Lavender Hill Retail Roundup

An occasional series looking at what’s new & what’s changed on Lavender Hill

trimmed versionA while back we  looked in some detail at what the proposals for a merger between Asda and Sainsbury’s would mean for Lavender Hill – given we have one of the most profitable Asda supermarkets of all, set in the middle of an area otherwise quite dominated by Sainmsbury’s.  Well – the proposed merger is now off, as it was blocked by the competition regulators.  Asda’s US owners have said they’ll provide Asda with what it needs to carry on, and as we understand it the business as a whole is making a reasonable profit – so no major changes expected.  It’s possible that Asda’s owners, now that the distraction of the merger has gone, will take a longer term view on the future of the chain – and the London store is one of their most profitable as well as one of the sites with the strongest redevelopment potential – but we wouldn’t expect anything in the near future.

debsThe other big retail story, though, was of course, Debenhams – with the shock announcement that Debenhams in Wimbledon, as well as the nearly-new Debenhams in Wandsworth, are set to close after Christmas, as part of a wider programme that will see 22 stores close and 1,200 people lose their jobs.  The Clapham Junction branch – which is one of their busier branches, and which always saw greater footfall than Wandsworth despite the smaller size and more old fashioned layout – is not on the closure list.  But it’s not out of the woods yet – we understand that it is one of 100 or so stores where Debenhams’ new owners are asking the landlords for rent reductions, and also asking the local Councils for a corresponding reduction in business rates (which are essentially a tax on shops).  We don’t have the precise figures but it’s been reported that in at least 58 cases, they’re asking for a roughly 50% cut in rates!  Debenhams has only recently acquired a new landlord, after the 140,000 square foot property was sold by major landholder British Land to a London-based developer called W Real Estate, for £48 million

Generally speaking, where landlords agree to such cuts, they also secure flexibility – e.g. to throw out the tenants if a better offer comes along in future years.  W Real Estate’s long term plans aren’t too clear, though their managing director has said:  “This acquisition underpins our philosophy of acquiring exceptional real estate in core London locations.  The building sits at the epicentre of Clapham Junction’s retail hub. With its proximity to Europe’s busiest train station and the potential future investment benefiting Crossrail 2, we view Clapham Junction as an exciting area for growth and development.”  There’ll no doubt be a negotiation with the landlords over the next few months, and some point we’ll find which of the 100 stores are also set to close.  W Real Estate will of course need to ponder how attractive Debenhams is as a reduced-rate tenant, compared to anyone else they might be able to get in in these tricky times (as conversion away from retail would be quite problematic – given the impact the loss of an anchor tenant would have on the rest of the town centre).  Fingers crossed on our Debenhams and all who work there.

wfmWhole Foods Market has completed the fit out of the unit next door, and the building of a connection between it and the original shop (as we previously reported on a while back), and the enlarged store has had a bit of a general refresh.  It’s selling much the same as before (though new owners have cut the prices a bit across the board), but in a tidier environment with a bit more space.  Despite all the work that has gone in to cleaning and painting the windows and exterior walls, the shop looks a bit scruffy from the outside, but this is mainly because they are waiting to install a new sign with an updated logo, which will run along the whole of the unit and make it look more like a single shopfront.

View from Falcon Road

Way back, we reported on the plans to redevelop the Lidl on Falcon lane, to create a much larger and more modern store with two levels of underground car parking.  There’s been a curious silence since then. Reports previously suggested that it’s because they are still trying to find a temporary site to trade from during the works – this Lidl is, after all, one of the busiest in the UK and they don’t want to lose that business for six or seven months.

IMG_20190518_091256230_HDRThe former PoggenPohl unit (near the Post Office, and which closed in December) is in the planning process and (assuming permission is granted) set to become Clapham Junction’s third branch of Perfect Smile dentists.  They already have branches at the eastern end of Lavender Hill, as well as on Falcon Road; we doubt that this application will be controversial.

IMG_20190518_104727875_HDRWe lost Ryness opposite Battersea Arts Centre.  This branch seemed to do a steady trade in light bulbs and was well-used by residents, but was probably with hindsight just too small to be able to stock the full range of products that it would need to succeed in the trade sector.  It also lacked ready access to car parking.

