read & most-shared post ever. Following the reopening of ‘non essential’ shops the content is now a bit out of date – many more of our local traders have reopened, and the range of services has increased. A very special thanks to all our readers made an extra effort to help local traders going. We’re not out of the woods yet, but every bit of trade helps get through the worst of it.

It’s going to be a tough few months for everyone.  But one group who particularly need our support is the traders of Lavender Hill!  Many are still open, still stocked, and ready to serve takeaways and delivery to the neighbourhood.  Please make the most of the huge range on our doorstep – and maybe explore a few more of the local options you’ve not yet had a chance to try out.  We’ve collected the details we know about who is offering what.   We’ve also flagged any restaurants that are especially new (including two that opened the week before the lockdown), as the first weeks and months are a challenge even at the best of times.

Restaurants & Cafes

El Patio – Tapas Bar & restaurant, 171 Lavender Hill (where The Lavender used to be – they’re actually a reopening of the same restaurant that was there before The Lavender).  Brand new – just opened the week before the lockdown!  Very enthusiastic and have quickly become part of the neighbourhood despite the very unlucky timing – they’re offering delicious meals for takeaway, as well as delivery via deliveroo.  We’ve also had excellent feedback from many of of our readers.  Telephone 020 7738 1888 or elpatio.uk/takeaway.  The latest updates are generally on the ElPatioTapasBar page on Facebook. 

Donna Margherita at 183 Lavender Hill – our long established local Italian restaurant is still doing takeaway and delivery, and have now converted the former dining area to be able to sell a wide range of quality food products to take away Wednesday to Saturday (fruit, eggs, fresh bread, sauces, even the ever-elusive dried pasta) – with no queues either!  020 7228 2660 / 07483 914284, and more details here.

Costa do Estoril Our local Portuguese cafe and restaurant is open (to roughly the usual hours), for takeaway only.

Maiolica Cafe – New – Sicilian cafe which opened a couple of months ago, on Wandsworth Road, not far from the eastern end of Lavender Hill (where The Roastery used to be).  A range of cooked breakfasts, pastas and salads.  Open for takeaway, and also for delivery via Deliveroo & Just Eat.  They also have a range of vegetables, fruit, bread, eggs and other foods for sale, and are doing free delivery of a fruit and veggies case in the immediate neighbourhood – with consistently excellent service.  789 Wandsworth Road, 07955 007000.

Lavender Hill Fish & Chips  New – the long absence of a fish & chip shop, following the closure of Salisbury’s, was finally addressed when they open a few weeks ago, at  23 Lavender Hill. Your author hasn’t yet been but the reports back from others are very good.  Offering takeaway and now also delivery via Deliveroo.


Sendero coffee – The coffee shop at the corner of Lavender Hill and Queenstown Road, as well as the brand new one at 37 Patcham Terrace (see our article here if you hadn’t realised they had two branches!) remain open for takeaway, with revised opening hours  They are also selling a small range of food and fruit.

Cafe Parisienne (cafe & all day breakfast…) – offering bacon sarnies, and an extensive menu of cafe foods, as well as sandwiches, soups and fresh juices.  Our long established local (ever cheerful owner Kazim is pictured below!) remains open for takeaway.  225 Lavender Hill, 020 7924 5523.

Pizzeria Pellone – Neapolitan wood fired pizza, currently open and offering home delivery via deliveroo et al. 020 8062 7133 / pizzeriapellonelondon.co.uk

I Cook U Eat – Lebanese restaurant.  Brand newwith particularly awkward timing, our first Lebanese restaurant opened for the first time this week at 62 Lavender Hill, where Howdy was previously.  Open for collection, as well as for delivery via Just Eat.  020 7228 0222.  Link to menu.

Khan’s Indian Restaurant – well established with a lower-fat-than-average curry free of suspiciously garish colourings.  Remains open for takeaway (call in advance for a generally accurate estimate of collection time – usually between 15 and 25 minutes), and for delivery via the likes of Deliveroo. Link to website & menu.  

Palace Spice – our ever popular curry house is still open for takeaway, as well as the usual delivery options. Link to website.  020 7207 3925.

Tumnan Thai – still open and offering takeaway, as well as delivery via the likes of Deliveroo.  163 Lavender Hill. 020 7223 1046 / 020 7978 7077. Link to menu.

Siam Brasserie – 87 Lavender Hill – still open for takeaway and delivery. 020 8244 8319.

Nancy Lam’s Enak Enak (Indonesian).  Our long established Indonesian restaurant (over 30 years on Lavender Hill!) remains open from Wednesday to Saturday, for collection only. 020 7924 3148.  Link to Menu.

