How have Lavender Hill’s restaurants done during the pandemic?

We’re finally getting back to normal. And the good news is, while the going has been tough and there’s been a lot of hard work and trouble along the way, most of Lavender Hill’s shops and restaurants have made it through. We know that this owed a lot to the hard work of their owners and staff – but we know it also relied on your continued support in lockdown – for which thank you! Several restaurants have even made the most of the quiet times to invest in the business to be more ready for full reopening – like Yano Sush pictured above, with an improved terrace & new decoration.

Lavender Hill Fish and Chips opened shortly pre-lockdown and has proved a huge success – with long queues on Fridays in particular, and a reputation going far and wide – we’ve met people waiting who walked all the way from Clapham North! It’s been such a success, indeed, that the owner has taken over the rather dilapidated former chicken shop next door, which is being converted to a kebab & grill shop; work is currently underway to refit the premises (pictured below). Looking at the success they’ve had in creating a reliably high quality fish & chip restaurant, we’re confident this will do similarly well.

Pizzeria Pellone has been another major lockdown success. Opening not too long before this all started, the quality of Antonio’s Neapolitan pizzas really caught on and the entire restaurant became a hub of takeaway activity, with crowds of collectors & delivery drivers around. Now juggling an eat-in and takeaway trade, we have a feeling they may need larger premises.

Our Portuguese bakery SweetSmile ran a takeaway service, but then made the most fo the downtime to develop the seating area so they can now offer a more comprehensive cooked food menu that is proving popular.

Room 43 took an innovative angle, at one stage running as a work-from-home alternative for those of us who are tired of working from the kitchen table, with inclusive wifi access.

Lebanese restaurant I Cook U Eat, who as we previously noted had the difficult task of opening just at the beginning of the pandemic, made it through and are creating a bigger better front terrace to make the most of the sun on this stretch of the street.

Sugarcane owner Tee has opened his second restaurant at 50 Lavender Hill, having made quite an impact with his first business on Wandsworth Road. Like the forst branch this is a Caribbean restaurant, but this one is Vegan. This is a very interesting venture: Tee’s just 26 but clearly found a passion for the food business when he got his first job in a Balham cafe as a 17 year old care leaver, and – reflecting the owner’s own experience- it offers employment to care leavers to help them get a way in to working in hospitality. Offering vegan grills, patties and fritters, Roti wraps and an array of freshly made juices and smoothies, it;s well worth a visit.

The Fat Crab had a tough time too, opening not long before the first lockdown and becoming immediately busy and popular – but got there with part closure and part takeaway service.

Our classic and ever-welcoming pub The Crown, who had a major refit a few years back to create a better kitchen and modernise the pub quite substantially, spent the early lockdown closed, then briefly ran a takeaway service, but have now developed their outside seating area and are properly back in business. Without the offer of takeaway food, and losing all the alcohol sales, pubs have had an especially difficult time and need all the custom we can give them now.

The locally-owned Baguette Deli has proved that there is a solid local market for a fresh baked croissant and a Croque Moniserur delivered at 7:30 am on a Sunday mornbing, and more generally has developed a strong local trade in fresh coffee and French light food.

Long-established quality Indian restaurant Khan’s and only slightly newer stablemate Palace Spice both soldiered on through most of the lockdown thanks to takeaway trade and delivery – but there’s no doubt it was tough (not least because of the large fees that the delivery forms charge restaurants – a good point to say if you can pick up a takeaway yourself it’s always much appreciated by the restaurant) – fortunately we understand things are now getting back to normal.

Out highly rated Tumnan Thai – another Lavender Hill business that has been here from the beginning – also made it through, again thanks to takeaway and delivery trade and a good reputation in the neighbourhood that meant the orders kept coming.

El Patio (who also opened just before it all kicked off) took a very imaginative approach, with cooking sessions, goods to go, and lately an extended outdoor seating area. Well worth a visit now that they’re getting back to normal operations.

It’s not been all good news: one of our longest standing restaurants, Donna Margherita, developed an Italian produce shop in the first lockdown, selling products as well as a takeaway / delivery offer – but had the terrible luck of a rather severe kitchen fire a few weeks back. The fire was controlled and fortunately we understand there were no injuries – but it means there’s a lot of work to do to get everything back in to condition, so they’ll be closed for a short while. We’ll be spreading the word as soon as they are back.