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And finally, the old Wandsworth Sash Windows unit half way along Lavender Hill (near the Church of the Ascension) – which has been the subjectof extensive building works as flats were added at the rear of the building – has reopened (after a brief stint as a poop up gallery) as a new beauty treatment salon, VC Beauty.

Restaurants – the good news…

The work to build Clapham Junctions’ second branch of Nando’s, on Lavender Hill right next to Whole Foods Market, seems to be progressing slowly.  They have secured planning permission and there seem to have been some works in the unit, but there’s a lot more to come with the installation of new windows and a pretty much complete reconstruction of the interior.

cbThe trio of restaurants that opened last year at the eastern end of Lavender Hill – Pizza Pellone, Vietnamese restaurant Bui Vien, and Japanese Yano Sushi, seem to be doing good trade and have healthy Tripadvisor reviews (which concur with the author’s experience).  They have recently been joined by another new arrival, curry takeaway Currybase – who are based in the lower level of what was Noiya.  The owners are keen to drum up local trade while a takeaway business, and are very encouraging those of us living nearby to visit and give them a try – we understand that the ground floor will later become a dine-in restaurant as well.

…but we’re missing a few sad departures…

IMG_20190426_140111194Quite a few readers have got in touch about The Lavender, which closed suddenly and unexpectedly at Christmas.  We don’t know what went wrong – despite there not being any obvious warning that a closure was on the way, the closure was an orderly affair (none of the usual landlord repossession notices), and there has been some tidying up inside since then.  Running a restaurant isn’t easy, and we can only assume that the owners reached the end of a lease period and decided not to continue.  It’s clear that The Lavender is missed by many.

There’s still no news on the fate of the prominent Valentina restaurant opposite Pizza Express – other than that as you can see from our photos, the garden has gradually developed from a patio dining area, to a full-blown wildlife habitat!  The olive tree was spirited away not long after closure (not surprising given that they can cost about £1000 each).  This is a good sized and placed restaurant (which also has a little-used basement that’s the same size as the ground floor) and we’re optimistic that it will be a restaurant again – given that it’s obviously a good location (we understand that when the chain of a dozen or so Valentina restaurants collapsed under the weight of debts, this was one of a pair of branches that held out to the very end, because they were the most profitable of the chain).

IMG_20190518_091415015No news either on the future of the former Gastronhome, which closed last year after an impressive five years where the restaurant established itself as one of London’s best – with the rare honour of featuring in the Michelin Guide.

Empty & mystery units

The Cedars / Ashtar building at 4 Lavender Hill (next to Caffe Nero) has had some builders in, but progress has been slow and precisely what’s going on in there is still a bit of a mystery.  The place is looking increasingly run down.  There is planning permission in place for flats upstairs and a restaurant (with a south facing rear patio) on the ground floor.

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Proposed new design for the old Royal British Legion building, (c) Smith & Newton Architects / the Royal British legion

The building housing the Battersea and south Wandsworth branch of the British Legion (the one with the facade mainly of blue bricks, that used to house a small Christmas tree sale once a year) was sadly repossessed from the local branch after what we understand was an increasing struggle to keep up payments with a dwindling number of members.  It is being proposed for conversion to flats, with a new shop unit on the ground floor, and an added roof storey.  The planning application is up for comment at the time of writing; the entire building is in a relatively poor state of repair that gives some sign as to the struggle that those looking after the club faced towards the end; it will need quite extensive updating.

IMG_20190520_184804629Finally – Blake’s, which is on Wandsworth Road just beyond the end of Lavender Hill – has been put up for sale complete with a licensed capacity of 200 and a 4am late license.  Compared to its widely-known predecessor Inigo it kept a low profile and was always a bit of a mysterious place, opening somewhat intermittently  – we’ve never been but keen to hear of any readers have.