Social Pantry Cafe – still open on significantly reduced hours, and offering takeaway food and quality coffee – as well as delivery of breakfast, lunch and dinner packs – details here.

Sightly further afield from Lavender Hill, Pi Pizza at the top of Battersea Rise is running a delivery-only service via Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat – details here.

Basilico pizza, Da Vinci Pizza, Firezza and Pizza Hut delivery are also open as usual for delivery only.  Basilico and Pizza Hut are no longer allowing collection-in-store.

Sweet Smile (bakery). New [update – SweetSmile are temporarily closed, due to an equipment fault that’s unrelated to Coronavirus, but which can’t be fixed for now!  Terrible luck, but we’ll report as soon as things are up and running again]  Our local bakery has been making waves since they opened a couple of months ago, with breads and pastries of all kinds, and Portuguese treats.  They are trialling a Saturday delivery option within a 1 mile radius. Details will be at facebook.com/sweetsmileclapham.

Specialist shops

It’s not just restaurants and cafes though – while the supermarkets and food stores saw more trade than they ever expected for the first couple of weeks, and many others (including all the charity shops, salons, barbers and hairdressers) have of course closed, some of our more specialist shops who are used to getting custom from far and wide, now need a hand too – so try to think about them first if you’re looking at online and delivery options.

Decor Express – Lavender Hill store still open for now (with a 2-metre queue spacing marked out on the ground outside).  They’re encouraging everyone to use click and collect wherever possible – the website has a fair part of the range on it, though there are other things also available that aren’t on the website like wood, plaster and mixed paints.  They are also able to do contact-free delivery to nearby locations.  Note that they have a large stock of blue cleaning paper rolls.  Details here.

Barkers at 8 Queenstown Road remains open for household and hardware essentials.  Maximum 2 in the shop at one time. 020 7622 0122.

Fabrics galore – another top spot for crafts if you can sew (or want to learn how to – and there’s probably never been a better time than now…).  The Lavender Hill shop is closed for visotors, but still full of staff and stock – and the online store is definitely open.  020 7738 9589 – link.

LHP Lavender plumbing merchants at 2 Queenstown Road are open more or less as usual

Woofs to Kittys dog grrooming and pet supplies, tucked away up on Taybridge Road (between Lavender Hill and Clapham Common) is closed for grooming, but open as usual for supplies with revised opening hours (mornings Monday to Friday, and early afternoon Saturdays) and at-the-door service, with delivery also possible for orders over £30. – details here.

The London Framing Studio – every kind of picture framing!  Still open, even though the shop is of course closed – they can arrange collection and delivery – details on their website.  020 7223 9334 or 07471 653 019.

Hamiltons Dry Cleaners are open as usual but with hugely reduced opening hours (Saturday only, 10am-4pm).  07447 000633 for any urgent enquiries.

PowerPrint – printing and reprographics services – the shop’s closed, but some services are still running and their e-mail and telephone are still being monitored.  Website. 020 7223 8953.

Gabriella Sandham Lingerie & swimwear – the shop’s closed of course, but they are still open online.  0207 223 5558 / gabriellasandham.com / 020 7223 5558.

Alex shoe repairs and key cutting – shop’s closed but can still offer services by appointment.  020 7223 4931.

Get a grip cycle workshop & sales – still open when we checked recently as cycling is currently a pretty safe way of getting around if you do need to, and repairs are also essential – but with revised opening hours and of course new rules in the shop – details on their website.

Drumshack is open for delivery and for collection at the store door – sales@drumshack.co.uk / 020 7228 1000 / drumshack.co.uk.

Lavender Hill DIY are open as usual (with a decent level of stock, though we hear it’s been a bit of a struggle to get deliveries) – so they’re there if you need urgent hardware, but if you’re passing by they can also supply what you need for any long running DIY projects you never quite got round to, or some seeds to plant with the children…

Partridges art supplies – stuck with the kids at home for weeks?  Partridges have the paint, paper, card, brushes and craft supplies you need to get creative. 020 7228 7271. (current status still to be confirmed)

All creatures vets are open, strictly by pre-appointment only, for urgent cases.

Voo vets (next to Sainsbury’s) are also open for urgent care, with other appointments by telephone or video.  Latest details & procedures are on their facebook page.

2Love coffee – aren’t currently open as a cafe, but are running occasional openings, typically a couple of days a week, for sales of takeaway coffee and teabags (to make coffee & tea at home) – for details of when the next opening is see their facebook page, or email info@2lovecoffeehouse.co.uk .