Further west, Lavender Hill’s iconic Cafe Parisienne kept going throughout, with Kazim making sure he looked after the volunteers at the vaccination centre at BAC. There’s been an internal refit of the seating area too, to make it brighter and fresher.

Korean barbecue restaurant Yori opened in difficult times in what had been Ginger Kiss and have done well – initially with a takeaway offer.

Hannah has unsurprisingly made the most of its generous and sunny outdoor seating area, as well as the wide pavements right around the premises. A really nice spot worth, making the most of.

Our relatively few chains (Pizza Express and Nando’s) had the benefit of more developed business continuity plans for when disasters like the Coronavirus strike – and have carried on relatively happily. The presence of bored working-from-home staff misisng decent coffee shop coffee meant that our many coffee shops (Sendero, Caffe Nero, Baguette Deli, SweetSmile, the list goews on…) also generally did reasonably well – with the addition of new player 2Love whose second branch at the western end of the street is continuing to be popular.

All in all – it could have been a lot worse. We’ve got more restaurants now that we did before the pandemic. And most are small businesses – the result of a huge amount of work and commitment by their owners, amid stressful and difficult times. So now we’re able to get out and about a bit more – please do explore what Lavender Hill has to offer, and spread the word – as our custom and support for small businesses really matters. In a few days we’ll review how our shops have done (sneak preview: it’s a similar story of hard work, but ultimately survival).

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The long-lost Cedars pub: finally restored, but not as a pub

It’s been a bit of an eyesore for years. The Cedars, a large building at 5 Lavender Hill, has been empty for ages since its previous incarnation (late bar / club Ashtar) moved to Vauxhall. Going back further it was a place called Amnesia, and originally The Cedars pub. Time wasn’t kind to the building, which was squatted a few times before property guardians moved in, and became a mucky pigeon-infested mess. When work started it had to be pretty much completely cleared out – nothing of the original interior remains.

The good news is that after some pretty substantial internal works, the building has finally been cleaned up and restored – with a cross section of its new layout shown below. The upper levels have been converted to three fairly generously sized flats, with the addition of another storey up on the roof. The first & second floors are two bed flats, with a smaller one bed flat at roof level; and one of the flats has an outdoor terrace.

The ground floor and unusually large basement aren’t returning to pub or club use, but are instead set to become a restaurant or cafe (with the precise use still to be determined – it could also become a shop). Although the flats are pretty much complete there’s still a fair bit of work to do on the ground floor, but the original windows are still in place and have had a clean up and repaint to make sure that the building looks good enough to put the flats on the market.

There’s not much ability to use this stretch of pavement, so the plans (shown below) provide for the back of the commercial premises to be extended (replacing a mess of outbuildings) and fully glazed, giving access to an outdoor terrace in what used to be the service yard (which still has a long passageway leading to Cedars Road, which is potentially a useful fire escape).

The flats are decent-sized and the works look to have been done to a good standard. It’s a shame it has taken quite so long for this development to go ahead, but at least the premises is now back in use & the work has addressed one of the more run-down parts of this end of Lavender Hill. We close with a photo of The Cedars back in its public house days…

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A new type of extension on the Shaftesbury estate

The quiet streets of picturesque Victorian houses in Battersea’s Shaftesbury Estate have an enduring appeal – but even its most fervent admirers have to concede that they’re not the biggest houses around. They were built by the Artisans, Labourers and General Dwellings Company, a housing co-operative founded in 1867, as ‘decent accommodation for the working classes’ – often with a somewhat compact three-bedroom layout. Many of the houses that are still in their original form come in at about 740 square feet, which is pretty much the average size for all UK properties (houses & flats commbined) of 730 square feet but way smaller than the ~100 square foot average size of a three bedroom house in the UK.

With houses selling at anything between £800k and £1.1 million, it’s maybe not surprising that owners are keen to make as much as possible of the space available. But the conservation rules in the estate, and the small back gardens, limit the scope to extend these houses. The map below shows which houses are listed, and which are protected as part of the conservation area – essentially, all of them (apart from small clusters where bombs landed without exploding, and a much larger cluster by Brassey Square where there was a major explosion).

