Cleaning up Lavender Hill’s buses

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A bus stop poster outside BAC advertising the new buses

TfL have launched the latest of a series of Low Emission Bus Zones, and the newest one will run along the full length of Lavender Hill (as well as most of Wandsworth Road, and part of St John’s Hill – see map below).

Only ‘greener buses’ – which essentially means those that meet the strict Euro VI emissions standard on emissions including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and particulate materials – will serve on routes operating throughout this zone.

With half a dozen buses running along Lavender Hill this affects quite a few buses; we understand this has essentially meant requiring newer, cleaner buses (generally hybrids, with modern engine technology) when contracts are up for renewal.

Several routes on Lavender Hill already had relatively new buses (87, 452, etc) but the 77 really stood out for having a fleet of particularly old, loud and smelly buses, which were also quite prone to breaking down en route – which have now finally been replaced.

Looking at the map, it seems the chosen zones aren’t necessarily the absolute worst pollution hotspots, but rather they seem to be focussed on areas that have both a lot of buses, and a lot of residents / pedestrians – i.e. the interaction is the problem.   TfL presumably aren’t so worried about high pollution levels on major arterial roads if there aren’t many houses / shops / pedestrians to be affected by the pollution, which seems a fair approach in a world where funding is limited.

All in all, this is unambiguously good news.  Lavender Hill has always had heavy bus traffic and has long suffered from air pollution.  The difference in the level of blackish soot that gathers on window ledges and surfaces on buildings facing the main street, compared with nearby side roads, is really noticeable – and this is always a good indicator of how mucky the air is.  Anything that can help is to be applauded.

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The parking meters are going contactless

The old parking meters on the side streets either side of Lavender Hill are finally being replaced.  It’s good news as their functionality was, at best, mixed – several had been out of service for many months (in a few cases, years).  The alternative ‘pay by phone’ option left a great deal to be desired, meaning a lack of working meters was a headache for any visitor (whether to shops or residents).

In the short term, some areas are meterless as the electrical connections to the old meters are gradually disconnected (the new ones are solar powered, whereas the old ones were so ancient they predated cheap solar panels).

The new ones won’t take coins or cash – avoiding coin collection costs, hugely reducing the number of mechanical parts involved, and probably reducing theft / vandalism.  But they will take card payments (chip & contactless), which is likely to be preferred by many.  The new machines are quite a leap forward in technology, jumping straight from LCD time display to full colour solar display screens.

It’s hardly front page news, but as far as we can tell (through the frequency of being asked if we know of any working meters in the neighbourhood) these do get used a fair bit, so it’s good that they’re being made a bit more convenient.

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A few new arrivals on Lavender Hill

A cluster of new businesses are on the way at the eastern end of Lavender Hill.  The new Co-op supermarket, which we’ve talked about before, is now well advanced, with refrigeration equipment all installed and most of the signage in place – but no news on an opening date yet.

A Vitenamese restaurant called Bui Vien is opening at 33 Lavender Hill, a premises which has been through three different recent incarnations as a Turkish grill.  A lot of effort has gone in to the fit out in recent weeks, and Bui Vien’s facebook page is live (albeit not very populated yet).

Former wood oven pizzeria Made in South is reopening as Pizzeria Pellone – again plenty of fitting out in the last few weeks.  We’re not sure if it’s the same business as the generally well-rated Pizzeria Pellones in Croydon and Dulwich – though the colour scheme of the new sign does look similar.

Finally, two doors up from Bui Vien, a mystery restaurant is under construction at the former Maki Sushi.  It looks smart – but as yet no news on what it will be…

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New Co-op supermarket confirmed for Lavender Hill


Extract of the plans, showing the proposed new shopfront at 47-51 Lavender Hill (© Archer Architects)

Back in May we reported that the Co-op was quietly exploring the possibility of a new mini supermarket on Lavender Hill – and that the chosen spot was one that had previously been a Co-op until the 1980s.  These plans are now confirmed, with a planning application in for changes to the shopfronts (2018/4340), another for new shop signs, and a new licensing application for alcohol sales.


Proposed layout (© Archer Architects)

The main site is the old Ichnusa gastropub (47-49 Lavender Hill) – but the project will also take over the old long-abandoned Ace Printing print shop next door (No. 51), which will mainly contain the back of house parts of the shop (freezers, deliveries, office, bakery, etc).

