Another new pub for Clapham Junction

Another new pub is being developed at Clapham Junction. A couple of months ago we wrote about Albion & East who will be taking over the ground floor corner of Arding & Hobbs (ex-Debenhams) – and now we hear that Network Rail, are developing another pub just along the road, in the original station building on St Johns Hill. In doing so they will open up the long-lost station entrance in our photo above, which has been closed to for decades, as the entrance to the new venue.

Someone in Network Rail has clearly been having a good look at the station layout and how to use the buildings more effectively, as it’s quite a clever proposal. The photos above are drawn from the planning application, and they give a rare glimpse in to an area of the station that is normally only accessible to employees – revealing quite a characterful space complete with arched vaults, big beams, and a lot of old ironmongery, that could create a decent pub in the right hands. Obviously there is still some way to go until this could welcome its first customers: the whole building was closed to the public for years, and then more recently the upper level of the building was converted to a more accessible entrance – which has left this part of the station more or less abandoned for decades. The diagram below shows the current layout of the ground floor – with blue being the building, and green being the open air yard next to it. At the moment most of the internal space is occupied by a series of metal lockup containers – for the shops in the station and on the footbridge, for the station itself – and skips and rubbish storage. There’s also a small electrical substation and an emergency generator.

At the bottom of the picture (numbered ‘6‘) – and right next to the main doors – is a staircase, that would have led to the upper floor of the station, and this would been a very busy staircase at one time! The diagram below shows why, as this used to be the main entrance to the whole station. Passengers would head through the left hand or right hand doors (the big ones) and then up a big grand double set of stairs from the two doors that would join together on a landing before heading straight to the footbridge. The symmetrical sister staircase (not drawn) is where ‘7‘ is in the diagram.

The slightly smaller middle entrance didn’t lead to the staircase, and instead ducked underneath to lead to the parcels office on the ground floor. What would have been a big hole in the floor where the main staircase came up from the lower level has long been filled in – but surprisingly the old staircase still exists on the lower level, and the plans are for it to be removed – the red outlines in the diagram below (which shows the inside view) looking towards St Johns Hill) helps explain the layout.

The plans are for about half of the ground floor area to be used as the new pub, with the back section still kept in use as storage of the shops (but organised in a more efficient way to use the space better). There is an open yard next to the pub, which on the face of it could have been a useful outside area for the new pub – but we have to remember that this is also a working railway station, and that area will be kept as part of the back-of-house station area to accommodate odds and sods including an electrical generator, a rubbish compactor, plant, and two electricity substations, space for a large skip, parking for a maintenance van. It’ll nonetheless leave a decent amount of space for the new pub at 3455 square feet, which (as a guide for those less used to square footages) is just a bit bigger than a typical Tesco Metro / Sainsbury’s Local. The diagram below shows the ‘pub’ area, in pink – which includes a whole row of brick alcoves – and the reorganised storage area for the shops in blue.

The central one of the three old wooden doors leading to St Johns Hill will be converted to a window, with the other two being replaced with glazed doors, to let some light in to the space. The diagram below shows the proposed windows in yellow. There are currently also some windows along the wall, in to the service yard, and slightly surprisingly the plans are for these to be bricked up as part of the development. They wouldn’t have given the most amazing view but one could imagine that the ability to have any light at all would be a small bonus.

The right hand of the diagram above also shows the planned location of a new and smarter-looking gate to the yard next door (labelled ‘3’), which makes sense as the current rather cheap-looking industrial fence (which has temporarily been covered with a hoarding) isn’t the best look for Network Rail if they;re trying to attract a high-paying tenant next door. The new gate will feature “an abstract design that draws upon the status of Clapham Junction as a major train station that is the busiest station in the UK”.

We broadly welcome this proposal and don’t expect it will be controversial in planning terms – it opens up a more-or-less wasted space to public use, with some fairly minor changes to a local heritage building, and by creating a new business right in the heart of the town centre it adds to the overall offer of the high street. From a heritage perspective the old ironwork will be largely unchanged, and while the current wooden doors will be lost, there are hopes that they can be used as a decorative wall panels somewhere inside the new venue. More generally – with government funding now only really being given to the North of England as part of the ‘Levelling up agenda‘, Network Rail needs to make the most of its property assets, and generate income to pay for the myriad series of small works that keep its stations running, and investing in underused spaces like this is a good way of doing it (the total cost of the works is described as ‘up to £2m’).

We don’t yet know who will actually be running the pub, or where it will sit on the range between mostly-drinks and mostly-food; presumably once they have planning permission Network Rail wil go out to see who ‘s interested in leasing the site, and we suspect that in such a busy spot – even with several other pubs, bars and restaurants pretty much on their doorstep – they won’t have too much trouble finding a tenant. There’s currently a planning application to make the various building changes and in doing so change this space to a “drinking establishment, public house, wine bar or drinking establishment”, and it is currently open for comment (until the 18th August at the time of writing) – if you do want to offer any comment on these plans, head to the Wandsworth planning website and search for planning application number 2022/1904.

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