Sambrook’s Brewery is on the move

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© Sambrook’s Brewery

Our local brewery Sambrook’s was a pioneer of the small brewery movement that emerged in the early 2000s.  It all started with a Gordon Brown-led 50% cut in tax rates for smaller breweries, and led to an explosion in range and variety – and had been credited with  helping pubs add interest, and attract new drinkers. 

At first Sambrook’s was based in a single rather unglamorous lock-up unit on Yelverton Road (just off the York Road), and its beers were only available at the Falcon pub.  It was a definite success and grew rapidly – and from a Lavender Hill perspective, an important milestone was the launch of the Lavender Hill Pale Ale!  It started as a limited one-off release but it proved popular and has become a fairly regular annual appearance since.

The range is now widely available, and Sambrook’s premises have expanded a fair bit since – taking over most of the building on Yelverton Road, and expanding to include a shop and a tap room.  There’s also an offsite bottling operation in Broadstairs, shared with several other breweries.

But they’ve outgrown the premises.  And now they’re moving – to far more luxurious accommodation, in the old Ram Brewery in Wandsworth town centre.  Sambrook’s will invest £1.5 million in the new brewery, which will include a museum incorporating some of the old Young’s equipment that remains on site.

It’s unlikely we’ll see a return to the days when Wandsworth gyratory smelt of brewing, and (if you were lucky) you could spot horse-drawn deliveries to the very many nearby Young’s pubs in Wandsworth.  But it’s good to see that our most local brewery is growing and continuing to prosper, even if it’s moving slightly further away – and it’s also good to see part of the old Ram Brewery (which has been a brewery, one way or another, all the way back to the 16th century) continuing to make beer.

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The square next to the planned new brewery in Wandsworth, with the towers above Southside shopping centre in the background.

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Interesting new project on Wixs Lane

We see all manner of clumsy opportunist proposals for new buildings in the Lavender Hill area, especially when it’s a case of landlords trying to cram as many tiny and dark flats in to a space as possible – but from time to time we see some rather good designs and this is an example of one of them.  This small development is set to go ahead on Wixs Lane, replacing replace the car park of Dacres House (a block of flats on Cedars Road) with two semi-detached modern houses (one three-bed and one four-bed).

Several other plans were previously developed for this site, including blocks of flats – all of which were withdrawn or rejected, before new architects (Add Architects) developed this proposal which now has full planning approval.  The development is being taken forward on behalf of the owners of Dacres House (the block of flats next door).

It’s a decent example of a proportionate use of a site – not cramming things in to every possible space, and putting all the parking and servicing in to the ‘underground’ areas to allow as much light and space as possible on the main living floors.  Both the houses have outdoor space, and they’ve been fairly thoughtfully designed for the location, with brick echoing the Victorian houses to the left but a design that echoes the Cedars Road Estate buildings on the right.  The living room of one house faces south, and the other north, allowing both a good degree of privacy despite the compact urban site.  

wixs 2Planned view from Wixs Lane (© Add Architects)

Wixs Lane is the rather steep path that leads from Lavender Hill to the Wix School.  Here’s a Google Street View extract showing the location of the development (roughly where the orange star is).  Wixs 3The current view (© Google StreetView)

The existing long access ramp that leads from Wixs Lane to the car park will remain in use, as the entrance to the garages and lower floors of the new development – it’s visible in the bottom right hand corner of the artists’ impression below.

wixs lanePlanned aerial view (© Add Architects)

This seems a decent project; it should be a good quality addition to the area.  

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Battersea’s newest street: Avery Walk

It’s not every day a new street appears in Battersea, but Avery Walk (connecting Stormont Road and Sugden Road) is now complete, and open to the public.  Actually calling it a new street is maybe overplaying it a bit – but it is a road that runs along nine new houses, with public pedestrian access. It’s also a drivable road, but access to vehicles is only for residents (who have individual parking spaces) and rubbish trucks.

IMG_20190512_144651444_HDRThe development was somewhat controversial when it was going through the planning process (the site is only just able to accommodate nine houses, and they are close to their neighbours on Lavender Hill) – however now that work is complete the street looks decent, and the houses look to be well built to a good standard.  A bit of greenery would help the feel of the place, and (as it was part of the original plans) may yet be added.

The 3- and 4-bed houses took some time to build (with a lot of excavation at first to create the large basements, and a notable pause of a couple of months when they were nearly complete).  The houses all have four stories – with one of them underground and stretching underneath the road surface.  They have no gardens but they do all include balconies and roof terraces.   A few remain for sale (going for £1.5-1.8 million) and some are for rent, however a good number are now occupied – we hope our new neighbours are enjoying these rather smartly fitted out properties.  