If you know of other businesses near Lavender Hill that is doing delivery services and should be on our list, or any of the information needs updating – please let us know.  And please spread the word.  Let’s all help our neighbours, as well as our local traders.

We’ve focussed on Lavender Hill (as you could say it’s our speciality subject!) – but do also have a look at the list published and updated by the Junction BID, which covers the area nearer Clapham Junction station – including Northcote Road and Battersea Rise – here.

Posted in Business, Food & drink, Retail, Useful to know | 1 Comment

Sendero Coffee has opened a second branch on Queenstown Road

IMG_6730bOne of our first ever posts, three years ago, featured then then-imminent opening of Sendero Coffee at the junction of Lavender Hill and Queenstown Road.  The combination of quality coffee sourced directly by the team, comfortable sofas, pastries and light catering, occasional canine companions and latterly late sessions on Fridays and Saturdays in winter, proved to be a success beyond all expectations!

It has continued to work so well that Sendero are about to open their second coffee shop, a little further along Queenstown Road at Battersea Exchange – at 37 Patcham Terrace, SW8 4EX – which is maybe better known locally as the new development in the tangle of railway tracks between Queenstown Road station and Battersea Park station.  It’s the smallish unit directly facing Queenstown Road in the yellow square on our photo above – the brand new building next to the rather scruffy looking corner that somehow escaped the surrounding whirlwind of redevelopment.  Thanks to a traffic-free road heading under the railway arches, there’s also space for some outdoor seating in the summer.  

It’s bound to be popular. The area round the new shop has been a bit of a good-coffee desert ever since Coffee Affair sadly closed their shop inside Queenstown Road station (a few years after successfully navigating what had at times seemed insurmountable planning and leasing issues to open it).  Work has been underway at the new spot for a good couple of weeks now, and we understand everything should be up and running by the weekend  [Weekend update: They’re now open for business!] – do drop in to say hello…

Posted in Food & drink, Retail, Useful to know | 1 Comment

Building space for business in Battersea

There’s understandably been a lot of concern about affordable housing in London – but less about affordable offices!  As London has grown businesses and employers are also finding it more difficult to find somewhere to call home, at a price they can afford – and with many of Battersea’s existing office and industrial spaces being replaced by new housing developments, if we’re not careful we’ll see local businesses struggle to carry on, and fewer job opportunities for people who don’t want to commute right across the city.

Wandsworth borough currently has one of the highest office occupancy rates in the UK – an impressive 97%!  There’s a major need for local business space – whether smart Grade-A offices, cheap and functional studios, flexible room for startups, or the semi-industrial space that keeps our local services running.

In this article we take a quick look at what is currently available, and what might happen in the next few years.

Big, glamorous offices

When you say ‘office space’, many people think of the glass towers in the city, complete with big glossy receptions and fast lifts.  In property developer terms these are ‘Grade A’  offices, i.e. smart / expensive spaces aimed at attracting big London headquarter offices. And several of these are being built in nine Elms – notably for Apple (who will be taking over 50,000 square metres in the power station itself in a year or so – that’s a big office, about the same as the Gerkhin skyscraper in the City) and the US Embassy itself (another 50,000 square metres). Penguin Books are already occupying 8,000 square metres by the embassy, and publisher Dorling Kindersley is taking over 4000 square metres right next to Penguin. There’s more of this to come with a further 20,000 square metre building being built between the US embassy and Vauxhall, and 70,000 or so square metres to be built in later phases of the power station project.  However a recent study on Employment Land and Premises identified that even after all these developments are built, Wandsworth will need to add another 30,000 – 65,000 square metres of office space by 2030.

IMG_20190828_175338679_HDRThese are important employers, and it’s good that Nine Elms is developing offices and jobs rather than just flats (not least because it’ll prevent it being a ghost town on weekdays) – but they aren’t the sort of spaces a small local business will be renting any time soon.

Outside Nine Elms, Wandsworth currently has 400,000 square metres of office floorspace of various grades of quality and price.  Some of this is used by the Council itself (albeit this has reduced quite a bit in recent years), and some by services like Royal Mail on Lavender Hill and the Wandsworth job centre. Some of the larger ‘accessible’ areas are the likes of Battersea Studios (which offers over 5,000 square metres of modern serviced flexible office space just off Queenstown Road).

A scattering of office spaces have been developed in new buildings along the riverside (and have been slower to let – as they’re not easy to get to – which is why policy now is to steer any larger new developments towards the town centres). Down the line, Clapham Junction is may well the biggest new cluster of office space outside Nine Elms – as it’s fabulously well connected, and redevelopment of Asda and / or the station sites could well see office space added.