Broadly speaking householders wanting more space have a reasonable amount of flexibility to do what they like at the back of the houses, provided they don’t overly overshadow neighbours – but the view of the houses from the street needs to be protected. There’s no explicit rule against basement developments, though we’re not aware of any being done – the fact that the land is pretty much at sea level and with a generally complicated drainage situation is likely to make excavation a costly process.

But there are ways and means here. The houses on the estate have two different roof types, visible in the photo above: about three quarters have a classic pitched roof, running parallel to the street. These have a largeish attic, and rear extensions have proliferated (a row of three of these extensions is visible at the top left).

The more complicated ones are the houses with a more unusual ‘London butterfly’ roof, with a parapet facing the street, and a roof that dips down in a V shape. These aren’t unique to London but they do seem to be a feature of the London townhouse, and no-one has built these for a good few decades now. The Shaftesbury Estate’s less famous sister estate in Queen’s Park doesn’t have any of this type of roof at all.

These butterfly roofs have two small attics, and are generally speaking not as high – which means they are rather harder to extend without creating a great big mansard roof at the front and significantly changing the appearance from the street. And this is where the new type of extension is coming in to play.

Tyneham Road is where they started. A typical example is shown above from the rear of the houses, and below in architectural cross section: essentially it’s a mansard roof that starts half way back, designed so it’s just low enough not to be visible from most parts of the road. It makes use of the chimney stacks, to hide some of its size from views along the street.

These are reasonably clever use of the space, and from the street itself they aren’t immediately visible: the planning diagram below shows the sight lines from the pavements opposite these extensions.

That said they are visible from other streets, and have attracted a certain controversy in the planning process. A handful of these have now been built, and attracted a fair few objections – on the grounds that they were incongruous additions that will mess up the uniformity of the terraces that has to date been carefully preserved, that the architecturally significant ‘London butterfly’ roof would be lost, and more generally that these modern extensions don’t respect the character of the Shaftesbury Park Conservation Area. As our photo below of one of these extensions shows, they are indeed visible from street level, but not hugely prominent.

They also generally face criticism on the grounds that they are an over development of the houses – adding a lot of weight and volume to the Victorian foundations, and potentially overshadowing neighbouring houses.

It’s clearly an issue that has caused some discussion among Wandsworth’s planning officials. The whole area is an unusually well-preserved bit of Victorian town planning, with most of the streets on the Shaftesbury Estate looking largely unaltered since the late 1800’s. In assessing recent applications for these extensions, planners noted they are concerned over the increasing number of development proposals and granted planning permissions throughout the Estate which, if uncoordinated, could damage the historic interest and character of the estate that makes it so attractive in the first place.

But the planners don’t have much room for manoeuvre. The first of these extensions was at 166 Tyneham Road (getting planning permission back in 2013), which was swiftly followed by similar ventures at No. 116, No. 114 and No. 44. Having given the nod to those, anyone else who proposes something similar is pretty much assured of planning success.

One of the earliest proposals at No. 114 went through what is described as “a rigorous design appraisal” with the Council’s Conservation and Urban Design team; including a fairly detailed site visit, which led to these new roofs being deemed to be acceptable and not visible
from the street. New proposals pretty much have to be the same as that proposal, to create a reasonably consistent approach along the houses that have been extended.

It’s not clear if the architects of that original proposal get any credit when all the future extensions have to take the same approach! But what has essentially happened here is that a new ‘default’ extension for houses of this type has been developed, which seems to be unique to Wandsworth, and whether you think they’re an ungainly overdevelopment of one of our last areas of well-preserved Victorian streets, or a sensible way of extending these small houses to suit modern expectations – it looks inevitable that many of the houses along the roads with these roofs will sooner or later see this type of extension.

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In pictures: The new Pear Tree Cafe on Clapham Common

A while back we reported on the many changes afoot at Clapham Common’s cafes: all three are changing hands, and a fourth may be on the way. The central cafe, which was formerly La Baita, reopened this weekend after refurbishment works, as the second branch of Pear Tree Cafe.