The terrace at the front will be replaced by ramps and steps to ensure easy access & provide cycle parking, and the whole shopfront will be generally tidied up, to include electric doors but also to make it more in keeping with the appearance of the rest of the building.  Unusually for a new Co-op there’s no plan to install a cash machine – presumably reflecting the rapid move from cash to contactless card payments.

Some work has already started to strip out the fittings in the old gastropub and former print shop, as our photo below shows.  An impressive number of fridges were removed (at least seven), as well as enough furniture to fill the unit next door from floor to ceiling.

IMG_20180913_081430514_HDRBringing these units back in to productive use can only really be a good thing for Lavender Hill as a whole, and we doubt this development will be controversial.  There may be concerns in Marmion Mews about a proposed new air conditioning unit at the rear, though these tend to get through planning without much difficulty as long as the applicants install a suitably quiet design.  The Co-op reckon this new store will create 20-25 jobs (some of which are part time).

We understand the shop next door at No. 53 Lavender Hill is owned by the same landlord, but it’s not part of this proposal.  Despite an elegant Victorian shopfront No. 53 has been unoccupied for longer than any other shop on Lavender Hill – hopefully there are separate plans to somehow get it back in to use (potentially also making some use of the basements that extend under all four of these units, which are not part of the supermarket plans).

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Is major redevelopment ahead at Asda on Lavender Hill – and at Clapham Junction station?…

Sainsbury’s may well be merging with Asda.  It’s not certain this will happen – but if it goes ahead, we reckon that, one way or another, one of the largest sites in Clapham Junction could be up for major redevelopment.  This post explores why we think this, and what it could mean for Lavender Hill.  We also report on the early plans for redevelopment of Clapham Junction station, some of which have recently become available, as these may become closely intertwined with the future of the Asda site.

The Competition & Markets Authority will need to approve the merger – and will be examining whether the merger still allows enough choice of local supermarkets for customers across the country.  Our map below shows all the local supermarkets – large letters mean the big ones with car parking, small ones refer to ‘local’ or ‘express’ shops.  The big A in the middle is Asda, S means Sainsbury’s, C means Co-op, T means Tesco, and so on…  (we’ve also included the possible new Co-op on Lavender Hill).  Supermarket mapIt’s striking that while on the one hand Clapham Junction has eight different supermarkets, they are mostly small convenience versions.  When you look at the rival supermarkets around Asda – the  large ones, with a full range and car parking – three of the four nearest ones are already owned by Sainsbury’s!  A combined Sainsbury’s/Asda would therefore own all the nearby large stores, with huge branches of Sainsbury’s at Fulham, Wandsworth and Nine Elms, all of them recently rebuilt.  The CMA tends to only really be interested in the large stores, and Clapham Junction is hence an area they will no doubt look at very closely if the merger gets the green light.

Despite all the problems the big supermarkets are currently facing, the Lavender Hill Asda store won’t be closing any time soon – it’s something of a jewel in the Asda crown and we’ve heard it is highly profitable; it’s certainly very busy most of the time.  This means Sainsbury’s/Asda will probably fight hard to hang on to it – but their hand may be forced.

If Sainsbury’s/Asda do have to sell this branch to a rival as a condition of the merger, Tesco seems the likeliest buyer if the price was right.  Tesco know the area well – they have plenty of small stores around here and also used to own the Fulham site, but (in a rather complicated deal some years back) sold it to Sainsbury’s; there’s a medium-sized Tesco at Clapham South but nothing much else this side of Vauxhall; and central London remains one of their more successful areas.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Other than adding the odd mezzanine here & there, Asda have shown very little enthusiasm for developing their UK stores to be anything other than supermarkets surrounded by car parks.  Maybe this is because they’re owned by Wal-Mart – an American supermarket with only limited experience in such developments (mixing supermarkets and flats is still rare in the US, outside a few major city centres).  The fact that Asda are one of the weaker performing parts of the Wal-mart empire (last year reporting 11 consecutive quarters of sales declines) probably didn’t encourage Wal-mart to sign off big (and potentially risky) UK property investments either.

In marked contrast, both Tesco and Sainsbury’s have strong form in redeveloping their city centre stores – you only have to look at Sainsbury’s recent major redevelopments of stores in Nine Elms, Fulham and Whitechapel to see what we could expect under a Sainsbury’s ownership.  If the site is sold to Tesco, they have form too – look at their huge redevelopments in Woolwich, Gateshead or Streatham and the model is very similar, with several floors of underground car parking a coupe of levels of retail, and then flats galore on many upper levels.