Industrial spaces

Readers may be surprised that the Borough also has 1.5 million square metres of ‘industrial’ land.  Despite having one of Europe’s busiest concrete production facilities just off Queenstown Road, we’re not going to be seeing steelworks in Wandsworth any time soon – as the days of heavy industry in central London are long gone. About half of this is for actual ‘industrial’ use – including myriad plumbers, glaziers, builders, scaffolders, garages and others who look after our buildings, vehicles, gardens & streets – all of whom need somewhere nearby to call home. The rest accommodates the unglamorous but important services that keep things running – whether handling our waste, sorting the mail, processing deliveries, keeping things moving. Not to mention dozens of companies, from Chesneys (who repair and sell vintage fireplaces) to Caffe Nero (whose main roastery is just north of the Shaftesbury Estate – you can sometimes smell the beans!).IMG_20180922_163107340_HDRWe also have a brewery, a distillery, a commercial butcher, a winemaker, and even the company that maintains the gaslamps in central London – all within ten minutes of Lavender Hill. Honourable mention goes to the various local railway arches, and to the gaps between railways not suitable for housing (north of the Shaftesbury Estate), as a location for relatively affordable industrial space.

The draft London Plan now has Wandsworth down as one of the Boroughs that needs to provide new industrial space (whereas the previous aim was just to retain what we have).  There’s no new land, so this means consolidation, intensification, and co-location of uses where possible – as well as protecting ‘industrial’ employment areas, like Stewarts Lane. In the future, the most likely solution is to build upwards, and make existing industrial areas more dense – moving away from single storey warehouse buildings – while resisting temptation to build flats with token industrial use on the ground floor. 

Smaller offices

Battersea’s businesses are overwhelmingly small, and many employ under 10 people – covering every category from technology firms and event planners to nurseries, and property maintenance.  There are a fair few small offices, but they are popular and are constantly under pressure from developers wanting to convert them to flats and sell them off – which is an easy win for developers but damaging to the long term future of our businesses and our town centres.  This is why Wandsworth has put some restrictions on converting offices to flats along the western end of Lavender Hill.

IMG_6412There’s also lots of demand for offices for micro businesses (2-5 people), and the recent trend of some smaller shop fronts being used as offices for small businesses (for example at the eastern end of Lavender Hill) has been helpful for businesses, and reasonably compatible with the desire to keep an active and lively ground floor use for high street buildings.

Some tiny businesses also want space with the flexibility to move and grow – and don’t necessarily want to be tied in to a 15 year lease! This has fed in tot he rapid growth of flexible co-working space – the Battersea Studios (on Silverthorne Road) is maybe the biggest local example, but we also have many others including IdeaSpace on Lavender Hill, and the Scratch Hub co-working space on the lower level of Battersea Arts Centre. These can offer everything from a single desk (for the self employed who want somewhere other than home to work) to medium size offices on flexible terms.  These are very popular and bound to keep growing.

Affordable workshop & studio space

It’s not just about smart offices: more robust business space, where ‘messy’ creative businesses can operate, is also important.  The Battersea Business Centre on Lavender Hill is a good example of affordable workshop space that can accommodate caterers, workshops, artists and the like – an increasingly rare option in the area.  Fortunately it is being protected as a local employment space: the images below show the Employment Protection Areas along Lavender Hill.

What’s the council doing about it?

An important way the Council can steer the development of space for local businesses is via the Wandsworth Local Plan – an important document that sets the vision for future development in the Borough.  It matters, because any major new proposed developments (whether flats, offices or indeed anything of any size) will need to be broadly consistent with the plan. IMG_6354And the need for space for businesses is not lost on the Council.  We recently took part in a Council-led workshop with community groups, as part of their ongoing work to update the Plan (which your author has reported on in some detail on sister site the Clapham Junction Action Group).  It was an interesting discussion, that covered a surprising amount of ground, and we were encouraged by the thoughtful approach of several of the Council policy leads.  Everyone agreed we need local businesses and jobs, to avoid the borough being a dormitory suburb. 

With land at a premium, and flats always the lowest risk option for developers, the employment areas we have are always under pressure from developers, which means imaginative approaches are needed to keep our local businesses alive.  Local business space is rarely headline news – but hopefully this quick review helps illustrate why it matters!  We’d welcome your thoughts & ideas on the issue, and will keep you posted on any major developments as well as the the Local Plan.