The Pear Tree Cafe‘s first cafe, opened in 2016 in Battersea Park, was a huge success. Indeed it was quickly overwhelmed with demand, with a degree of chaos until the processes in the cafe were updated to handle enormous demand. The Battersea Park venture took over a previously very unloved cafe, la Gondola – which was quite famous locally for its poor service, doubtful food offerings and generally dubious state of repair – and invested a fair bit in comprehensively updating the building and extending it.

A similar approach is visible in Clapham Common, though in this second project the previous cafe, La Baita, was busy and popular and by no means a disaster! We understand it was closed because the owners sold on the lease and retired. But the building was undoubtedly overdue a bit of an update and that’s what it has received – with a completely new kitchen installed, all the seating and tables replaced, and new lighting and decoration throughout. There’s a lot more queue space inside, but fewer tables.

There’s a strong emphasis on coffee, which is bound to sell well. While La Baita’s food was simple but well executed, it has to be said that its coffee maybe wasn’t the old place’s strong point and received generally mixed reviews; we’re pleased to report that the new cafe has really upgraded things on this front with a high quality offer and pretty much every coffee variation now available!

The menu has moved from classic Italian fare to modern brunch offering, with various all day brunches and a small burger selection available through the day, and it’s a slight notch up in price terms compared to its predecessor.

This was always a popular venue for dogs and children, and it is very well equipped with child seats, and the designers have wisely retained the muddy-shoe-friendly tiled floor. The premises has a full license and has a small selection of beers on tap. The ice cream kiosk was a reliable draw in the old cafe, and there remains an ice cream selection (but sadly only prepacked, rather than served in cones). Babyccinos remain available for 50p.

Sausage rolls are also available, as is a similar selection of pastries to the Battersea Park cafe.

The cafe’s mid-Common location is a major asset, so it’s not surprising that there has been a huge expansion in the amount of exterior seating, with 50 or so new trestle tables now in place – similar to the arrangement in Battersea Park. Coupled with the benches around the bandstand (which always served as an overflow for the old cafe) there’s plenty of dog-friendly space here.

Things will be a little more compact in winter, where we suspect more tables may be added inside. The Battersea Park cafe was quickly extended, enclosing a previously external part of the site to create more inside seating; however in this case Pear Tree Cafe can’t easily extend the building due to severe restrictions about new structures on common land. They are pretty much stuck with the building as it is. But they have made a good effort of working with the slightly dilapidated building they have, making it look brighter and fresher throughout, and with a new layout that should allow a much larger serving capacity. They;re currently open daily from 8 to 6; it’s quiet at the moment but we suspect as word spreads that they have opened, and the weather improves, this will become a very busy spot.

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Compulsory water meters are coming to Clapham Common Northside

You may have noticed a lot of Thames Water vans around in the last few weeks, and people in Thames Water uniforms taking lots of photos of tiny drain covers in the pavement, as well as painting them white. As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this post – we’re about to have water meters rolled out to all the houses that don’t already have them, and if a small drain in front of your house has recently been painted white, you’re going to get one too.

Why? It’s all about reducing our use of water. Despite London’s international reputation as a wet & rainy place, South-east England actually has remarkably little rain, and is officially classed as “semi-arid” and more or less permanently water-stressed. The Environment Agency’s classification (below) identified it as an area of serious water stress.

Originally water meters were very much voluntary, but there was nonetheless a strong encouragement for people to volunteer to have one installed – mostly by gradually ramping up ‘unmetered’ tariff rates to make it cheaper for almost all households to have a water meter than not have one. That has changed now, as the region Thames Water covers is officially an “area of serious water stress”, meaning they can install meters on a rather more efficient basis – doing them street by street and covering all the remaining properties at the same time, rather than waiting for individual householders to contact them and ask for one.

The rollout has been underway for the last few weeks in the Wimbledon / Southfields area, and will eventually cover most of London and the surrounding areas – and by and large it’s the houses that have nothing outside but a rusted stop valve like the ones below that will be converted to new meters. You can expect a small hole to appear and then for a slightly larger drain to be fitted with the meter inside it (the white painting & photos are part of the process of getting Council permission to dig up specific parts of the pavement).

