We’ve previously reported on the various projects to expand, or replace, Clapham Junction’s Lidl supermarket. It’s a busy shop, being a rare full-range branch in inner London, with car parking and right next to a major train station. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of their best-performing supermarkets, and whiel it always seems to be crowded, the success of the store has also proved to be one of the biggest challenges when it comes to improving or extending it.
The store has seen a series of minor changes in recent years, to get as much out of it as possible – with a small extension that added one more aisle in 2006, followed by another small extension in 2012 to create an in-store bakery (pictured below – a venture by Lidl which has been quite successful, and given them a good point of differentiation compared to largely bakery-less rival Aldi).
But the store was still too small, and too crowded – it’s about half the size of their more recent store in south Earlsfield but rather busier. So Lidl thought big, and developed plans to completely rebuild the whole site – creating underground car parking with a much larger store on top – an artists’ impression of the view from Falcon Road is shown below. These ambitious plans would have seen the store completely knocked down, and a new building built that would stretch right up to Falcon Road, replacing the rather bleak brick wall that supports the car park with a proper entrance to an extended store, that would sit on top of two storeys of car parking. These got planning permission, but were never implemented.
The reason wasn’t a lack of money or enthusiasm on Lidl’s part – but rather, the thorny question of where to put the store during the building works. The willingness to invest and upgrade this branch is there, but no suitable temporary sites could be found – and closing this flagship site for a major rebuild represents quite a cost to the business as well as a headache to the established customer base. As a sort of stopgap, a couple of years ago the shelving was all replaced to increase the height and density of stock, and self-scan tills were brought in to increase capacity.
Lidl went back to the drawing board, and the latest plans instead foresee yet another extension to the existing building, but also a more general restyling and refurbishment. The current roof will be replaced with new one that will let more light in to the store, and a second storey will be added right at the back of the site near the railway lines, which will allow the staff back office section to be moved upstairs and free up a bit more space on the shopfloor. The store will be extended closer to Falcon Road – replacing the current paving and trolley storage area pictured below to create up to five metres of extra space.
The store will have better green credentials too: new glazing on the south side of the building means there will be more natural light inside the store, a small ‘green roof’ is planned on the two-storey section of the store, and there will be over 300 solar panels on the new roof. Four of the 61 current parking spaces will go, to create an extra 34 cycle parking spaces (compared to just eight current bike stands), and two electric vehicle charging points will be added. One interesting thing in the planning report is that the overgrown railway sidings between Lidl and the tracks are an officially designated “Grade II Site of Importance to Nature Conversation” – in the map below the green squares represent ‘scattered shrub, the brown circles are ‘tall herbs’, and while no actual animals were identified in the most recent site survey, these slightly wild spaces are part of the local wildlife habitat.
These new plans aren’t controversial, and this new investment, assuming it does go ahead unlike the previous set of plans, will make this a better store. It updates the general appearance of the place, which was built back in 1996 and is now looking distinctly dated. It gives a little more space to the store, partly by taking over the paved area facing Falcon Lane, and partly by allowing some of the back office / administrative space currently housed on the ground floor to be moved to the new upper level. The project as a whole creates an additional 720 square metres of internal floorspace (growing the store, whose existing surface is 1443 square metres, by about 50%).
However it’s also fair to say that they’re not really taking advantage of the full potential of this site, which could be developed to bring this rather ‘suburban retail park surrounded by parked cars’ area in to being a proper part of the town centre it sits in the middle of, and which would improve the frontage along Falcon Road. Wandsworth’s planning policies – the ‘site specific allocations document’ – already has the whole area with a blue line around it in the map below earmarked for high density mixed-use development, and it’s one of relatively few similar sites in the Borough that has yet to see any action. The planning department’s report on the latest proposals does give the impression that they were hoping for something a bit more ambitious, noting that the plans “would not deliver the area’s aspirations in regard to a high density mixed-use development“, but that “the proposal results in an acceptable continuation of the existing use for when a more suitable and comprehensive re-development of the whole of the SSAD site comes forward in the future”. However Lidl’s plans are consistent with the local policies that favour retail in town centres (for the planning geeks out there – part (b) of policy DMTS1, and also the emerging Local Plan policy LP42 on ‘development in centres’).
The current project will no doubt see Lidl remain a single-storey store for at least a decade, although we suspect in the long term we will, eventually, still see a redevelopment to provide retail on the lower levels and either flats or maybe some office space built above. This would likely end up looking like what we have seen happen in the vast redevelopments at Sainsbury’s sites in Fulham and Nine Elms, or indeed on a rather smaller scale at some other Lidl sites such as their store in Chessington (below) which includes flats with large balconies designed to fit in to a more suburban location.
Maybe this sort of redevelopment will happen sooner with the other big supermarket buildings on Falcon lane. As our previous detailed article on the longer-term future of this site, the station itself and the other retail sites around it noted, in the longer term we’re likely to see the Asda site grow and accommodate far more within the space. The large branch of Boots next door’s lease also ends next year, so that site may also be coupled with the soon-to-be-redundant railway signalling site behind it (which is now under the same ownership) and see higher-rise construction work. We’ll keep you posted on these wider sites – but for now, while it’s a little disappointing that we did not get the full bells-and-whistles upgrade that was previously being considered for the supermarket, it’s good to see some probably overdue investment in modernising the local Lidl.
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