Posted in Business, Planning, Retail | Leave a comment

Making Lavender Gardens more accessible

IMG_20200222_124651477A few photos of the works underway to create a new access path to Asda from the Dorothy Road – removing the steps.  We first reported on this small but helpful project back in January last year.  This will help accessibility – the steps were originally clad with distinctly slippery terracotta tiles, and were a headache for prams or frankly anyone who struggled with steps.  IMG_20200222_124641753The design has been refined since the original plans were announced – it was originally a direct line but we now have a gentle curve to better integrate with the park. It’s all being paid for by the Local Fund – that is, money paid by the firms building big new developments, towards local facilities.IMG_20200222_124709051The helpful new street light installed a couple of years ago on this previously dark stretch has mysteriously vanished during the works, but we’re assuming it’s getting slightly relocated now that the ground level has reduced.

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Is the second entrance for Queenstown Road station still on track?

There’s been a lot of new construction among the railway arches between Queenstown Road & Battersea Park stations. 290 flats, shops (including a soon-to-open small Sainsbury’s), offices, a new school…  and it’s now pretty much finished.  But one part of the plan has yet to appear: the ‘back entrance’ to Queenstown Road station. IMG_20191116_095953442_HDR

This was part of the project from the beginning. It was designed to improve transport to the new flats – as well as allowing more direct and pedestrian-friendly access between the two stations, and allowing people heading from (say) the Shaftesbury estate to ‘cut the corner’ by going through the foyer of Queenstown Road and get through to Battersea Park station slightly more directly. The entrance will be just to the left of the photo above – allowing a direct walk along what is billed as a “bustling new pedestrian high street” to Battersea Park station, whose distinctive arched windows are visible at the end of the street (the new Sainsbury’s will be at the base of that white tower, facing Battersea Park station).

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The back of Queenstown Road station – where the new entrance is planned

Taylor Wimpey developed what’s been marketed as the ‘Battersea Exchange’ district. They bought most of the land, and have laid out the new streets across the development, which go right up to the back wall of Queenstown Road station – which you can see on our photo to the right. We understand that Taylor Wimpey have generously put up most (maybe all) of the money to help it happen. Trouble is, they don’t own the station itself. And ultimately the timescales for adding a new station entrance are down to whoever actually owns the station building freehold – and they seem to be in no rush to get moving on the building works.

IMG_20200210_083328605Said works are pretty minor. That small wall in the photo has to go, the overgrown back yard gets paved over, a disabled lift goes in, and the door you can see on the left of the photo gets opened up.  The rather derelict outdoor privy visible at the right also goes, to tidy things up a bit.  Taylor Wimpey got permission to add a rear entrance in 2014 (planning application 2014/4687), and – after it expired without being used – applied for permission again last year (planning application 2019/1820). South Western Railway, who manage the station on a day to day basis, have been putting in other applications in the meantime- notably one to replace all the lights in the station with ore efficient LEDs (2019/5256) – which is a good idea, but which slightly worryingly seems to assume the back areas will remain unused and that no new entrance will be built.

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The plans for the the new back entrance, seen from Patcham Terrace

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After half a couple of years of planning and three years of building works, Taylor Wimpey have sold all the flats and are now in the process of signing off on the completed Battersea Exchange development and handing it over to its residents and occupiers. 

It’s been a decent project – it has really opened up the previously inaccessible space, it’s worked hard to get the viaducts cleaned up and looking their best, and it has made ingenious use of a very difficult site with lots of different scraps of land and criss-crossed by viaducts. The project also involved complete rebuild of St Mary’s school.  It’s a very different kind of project to the generic suburban projects full of cul-de-sacs and ‘starter homes’ that the firm is maybe better known for, but it does continue a long run of central London regeneration projects by the firm, stretching right back to the 1970s regeneration of St Katherine’s Dock near Tower Bridge – which was probably the first of its kind.

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But we can’t help but wonder what has happened to the station element! Maybe whoever is ultimately expected to carry out these works is just taking their time. Maybe the money got lost or diverted along the way (though it’s hard for it to get diverted to something completely unrelated to the adjacent development). Maybe this has got tangled up in wider accessibility projects with slower timescales. Maybe everyone’s just forgotten about it… We hope the project hasn’t been abandoned, after all the preparatory work to create access between the back of the site and Battersea Park station.

While investigating the state of this project we’ve been in touch with those involved for their comment. South Western Railway pointed us towards Network Rail & Wandsworth.  Network Rail noted that they are supportive of proposals to make stations easier to access and integrated with neighbourhoods around them, that they are working closely with Taylor Wimpey Central London to review their design proposals for the public access route, and that they support the principle of it and a second entrance at Queenstown Road Station. We also spoke to Taylor Wimpey, who are investigating the status of this project and we’ll of course update this article if we receive a further update from them.  

Posted in Housing, Planning, Transport | Leave a comment