This will hopefully go some way to dealing with a predicted water shortage of around 387 million litres of water a day in the London area by 2045, which is expected to get worse with time increasing to 688 million litres of water a day by 2100 (a quarter of the water Thames Water currently supply!). The choice is either to ship a lot of water to London from the north at great expense (think huge pipelines, reservoirs and pumping stations), or to push out meters to get us to use it more efficiently. And it seems we all use less water when we’re billed for it by the cubic metre (Thames Water reckon water use goes down by twelve percent).

That said, there is another thing Thames Water can do: reduce the number of leaks in their ageing water network! In February this year they lost a staggering 732 million litres of water every day to leaks (which is rather more than the total predicted daily water shortfall in 2100). It’s a big and difficult job: in the same month they repaired 4,568 leaks, but realistically a lot of London’s pipework apart from the really major water mains is a creaking mess of lead and ancient cast iron and needs a major upgrade, and Thames Water have consistently missed their leak reduction targets. To be fair they are getting increasingly clever at finding the stealthiest underground leaks, using acoustic sensors that can detect the quiet hissing of an underground leak, and tiny underwater cameras, to pinpoint the exact location of a dodgy pipe and make them as quick to repair as possible.

There’s a twist too: Most of these new water meters will be cutting-edge ‘smart’ water meters, which take a reading every hour or so and can be read remotely. Thames Water is a pioneer in installing these, and a few weeks ago installed the 500,000th smart meter. These ensure accurate bills and avoid the need for meter readings, and can also detect steady leaks inside and outside houses (as they spot gradual steady water use). They’re quite clever in technical terms, as they need to work underground and sometimes underwater or covered in mud (as anyone who’s looked into a pavement meter drain can confirm, it’s often not pretty down there), as well as having their own power supply.

Smart meters can be a sensitive topic, and we know some would very much prefer not to have a water meter at all, let alone a smart one that generates date on their day to day water use. But rejecting a water meter is becoming an expensive choice, as Thames Water can apply a “no access charge” water rate to anyone who denied them access for the purpose of fitting, maintaining, replacing or reading a meter; which currently runs at over £600 a year (more than the assessed charge for a five bedroom house where someone asked for a meter but it wasn’t possible to fit one for technical reasons, and over three times the rate for a typical two bed flat).

Conversely – meters are a fairer way of charging, will make sure that water bills reflect actual usage, and may well lead to lower bills for many. They’re probably preferable to constructing new pipelines water treatment works and reservoirs across the countryside. A minor extra benefit is that the new meters include a small tap that can turn off the water supply in the property (all you need is a screwdriver to open the drain cover and long arms, or maybe a pair of pliers, to reach and turn the small tap) – which can be handy for anyone who has a big leak in the house and finds their mains water tap is jammed, or that it’s been buried somewhere behind the cupboards of a fitted kitchen (both quite common occurrences).

Either way – this is now set to happen – so we can expect to see a lot of pavement excavation in the near future.

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Part of the Queenstown Road cycle route’s set for an upgrade – but the worst bit may not see much change.

Plans are being developed to improve the cycle lane along the northern end of Queenstown Road. As the last chance for cycle commuters from much of south west London to safely cross the river before the nightmare of Vauxhall gyratory, Queenstown has long been a busy cycle route, which is reflected in the ‘cycle superhighway’ built a few years back and the temporary extra cycle infrastructure that has been installed during the pandemic.

It’s unfortunately also the location for frequent accidents, which has led to several recent upgrades: with cycle-friendly traffic lights installed at the northern end of Chelsea bridge, a major update to the roundabout at Queens Circus (funded by various Nine Elms developers), and the work we have previously reported to put modern traffic lights with an ‘early start’ for bicycles at the eastern end of Lavender Hill.

The actual proposals for the forthcoming upgrade haven’t been defined in much detail at this stage! But a couple of images have been released as part of a high level initial level consultation (that has recently closed). The general approach looks like a rationalisation of the current setup to create a road that has three different levels: a pavement on each side, a cycle lane at a slightly lower level than the pavement, and the road for cars (and a dedicated bus lane) at a third even lower level. This is a fairly pragmatic approach, which allows deliveries and pavement access when it’s needed, while using the height differences to still clearly separate the pavement, the cycle lane, and the road.