As you walk along the street you will notice glazed sections at the Sugden Road end – these provide light to the kitchen / living rooms in the basements of the bigger houses.  The original plans had these in all nine of the houses, but we understand that rather late in the day (after work had started) it was spotted that part of the land actually belonged to the Council rather than the developers, which was a bit awkward!  It was the service yard for the old factory and everyone had presumably assumed it belonged to Rotoplas, but it didn’t.  The design was therefore changed to make the basements of some of the houses at the Stormont Road end shorter, avoiding the ‘non owned’ land  – but this meant that there was no longer room for the skylights.

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Avery Walk runs along the site of what used to be the Rotoplas factory, one of the last manufacturing businesses in Battersea, who specialised in making specialist metal components very precisely using electroforming processes.  Rotoplas are a successful local business and those who were familiar with them will be pleased to know they haven’t disappeared – they’ve just moved to more modern and spacious premises in Lower Sydenham.  Watching the demolition of their old building was interesting – it was really a small complex of buildings, some of them very old, including a section that had many moons ago been a bakery and had a whole load of built-in ovens.

In an intriguing twist, Avery Walk was due to be called Medford Row, but there was a late change of mind (after the formal notifications had gone up) and the name of the as-yet unbuilt street was changed. There’s usually some local relevance to new street names, and we’d be interested if any of our readers knows where the name Avery originated from…

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Work starts on 26 new flats & four houses on the Gideon Road Estate

A while back we reported that 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 long-term tenants who are being moved out of the Winstanley Estate ahead of its partial demolition and redevelopment.

Work has now started on the first four blocks – the whole site has been fenced off and cleared.  All the old lock-up garages have been demolished, and what looks like the beginning of a new drainage and sewerage network is being installed.

The car park area as it was (image © Google Street View), and as it is now…

It’s good to see the Council investing in what (at least from the plans) looks like decent quality and spacious housing (many of the flats and houses have gardens), though as ever we’ll only really know how well built these are when they’re finished!

Ultimately we’ll see a mix of houses and flats (architects’ impression of what it will look like below), and a reorganised (and smaller) open-air parking area.

gideon after aerialAccording to the plans that were submitted for approval, three further small blocks are set to be built further to the east (one of them in the sunken car park area behind The Crown pub).

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Inevitably, access routes are likely to be a little constrained for the next few months – as this map shows, the only way through is to squeeze around the edge of the building site.

When the development is complete, the layout will be a bit more logical than what was there before, though the layout of new buildings at the western end of the site means there will be a blind corner and a rather narrow exit route through to Grayshott Road that’ll probably be best avoided after dark.

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Work starts on the urban park next to BAC

Back in December we reported on plans to convert the street next to BAC in to a small urban park.  This was a popular proposal, even though (as we noted) some of the finer details were still likely to need to be ironed out on what is a complicated patch of land with many different owners.  The good news is that work has now started on the site – it’s fenced off and the existing pavement has been pulled up.    IMG_20190718_170617108The roof of the storage sheds attached to the neighbouring flats has also been cleared.  The intention is for this rather underused space to house plants, as well as a twisted roof girder that was rescued from the fire in the Grand Hall, and which will be reborn as a feature set among the plants.

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The whole idea behind the ‘urban park’ is a good bit of creative thinking by BAC, and this will definitely be a welcome improvement on what was there before, and bring a little green in to a space that wasn’t used for much other than deliveries and occasional storage of materials.  The plans provide for some outdoor seating for the Scratch Bar.

Having a more attractive exterior space will also help to make BAC more attractive as a venue for hire, and support the development of the shared workspace on the lower ground floor – an important stream of income for any business, and especially important given that BAC (since it which is now independent from Wandsworth) has to stand on its own feet financially.

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A couple of vintage signs on Lavender Hill

Building works have exposed a couple of original signs on lavender Hill – Duke’s Dry Cleaners (which has been undergoing internal works for a while) recently had th esign removed, top reveal the long-lost R&J Cleaners.  This hand-painted sign looks as though it dates back to the 1980s – but we’d be interested if anyone knows when this was last on view (or remembers who R&J were).  

Meanwhile the long-closed Fairlee Pharmacy on the corner of Rush Hill Road has been under renovations (as the final stage of a very lengthy and comprehensive extension and renovation of the building above); the rather elegant old wooden sign has sadly now made its final appearance.  This old sign may be gone, but Fairlee are still going strong – they’ve moved twice since, and are currently trading in much larger premises on Queenstown Road.

The builders were kind enough to let passers by have spare letters as they were removed…

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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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