All in all, while the retail sector is having a torrid time, with a troubled economy and strong online competition, Lavender Hill has held up well compared to the rest of London and indeed the rest of the UK.  This is partly because of some strong locally owned businesses, working hard to deliver a good service and keep people returning.  It’s also partly because the population of the area is still growing, the local economy is doing reasonably well, and as a dense city centre area we have a high proportion of residents who shop locally rather than driving off to distant supermarkets.  The likes of Premier Inn are also helpful, bringing in 94-odd rooms full of people daily of whom a fair proportion eat out locally.

But there’s no doubt that, like most town centres, we are seeing changes: a gradual move upmarket, a decline in the number of general corner shops, and indeed of retail shops in general, set against a big increase in coffee shops, leisure (we now have not one but two yoga centres) and services (at least three dentists, soon four).  There are more restaurants than we had before, and there has been a surprising spread in DIY shops.  A few businesses are holding strong like launderettes (we still have two) and of course estate agents.  The success of the Get a Grip bicycle workshop reflects the more cycle-friendly nature of inner London and almost certainly wouldn’t have been here a decade ago. 

As we always say – do what you can to support our local traders, or one day they won’t be there any more.  We’ll keep you updated on developments in Lavender hill, and as ever – let us know if you hear of any interesting news on the street.

 

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Concept proposals published for the complete redevelopment of Clapham Junction station

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Concept view from (roughly) outside the Clapham Junction Travelodge, showing a wider route through and getting rid of the ever-horrible Falcon Road bridge (c) Hawkins brown architects

We’ve known for a while that there are long running plans to improve and potentially redevelop Clapham Junction station – to handle overcrowding in the station itself, as well as the  bottleneck that the current platform and track layout creates for the wider rail network in south west London and beyond.  The Clapham Junction Action Group has been on the case pretty much from the outset, discusses the issue regularly, and has had good discussions with Network Rail.  A few months ago we also reported on some of the very earliest concepts being explored.

A little more light has recently been shed on a potential approach to redeveloping the station, published via Hawkins Brown architects (with a summary of the proposals also reported in a nice readable way on the always-worth-a-read IanVisits blog).  These proposals are for a pretty comprehensive redevelopment – straightening the platforms, creating a new entrance opposite the Lidl site, moving the bus station under the station, and adding offices and flats above some of the platforms.  The plans also make provision for a future Crossrail 2 underground station.  It creates various new routes across the station under / over the tracks (as well as also along it, with at least one new route proposed from Plough Road to Falcon Road).  Looking at the general design approach here, there are strong similarities with the recently-completed London Bridge Station (which faced many of the same issues – and where despite a fair few teething problems along the way, the work completed by Network Rail is a huge improvement on what went before).

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Concept layout at ground level – with a significant opening up of the routes between The falcon pub and the back of the station, lined with shops  (c) Hawkins brown architects

As ever with concept designs, it’s important to stress this is an initial proposal at a high level – more designed to explore an option of what could be done than anything else – and this is a long way from becoming a final design.  So don’t panic, the builders aren’t going to be rolling in any time soon…

The good news is serious effort is going in to thinking about how to address the crowding and layout issues of the station.  We were pleased when Network Rail took over the station management, as it will offer a more strategic and long-term approach to developement than just cramming as many flats as possible on the the land around the station.  You can count on us (and, especially, CJAG) keeping an eye on this project and reporting back on developments.

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A wider site view including other nearby development sites (c) Hawkins brown architects

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Nando’s is coming to Lavender Hill

We’ve been wondering what was on the way at the former Wimpy / Steers / Chicken Cottage, next to Debenhams on Lavender Hill.  The builders have been in for a couple of weeks now – and it’s clearly a big building project, not just a minor refit, the whole place is being completely reorganised.  We can now reveal that it’s set to be Battersea’s second branch of Nando’s.

Or, more specifically, it’ll be a Nando’s nino, which is a smaller branch with a bit of seating (circa 17 seats), but which does much of its trade as a takeaway / delivery branch.  Looking at the plans, well over three quarters of the unit will be taken up by the kitchen and back office!  It’s a new concept for Nando’s, with a slightly different menu (the first one is up and running in Twickenham), and by taking much of the delivery trade it should help take a bit of the pressure off the overcrowded Battersea Rise / Northcote Road branch.  The location – a stone’s throw from the station – is likely to do a healthy takeaway trade too.