Some of Tesco’s recent projects have gone wrong – with a redevelopment disaster in Dartford in 2015 probably being the most famous example.  However they have reportedly looking again at the value of their sites.  As reported in The Drum

[Tesco] will look to completely overhaul the locations of existing stores. In practice, this would see it block off a significant portion of a store’s carpark and build a new Tesco with residential property above it. Once the new store is operational it would then knock down the old one and transform that into a car park with yet more flats above it.

So, in short, pretty much whoever ends up running this store – whether an Asda/Sainsbury’s partnership, Tesco, or someone else – chances are they’ll be rather more interested in big development projects than Asda ever were.

And as one of very few big supermarket sites so close to central London & excellent transport, with potential for a building that uses the whole of the large site, that goes both deeper below ground and higher above ground than the current structures (the adjacent post office is building about six storeys higher), it may all happen quite quickly.

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The Asda site, shaded in green (adapted from an extract of Wandsworth’s planning policies map) – which was formerly a railway yard

So what might get built?  There is some planning guidance already in place in a little-known tome of Wandsworth’s planning guidance, the Site Specific Allocations document – which includes a brief description of the site and what redevelopment could offer:

Design Principles: The existing development of this site originates from the 1980’s when the former railway lands were developed for a large supermarket, currently ASDA. Since that development took place two other sites have been re-developed for retail use, namely Boots and Lidl. These developments around the northern edge of the town centre lie outside the conservation area, and have resulted in a fragmentation of the urban fabric in contrast to the tight-knit urban grain of the main town centre. The site is occupied by low rise buildings, which contrast markedly with the rest of the town centre. There is a real opportunity as part of the vision for the town centre to secure a development that contributes to its vitality and diversity, whilst ensuring that its contextual grain is respected. Any proposals should seek to enhance the character and appearance of the setting of the conservation area. Any development along the south side of a potential street realignment of Falcon Lane should take account of the impact on properties on Mossbury Road.

The site the document refers to includes Lidl, Boots and the post office building; however as we have reported elsewhere Lidl already has its own redevelopment plans, and the post office still houses a major telephone exchange which is unlikely to be cost-effective to relocate, so we’re probably really only talking about Asda or maybe (at a push) Asda & Boots.

The site specific allocations document includes some fairly high level design steers:

Street blocks: Redevelopment should reflect the urban grain of Clapham Junction. Development of this site should ensure that it integrates with the character of surrounding redevelopment and enhances the setting of the conservation area. Street frontages should respect the prevailing four storey height of the town centre and the enclosure ratio between the width of a new street and buildings should be similar to St John’s Road/Lavender Hill. An improved pedestrian environment to Falcon Road and Lavender Hill with enhanced priorities for pedestrian crossings should be sought with an active frontage to Falcon Road.

There’s a steer to maintain or increase the amount of retail here, which we believe is pretty important – as while the Asda building has dated really quite quickly, this remains an important part of Clapham Junctions’s shopping centre and brings in a fair bit of trade for the other shops in the neighbourhood –

Scope for intensification, including additional retail floorspace, other town centre uses including potential hotel development and residential. Retention of post office and delivery office use. […]  There is scope for intensification […] including the provision of significant additional housing in this highly accessible location. New retail floorspace can take pressure off the unique and distinct areas to the south such as Northcote Road, Battersea Rise and Webbs Road and help meet identified retail growth required.

The above was drafted back when there was a bit of a local panic about chains moving in to the Northcote Road and edging out everyone else; this threat seems to have receded somewhat, and the issue now is probably more about ensuring that we don’t lose the main town centre ‘anchor retailers’ we already have.

The current site also provides the only source of car parking for a wide range of local businesses – the site is, technically, town centre parking; one of the conditions on its construction was that Asda can’t force you to make a purchase to use it provided you don’t overstay the free parking timescale.  Despite the gradual trend away from large car parks, this one remains very heavily used and we’d be really quite concerned if this was reduced or remved in any redevelopment.  To add to the complexity, the site is somewhat interlinked with a railway signalling centre to the north, and a day nursery to the east.