This seems broadly sensible and there’s easily space for it on the stretch of the road nearest the Thames, given that there is already a cycle lane of sorts in each direction. The main problem with the current setup is that the ends of the cycle lanes are a mess at the junctions (especially on the northbound lane) and they get in to a mess when the cycle lane and the bus stop overlap.

It’s a bit more complicated on the short section between the Queens Circus roundabout and Battersea Park Road (pictured above), as there’s less space and a couple of fairly busy bus stops – shown in the picture below –

The high level plan is still the same, to create a separate cycle lane at a height half way between the level of the pavement and the road. The junction with Battersea Park Road will need some careful work as it’s also a busy cycle route, with lot of pedestrians (and probably more in the near future given the amount of recent development and the forthcoming opening of a Zone 1 tube station) and not currently especially bike-friendly.

At the moment that’s as far as the scheme goes – surprisingly there aren’t any plans for one of the more problematic parts of the road further south, where traffic gets squeezed through a series of railway bridges. The temporary segregation of the southbound cycle lane (shown below) has been helpful in making sure cars are aware of the number of cycles along this stretch and give them a safe amount of space, and there is an existing lane up at pavement level on the northbound side that reduces the rick of cycles being squashed against the wall by lorries and long vehicles making the turn. But generally speaking this is a somewhat dangerous part of the road with poor visibility that could do with a lot of work to make it better for cyclists.

It’s a pretty grim stretch for those on foot too – with a consistent smell of exhaust, mucky surroundings with everything coated in black dust, pigeon droppings all over the pavement, minimal lighting and more often than not suspicious puddles among the various electrical cabinets under the bridge on the west side of the road. Considering the heavy use it gets, and the fact that it is right next to a railway station’s main entrance, this bridge feels overdue for an upgrade of the sort that we have seen on some of the other bridges in the Borough like Thessaly Road and Earlsfield – with a cleanup, a repaint, bird-proofing and far better lighting.

Further south again no plans, but there are fewer problems here. This stretch of the road has had a significant pavement and parking upgrade a few years back which made clearer parking bays – and in doing so tidied up the bus lanes. By removing the obstacle of haphazardly parked cars on the road, this has had some benefits in terms of a lower accident rate.

Overall – it makes sense to review and upgrade the cycle lanes here and it’s good that this is being considered, even if there’s not much detail at this stage. It is a little disappointing that the works aren’t carrying on a bit further to the south to include the part of Queenstown Road that snakes under the various railway bridges. We’ll keep you posted if we hear about more detailed plans.

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The long-planned second entrance to Queenstown Road station may still be on track

It’s been a while, but there’s finally a little bit of progress on the planned new entrance to Queenstown Road station. The Battersea Exchange development that’s funding it is complete, but in February last year we noted that things had gone rather quiet on the station works. They essentially mean a new entrance will be created at the back of the station building (which is the one outlined yellow in this photo) –

Creating a second entrance at the back of the station has been part of the project from the start. It was designed to improve transport access to the new flat, so residents can get to the station without having to walk along busy and traficky section of Queenstown Road. It will mean commuters can get between Queenstown Road & Battersea Park stations along a straight-line and pedestrian-friendly route.

The plans will allow passage through the station (during opening hours) for non-ticketholders, which means people heading from (say) the Shaftesbury estate can ‘cut the corner’ by going through the foyer of Queenstown Road (shown in yellow below) and get through to Battersea Park station, the school & the new small branch of Sainsbury’s at the base of the white tower. 

This photo shows the currently-rather-messy back yard of the station as it is now, as seen from the new road Patcham Terrace (i.e. the right hand side of the yellow square in the map above). The new entrance will be at the back left, which means opening up a new door in the building. There’s a bit of a height change as well (about ten steps). The original plans were to fit stairs, as well as a small lift, next to each other in behind the low wall (which would be removed to create the entrance).