The plan is for the current shopfront to be completely tidied up – wooden window frames, more subtle signage, a rather smart looking curved window, and moving the entrance – as well as to add windows on to the currently blank wall facing Debenhams.  This seems a good development for the site, and should hopefully give some stability to a restaurant unit that seems to change hands every couple of years.

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30 new flats and houses are on the way north of Lavender Hill

In one of the largest developments on Lavender Hill for some time, Wandsworth Council is planning to start work on the building of 26 flats and 4 large houses, spread across seven different buildings mostly on “spare” bits of land in the Gideon Road Estate.  These are all set to be Council-owned, and are mainly designed to accommodate residents who are being moved out of the Winstanley Estate ahead of its partial demolition and redevelopment.

The biggest of them all is to be built on a set of garages and parking spaces at the western end of Gideon Road – creating 15 flats and three large houses (going up to six bedrooms!).  Our future new neighbours will do quite well out of this move, as the proposed buildings are rather better quality than most on the part of the Winstanley estate that’s being redeveloped, and several of the flats and houses have decent sized gardens.Gideon after aerial.pngHere’s a ‘before and after’ of the entrance to the large area of garages and car parking at the back of the Gideon Road estate – the balcony visible on the right in the first photo is part of the privately owned set of flats and houses that were built a few years ago (Westmoreland Apartments).

The development aims to recreate the surface car parking spaces used by residents of Gideon Road, but the garages will not be replaced.

The second biggest is a set of eight flats in a pair of similar-looking buildings essentially filling in the ’empty corners’ of the Tyneham Close block of flats which are currently a small paved area sometimes used for a kickabout, and an empty space – here’s a ‘before and after’ of one of these buildings:

The third, and smallest, is a three-bed house and three flats, replacing a row of garages in the sunken car park area behind The Crown.  The house, and one of the flats, have small gardens.Lavender garages.pngThis map shows roughly where all the new buildings are set to be built – they essentially fill in all the empty spaces in the Gideon Road estate.  We understand there was some thought of also ‘filling in the gaps’ directly facing Lavender Hill as well, but this was discarded (just as well, as the large trees would have been cut down, and the three parallel blocks of flats would have lost a great deal of daylight if the area had been built on).Site map.jpgThis map, drawn from the planning application, shows the original plan for the Gideon Road estate.  It’s surprising to learn that it was, apparently, designed in the early 1970s as a single coordinated plan for around 200 houses and flats (as a partial redevelopment of the Victorian-era L’Anson and Townsend estates that were previously on the site), as walking around it it often feels as though it’s really several separate and unrelated developments that are loosely combined, with strange dead ends and some rather confusing footpath routes.  Gideon Road Estate.pngOriginal plan of the Gideon Road Estate, (c) Wandsworth Borough Council

All of these developments already have full planning permission – approved back in early 2017).  It wasn’t particularly controversial at the time, maybe thanks to the proposed buildings generally being reasonably scaled, and the widely recognised need for decent quality affordable housing.  There was concern at the loss of car parking (even though the garages were privately let, and a fair few were out of use, the cars in those that are being rented still have to go somewhere after the garages are knocked down).

IMG_20190111_121610169.jpgOther issues raised at the time included reduced light to some areas, and also concerns that a small minority of the tenants from the (somewhat troubled) part of the Winstanley that’s being redeveloped might not be too welcome on the calm and neighbourly Gideon Road estate.

This development looks set to start in the not-too-distant future, as ground surveys and the like are already taking place – typically suggesting build may be underway within a year or less.  Some public rights of way have also already been eliminated in the Gideon Road garages  section of the development (as they’re set to be covered by buildings) – the picture to the right shows the application to change some of the areas open to public access.

Planning / design images (c) Wandsworth Borough Council, aerial view extract (c) Google

 

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An interesting mews development is being proposed at the back of IdeaSpace

Elevated view.pngA planning application has been submitted to develop what’s described as an ‘apart hotel’ on part of the Battersea Business Centre.  It’d consist of around 20 ensuite rooms spread across four serviced apartments – accessed through the back of the IdeaSpace shared workspace (formerly 1st Stop); the artists’ impression of the development (drawn from the planning application) is shown above.

