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:

CJ masterplan

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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Lavender Hill streetscape upgrade works complete – a big improvement

The roughly year-long streetscape work by Wandsworth Council on Lavender Hill is complete – with new pavement surfaces along the entire length of the street, new LED street lighting, new surfacing of most of the road, new wider pedestrian crossings with extended speed humps, a few new trees, and (most recently) adhesive gravel surrounds to some of the trees to protect their roots & limit the litter that gathers in the tree cutouts.  The final small (stone-paved) section outside BAC is set to be upgraded next year.

We understand some clever financial engineering went in to pay for all this work (which came in at close to £700k), including grants from London-wide funds, and a bit of funding from the contributions of Nine Elms developers.

It’s a definite improvement, making it a much more pleasant environment, and seems to have been appreciated by residents and traders.  The poor state of the street was a long standing issue for Lavender Hill for Me, and we’re very pleased to see this result.

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Lavender Hill: goodbyes & new arrivals

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Valentina on Lavender Hill, after it closed suddenly

There’s been a fair bit of turmoil in British retail in the last few months, and Lavender Hill has to some extent echoed national trends – here’s a quick roundup of some of the businesses we’ve lost and the new ones to welcome.  We’ve seen the sudden demise of Valentina, although it’s encouraging that the Lavender Hill branch was one of the final three to survive after the rest of the small chain collapsed some months previously, meaning that this good-sized restaurant will hopefully find a new taker soon.  It’s striking how fast the business collapsed – the premises show signs of a sudden and hurried departure, and a month later there is still some Tiramisu in the fridges, which are still on…  We hope the new owners keep the olive tree.  Business rates are having an impact – we also seen the closure of the Lock Centre, a long-established part of Lavender hill and the birthplace of many of the locks on the houses and flats around it, as well as Braggins Carpets, another long-term trader.  Braggins began a closing process (but have since continued to operate from half of the old shop unit), although we understand that the business may be continuing from new premises.

But it’s not all closures.  Further along the street, newly opened SK:N clinic has taken over the whole of the old Lavender Hill GP practice.  And Summit Newsagents next to Bar Social, which had been for sale for a while, has opened as Gas Monkey.  In a bit of local trader support, the new sign for Gas Monkey was made by Signtair (at the other end of the street).

There are recent signs of life in the former Ciao Martina restaurant unit half way along the street (closed for some time), and in the former Bangkok Boulevard (which closed suddenly following a visit by the food hygiene inspectors), though what they are becoming is currently unclear.

The Crown has reopened following a major internal and external refurbishment.  Its good to see a pub hat has stayed (more or less) a proper pub, and that remains successful and busy.

And as noted in another article on this site, the long-closed Ichnusa gastropub may yet be converted to a supermarket as a branch of the Co-op – and in doing so reopen a branch of the Co-op that closed many years ago.

IMG_20170929_185743694.jpgFinally long-established trader 1st Stop , who have traded from various premises over the years, have been replaced by IdeaSpace – a new flexible office space.  It’s not all over for 1st stop though; we hear a new shop is due to open on nearby Northcote Road.

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A new NHS hub in the Falcon Road PCS building?

PCS building

The PCS building on Falcon Road

Not strictly a Lavender Hill project, but readers may be interested to hear a fairly large new NHS base is being planned for the first floor of the PCS building on Falcon Road, next to the station (PCS will remain in the building, but using less space).

Hardly any changes will be made to the appearance of the building and it’s unlikely this change of use will be controversial (indeed the new facility should be useful, and the location is certainly convenient).  For those with an interest it’s Wandsworth planning application 2018/2208.

This project follows recent changes in the delivery of many of the Borough’s local NHS community services; these were previously provided by St Georges NHS trust, but since October 2017 have been delivered by Central London NHS trust instead.  St Georges already have various buildings scattered around the area (notably on Stormont Road, just off Lavender Hill – but also in the Doddington estate and further afield); while the Central London trust have a rather motley assortment of smaller sites scattered around the borough, none of which are really suitable for use as a major community facility.

The plans are essentially for a load of consulting rooms, and desk space for around 100 people – a few extracts below.

clapham sgnOne minor niggle: the planning documents suggest they’re calling the new facility the NHS “Clapham hub” rather than a more descriptive ‘Clapham Junction’ or ‘Battersea’ (but there’s still time before they apply for detailed signage permissions – we’re tipping off Love Battersea before it’s too late!).

Planning images (c) Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust / IngletonWood

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Is the Co-op returning to Lavender Hill?

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The former Ichnusa gastropub – boarded up after it closed

Many years ago, there was a branch of the Co-op at 47-49 Lavender Hill – a notably large open-plan shop not far from the junction with Queenstown Road, which still feels a bit like a supermarket inside.

It was later converted to a pub / restaurant, and over the years took quite a few names (the Puzzle, the Taybridge, Elephant on the Hill, etc).  Latterly it was Ichnusa, a Sardinian restaurant (which had moved there from a smaller premises further along the street).  This was a popular place and had been doing quite well until an inspection by Wandsorth’s food safety team which revealed “very serious and unacceptable health and hygiene breaches” including an “accumulation f raw sewage” and a “fly infestation”.  The owner was served with a hygiene prohibition order on February 20 at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court, forcing him to close the business, as well as a hefty fine; it never reopened.  The premises has remained empty, looking increasingly sad and abandoned, ever since.

We’ve now heard that there’s a planning application for a change of use (application number 2018/1201), seeking to convert it back from a bar/restaurant to its original use as a shop – and, in an interesting development, the application suggests that if this gets the nod it’s set to become a branch of the Co-op again.

This feels like a welcome and relatively uncontroversial development – after all, this was a shop (indeed, a Co-op) before, the Co-op are generally respectable and not a troublesome neighbour, and a new business here could help the vitality of this section of the street.   It also counteracts the trend for shops in this area to convert to cafes and nail bars / hair salons, keeping some balance overall to the retail.  It follows a fair few recent openings by the Co-op in the area (Wandsworth road petrol station, Battersea bridge, Clapham south, two branches on the same day in Wandsworth town centre a few years back).

We’d welcome your thoughts on this.  Bear in mind that at this stage, the planning application is purely to ‘officialise’ the change of use – any details on changes to the premises to accommodate a supermarket, and what (if any) conditions would be attached, will no doubt be part of another planning application down the line.

 

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