Sadly the headline that there’s ‘progress’ doesn’t mean that work has started! But updated plans have been submitted to take a slightly different approach to the design – dropping the lift altogether and simplifying things by just having a wider staircase. The lift is being removed from the plans because it meant the staircase alongside it was too narrow to meet Network Rail’s minimum standards for safe access to the station. We presume not having a lift will also make the whole thing cheaper to build and operate, with relatively little impact on overall accessibility given that the rest of the station in any case has loads of stairs and no lifts.

A few other minor changes are being made, including not bothering to have a door at the bottom of the stairs (which seems fairly sensible – bearing in mind that the station is pretty much open air anyway and there’ll be a security gate at the top of the steps). A small glass shelter will be included at the bottom of the steps to keep rain out of the station building. The floorplan diagram below shows the new access route in yellow (with Queenstown Road entrance at the bottom of the photo), and the new Patcham Terrace entrance at the top.

This photo shows the current ticket hall – the new way through will emerge where the left hand white door is now, just to the left of the ticket machines.

Precise timings for the works are still uncertain – but the fact that updated plans have gone in after well over a year of radio silence is a good sign that the project is not completely forgotten, and still on track to happen at some point. As a relatively cheap project with obvious benefits for Taylor Wimpey’s development (making it have rather better access, especially for the new office and retail units), and some benefits for Network Rail in terms of general station access, it seems likely that this will go ahead in the not too distant future. Strictly speaking the planning application is way past its decision date (even though no actual decision seems to have been taken) – if you want to see the details or comment search for application 2020/4812 at the Wandsworth planning website.

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Lavender Hill’s back in business

As of today Lavender Hill’s shops, hairdressers & salons, and businesses are back open, as well as an ongoing expansion in outdoor seating at several cafes & restaurants. Good to see a decent lunchtime crowd at The Crown‘s outdoor terrace today after a long absence, as early morning snow gave way to full sunshine. It’s been a tough few months, a tough year, and it’s still important to keep taking care on social distancing – but if you can, now more than ever is the time to support our local traders!

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An update on the interesting Wixs Lane development

Way back, we reported on a residential development being proposed on Wixs Lane, which would 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)

Work is now well underway, with the building having pretty much reached roof level. So far, what has been built seems to match the plans too (which isn’t always the case!).

The artists’ impression below shows what the end result should look like. 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)

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Wasabi is opening a new branch in Clapham Junction

It’s a tale of modern times. As the Coronavirus has emptied out the city centre, some of the chains who made much of their income from lunch time visits by office workers have had to adapt their approach fast! Pret a Manger, arguably the flagship trader in this market, took quite a direct hit – but were in a small way they were lucky: they knew they had pretty much saturated coverage in the town centre so had already started opening up in more unusual places, and found the business worked there too.

An early example of a ‘suburban’ Pret was Wandsworth High Street. They also opened their surprisingly profitable Clapham Junction branch on St Johns Road not too long before the pandemic. While the town centre branches have really struggled and in many cases shut for good, their inner suburban branches have kept going quite happily and done a pretty brisk trade, through bored work-at-home residents looking for coffee, croissants and sandwiches – so much so that they have recently opened another large branch over on Clapham high street.

Wasabi, seller of takeaway sushi and bento, fall in to the same category of business. However they were maybe a little later to try out trade in the inner suburbs: their current London locations have a distinct City of London focus, with a slightly less dense coverage around the West End – and are not what you really want at a time when the town centre has lost trade to the suburbs!

Which is why it’s maybe not surprising that they’re now planning to open a branch on St Johns Hill, taking over half of what is currently Moss Bros when their lease expires. It’s good to see Wasabi’s vote of confidence in Clapham Junction, and we suspect they will do well here.

Though it’s also a sad day for Moss Bros, whose headquarters is actually in the offices above the station. They have had a really, really hard time over the last year, including a CVA (essentially an alternative to going in to administration, where they ask their landlords for rent reductions and seek to shake off some of their debt). Their current owner was particularly unlucky in buying them just two weeks before lockdown – which pretty much removed all their business overnight. We’re not sure if their Clapham Junction presence is coming to an end, or whether they’re shrinking to just occupy the other half of what was a double unit (though the store is no longer listed by Moss Bros on their website, which suggests the former).

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