Our diagram below indicates the rough area covered by this proposal, which continues the trend of using the land behind the main buildings on Lavender Hill to build relatively high density mews-style developments:1st stop.jpgThis will entail some changes to the IdeaSpace, as well as the replacement of a warehouse building that’s currently within Battersea Business Centre.  The building in question is old and tired, and isn’t much to look at (image below, from the planning application) – it’s unlikely that anyone will mourn its loss.side view.jpgThese units are designed for short-to-medium term stay, and as far as we can tell would be run alongside the shared office space – we doubt these would be viable as long term residential due to the lack of outside space.  The diagram below shows the split of office space (orange) and apartment space (purple) on one floor of the proposed development.Floorplans.pngThe new building will include a basement, accessed from within the Business Centre, that’s designed to recreate the storage warehouse that is being lost in the development.

By and large this seems a sensible development provided the units do remain in use for short-to-medium term let and don’t just get converted to four houses (as the accommodation is built to a high density and isn’t really suitable for long term use).  It will probably also add to the activity in the IdeaSpace shared office, which does drive some trade to the rest of the street; and by including a new basement it dosn’t irrevocably remove business uses from the site.

To see the full planning application, and comment, visit Wandsworth’s planning website where this proposal is application number 2019/0023.

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Improved access to Asda from Dorothy Road

Lavender Gardens current.jpgLavender Gardens is the small child-friendly pocket park and playground on Dorothy Road – maybe better known as a useful cut-through to the Asda car park.  A little bit of good news is the announcement by Wandsworth that later this year the path through park will be redesigned and equipped with a ramp, rather than the current steps – making access from the east a lot easier for anyone with a pram or trolley, as well as providing disabled access for the first time.

The main benefit is accessibility, but this is also helpful for safety: as a completely straight pathway it’ll improve sight lines and visibility.  As part of the works, the benches facing Dorothy Road will be relocated to the inside of the park, which will helpfully mean they’re not as accessible to our ever-lurking street drinkers after hours.  There will also be some changes to the landscaping of the north end of the park.

This is the latest in a series of small upgrades to the park – a few years ago the cut through had a street light installed, making it somewhat safer after hours.  Asda had issues for years with the steps – mainly as they used to be tiled & eternally slippery, a problem that was only solved by covering them with rough-surfaced paving stones, which fixed the slipperiness issue but made the steps of uneven height.

This is being paid for by the Wandsworth Local Fund – essentially money the Council secures from the developers of new flats in the Borough as part of their planning permission, which is used to make improvements to the neighbourhood.

All in all, a sensible improvement, that will finally mean that all three access routes to Asda are accessible.  Now if only we could do something to get encourage the marauding pigeons that infest the entrance facing Lavender Hill to move on somewhere else…

Main image (c) Google street view, artists’ impressions of works (c) Wandsworth / Enable.

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Whole Foods Market on Lavender Hill is growing

IMG_20190107_113357938_HDR.jpgA little bit of good news – 303 Lavender Hill (a.k.a. the rather mucky looking shop unit between Whole Foods Market and the Corner Stone bookstore), which has been empty for years and is frankly a bit of an eyesore, is being cleaned up and becoming an extension of the shop next door.

Pictured to the right are the cheerful team who were valiantly scraping off about five years’ worth of flyposting from the exterior.

This seems a good use for the unit, and it’s a sign of confidence on the part of Whole Foods in the store.  It’s worth bearing in mind that the company – which is small in the UK, with half a dozen local stores and one large flagship on Kensington High Street, but a significant player in parts of the US – is now owned by Amazon, who reportedly have big plans for the business, including a large US store expansion and various linksges between Amazon’s online business and the physical stores.  It will be interesting to see how this store evolves.

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The proposed new shopfront (c) Dickson Architects

But also some less positive news – the Poggenpohl kitchen showroom has closed.  This is the shop that acquired a certain fame when a double decker bus crashed in to it, fortunately without lasting injuries, in August 2017 (the aftermath pictured below left).

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