A rebuilding would be quite complex and troublesome to manage (the Vauxhall Sainsbury’s, for example, was replaced for several months with a small temporary supermarket at one end of the site, then disappeared altogether for a good few months during development) – but this is hard to avoid.

Any redevelopment will have a major impact on Lavender Hill – both during the works, and afterwards.  It won’t necessarily be negative – there’s little doubt that if Asda was built today, what would have been built would be a very different building that woudl make far better use of the space.  The site specific allocations document is a good atrt (not that it necessarily gets followed in practice!); we’d also suggest a few guiding principles –

  • The site can add all sorts of new uses (flats, hotels, etc) but a redevelopment needs to retain a large supermarket – as it’s important for the town centre as a whole
  • The level of public car parking should be maintained, and it should keep the current ‘free limited-time town centre parking’ arrangements (but it should, of course, be underground – easily done on this sloping site)
  • The front of a rebuilt supermarket should actually face on to Lavender Hill, rather than being at the back of a surface car park
  • The current small ‘square’, of sorts, between the car park and Lavender Hill should be preserved in some way in the new development, but with active shops / restaurants facing it rather than fences and blank walls (as even though it is currently in a poor condition, it has great potential as a public space)

But this could become a much bigger, even more important project.  Network Rail have recently taken over ownership of Clapham Junction station, with a view to sorting out the ongoing issues of congestion for once and for all – something that is very likely to involve some major rebuilding of the station, and which is pretty much unavoidable if Crossrail 2 and / or the long term extension of the Northern line from Battersea Power Station to Clapham Junction go ahead.

Network Rail are well aware that regeneration, if it involves covering over parts of the station and the extensive railway sidings, could give rise to an over–site development opportunity of 57 acres.  Have a look at the map below (which is from a Network Rail document – but which we stress is, at this stake, only an early design concept and no doubt subject to huge changes in coming years), showing a potential new street plan if this goes ahead – you’ll see that the entire station area, and some areas around it, could potentially become an extension of the town centre – and that the Asda site, at th ebottom right, is also shown as part of the new street layout:

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Very early stage masterplan for Clapham Junction station redevelopment, from Network Rail’s property brochure – note that this builds in the Asda site. Note this is, at this stage, a very early design…

Here’s a quote from the ‘longer term developments’ part of a recent Network Rail publication on its planned & potential property developments (remembering that Network Rail have recently taken over Clapham Junction) – as well as, for interest, a couple of very tentative images of what the redeveloped station could maybe look like –

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Illustration of development potential above the station, if it is partly decked over

Clapham Junction – A Masterplan for a Remodelled Station and New Neighbourhood
Clapham Junction is the busiest railway interchange in the UK with over 2,000 trains passing through each day. It needs significant remodelling to cope with a growing customer base and the planned arrival of Crossrail 2. By 2031, Clapham Junction will no longer be able to cope with passenger demand.  Through Solum Regeneration – our joint venture vehicle with Capco – we are looking at the potential of redeveloping Clapham Junction to create a modern station, able to cope with future demand and ready to accommodate Crossrail 2. The project could revitalise the town centre, deliver connectivity to its surroundings, and support the wider regeneration within the Clapham Junction to Battersea Riverside Housing Zone.

We are exploring the idea of decking over the station to provide a platform for new enabling development. This would allow us to maximise the space, improving access and circulation, creating opportunities for retail within the station and supporting the delivery of the Housing Zone. The project is still at an early stage but if progressed, we could deliver a new station and create new space for housing in central London.

CJ Proposal

Extract of (very early) proposals for the new Clapham Junction (source: Network Rail). Please note these are concept sketches only at this stage…

This is, of course, all quite speculative, and the proposed Asda/Sainsbury’s merger may never happen.

Either way, Lavender Hill for Me will be watching this all closely (and you can also count on Clapham Junction Action Group keeping a very close eye on the station redevelopment) – and will keep you posted.  And we welcome your thoughts…

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‘Winterville’ organisers behaving badly – by shamelessly flyposting on local shopfronts!

Winterville flyposting

An example of Winterville adverts crudely glued to the windows of a shop at 6 Lavender Hill – this shopfront had only been installed a few days previously, and the surface was damaged when the posters were scraped off the next day (link to enlarged version)

The Winterville fair, on Clapham Common, has embarked on a PR drive to win us all over to the repeat of the five-week event in November / December this year.  It benefits from a year-long events planning permission, but (as far as we are aware) still needs an alcohol license.

Winterville has run for a few years, but only recently moved to Clapham from Victoria Park (presumably attracted by the potentially profitable mix of wealthy young families by day / outgoing twenty- and thirtysomethings by evening).

The cross-London move seems to have been a success for Winterville, but it’s fair to say it’s had a mixed reception  locally –  on the one hand it’s a free entry event (most of the time – charges applied Friday & Saturday evenings), it’s run professionally, and it’s been quite appreciated as a local day out by a fair few residents.  On the other hand there was inevitably some disturbance to neighbours despite the entrance being deliberately deep in the Common, and the grass took a real punishing last time round and it took months until the area was usable again.

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Winterville letter to residents – click here to enlarge

From a Lavender Hill perspective, we were dismayed to see that last year Winterville blatantly (and illegally) glued huge posters to several shop fronts along Lavender Hill (one of our pictures above).  These were a huge nuisance for the owners and traders to remove (the one above was removed two days later, but it left some damage to the glass), and (where Winterville started, in some cases – where shops were empty  – others followed and before we knew it once tidy shops (and the paving below them) were littered with glue and layers of tatty posters).

Winterville’s claims in their letter to residents (here’s a large version) that they are “a community event designed […] to enrich the local community”, and that they want to “benefit the area” ring rather hollow when they behave like this on their local streets!

We don’t object to Winterville returning – but only if they respect their neighbours!  There are plenty of legal ways to advertise.  Rampant illegal flyposting suggests the co-producers Marcus Weedon & London Union may not be suitable operators for such an event.

We’ll be contacting Winterville to establish how this happened last year (including who they used to affix their advertising, if they say they didn’t do it themselves – not that this absolves them of moral responsibility, or indeed legal liability under the town & Country Planning Act).  But more importantly, we’ll also be seeking reassurances on what concrete steps they will take to prevent this type of behaviour happening again (if, indeed, the event runs again).  And, when they’ve had a reasonable chance to comment, we’ll of course be feeding in views on whether they seem to be a fit and proper operator – and on the conditions that should apply to such events more generally –  to Lambeth (and Wandsworth) Councils.

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Advertising hoardings masquerading as phone boxes

IMG_20170408_170421123.jpgThe cases we previously opposed on dubious projects to litter the street with huge advertising hoardings, using a planning loophole to claim they are “much needed” new payphones, are still ongoing as the developers have appealed the Council’s decision to refuse permission – and the cases are still with the planning inspectorate.  Hopefully they’ll agree with the views of residents rather than those attempting to clutter the streets and block important sight lines at road junctions…

In the meantime there have been some developments by other payphone operators.  BT has been working with Wandsworth in a rather more cooperative way, and have removed many of the old payphones, replacing them with a smaller number of ‘InLink’ kiosks. These are primarily designed as digital adverts, but their placing has been rather more carefully considered to be safe and fit in to the immediate environment, and they do offer free Wi-fi, a screen with a somewhat unstable local information service, and free calls.

It took a while for them to get up and running (and one unfortunate installation on Falcon Road got tagged days before it was even turned on) but our photo at bottom left below – note the headphones plugged in – suggests that these do work.


These haven’t been entirely trouble free where they have been installed elsewhere, partly as the free internet access in the early versions was free of any ‘parental controls’ (see this New York Times article, reporting that “they have also attracted people who linger for hours, sometimes drinking and doing drugs and, at times, boldly watching pornography on the sidewalks“), but here there don’t seem to be any major issues here yet.

Rival operator New World (also reputable & long-established) has taken a slightly different tack, have been replacing their existing payphones with new ones that have a digital advertising screen, and planting a certain number of trees per payphone replaced.

To their credit, they seek planning permission for the changes in the proper manner, the new kiosks are reasonably similar to the old ones, and we have indeed found some of the trees planted – the image below shows a new tree on Gowrie Road with a ‘New World Payphones’ stake, which we believe is linked to a payphone replacement at the eastern end of Lavender Hill.


These two examples suggest that (a) there is already a perfectly healthy and competitive local payphone market, with no need for added provision, and (b) as these more respectful operators have shown, there are better ways to go about upgrading payphone services and securing long term advertising revenue, than trying to run roughshod over residents’ concerns by using planning loopholes to force giant ‘kiosks’ on every street corner.

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