Archive for March, 2011

It is difficult not to be aware of the fact that there are too many
closed shops in the High Street at present and therefore little to
interest the casual shopper.  Sadly there are some lovely shops that are
surviving – the Treat Garden, Froxy Bee, Bazaar, Les Petits, Presents,
the Kitchen Shop and the food shops, but with One Stop closed, footfall
is down and they need your support.
Meanwhile it is interesting to consider just what should come into the
empty premises in order to regenerate the High Street.
The census is ten years out of date but I suspect the trends are similar
now.  The population was 19,748 in both wards.  That should be
sufficient to keep our shops thriving, although in 2006 the Telegraph
reported that Barnes was the internet shopping hotspot of Britain!
¼ of the population is aged 30-44, over ¼ are under 20 (most under 10)
and only 10% is over 60.  Thus we have a mini nappy valley here (perhaps
nappy flood plain is more geographically correct), so perhaps we should
be seeking to encourage shops that sell maternity wear, baby equipment
and furniture, educational toys and shoes.
According to Acorn our main sporting interests are skiing and rugby. 
Should we not have a sports shop catering for demand from schools as well?
Our other interests include current affairs, classical music and opera,
theatre and the arts, antiques and reading.  We also like gourmet food
and wine, the NT and foreign travel.
To satisfy this demand we need a music shop (with instrument hire for
youngsters), a delicatessen, an organic food shop and some antiques.
Visiting Northcote Road in Clapham recently (the original nappy valley),
I was impressed by the number of shops that invited browsing.  There
were gift shops with all sorts of quirky, unusual and fun things to look
at.  There were also “antique” shops with everything from shabby chic,
distressed and hand painted furniture, unusual chairs, jewellery,
cushions, vases, clocks, and ornaments.  There were also shops with
household linens, patchwork quilts, pillow cases and a host of other
interesting things to spend time rummaging through.  What they all had
in common was that their goods were tasteful but not overpriced.
Needless to say, I didn’t come away empty handed!
There were also some innovations – Sweaty Betty had evening sessions of
yoga and a run club and the equivalent of their Framers’ market is run
from permanent street stalls which adds to the fun.
There were only 2 empty shops on the periphery and only one charity shop.
Shopping should be entertaining if it is to be successful and Northcote
Road definitely has the buzz.  Now we need to find a way of making this
happen in Barnes.

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I am hoping to make enquiries as to how to encourage more tourists to come to Barnes in the New Year.  This will make our shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants more buoyant.  We have so much to offer and our first opportunity might be The Royal Wedding.  If you are thinking of offering accommodation in your house for the Olympics perhaps you might consider a trail run this year.  Let me know and I will try to advertise your facility (Sue Nichol, Rose House, 70 High Street, SW13 9LD).

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Plans have been submitted for a mixed retail, residential and office development on the site of the old garages and Claridge House at 27-29 Barnes High Street (Application 10/2112/FUL).  The hearing for this was held at York House on Thursday 6th January. There were formal objections from Cllr Gemma Stockley, myself and Chris Wilkins, owner of former One Stop (and also a written objection from Zac Goldsmith).  Nevertheless it went to three separate votes and on each occasion there was deadlock (4 votes for and 4 against).  The casting vote of the Chairman (Cllr David Linnette) meant that the application went through.

Many Barnes residents are looking forward to a Waitrose or Marks and Spencer food store arriving, so they may be perplexed as to why we should make objections.

We would agree that the facility, considered in isolation, would be marvellous but our objections are in fear of the IMPACT.

In brief:

The retail area proposed is 8,676 sq ft.  More then twice the size of the former One Stop site.  Clearly it is designed with a supermarket in mind.  There will not be a demand for two supermarkets in Barnes High Street so one will remain empty – as likely as not the One Stop site, which lies in the centre of the shopping area.  If however (with Sainsbury’s around the corner), the new site is the empty one, what will happen to it?  It is too inflexible in its design to be considered for alternative use.
There has been no parking provision made for the 5 maisonettes and 3,542 sq ft of office space proposed and parking is already very limited in this part of Barnes.
No loading bay has been agreed.  The road (and pavement) is particularly narrow and on a curve at this site.  Will traffic be able to get past at all?  
A supermarket of this size will hold sufficient stock to threaten Seals, Barnes Fish shop, the Real Cheese shop, Victoria’s, the Parish bakery, Londis and Two Peas in a Pod.  Barnes High Street has more empty shops than any other part of Barnes already.
The counter argument (put forward by Cllr Miller several times) is that supermarkets increase footfall (the implication being that people will then shop into other shops).  However my own research from questioning shoppers in the Farmers’ market, showed that 50% were not intending to go anywhere else other than home.  I suggest that might be the case after loading up at the supermarket.
My main grievance was that Cllr Miller argued it would be good for Barnes and Cllr Morris was extremely doubtful (on the basis of impact on the town centre and on traffic problems).  But neither had any facts or proof and the vote was being made on the basis of guesswork.  Surely for something as important as this, we rely on our Council to carry out the necessary research?   Research was carried out for Sainsbury’s in White Hart Lane, which suggested Barnes was a “retail healthy” area and could accept more shops.  Some of the Councillors quoted this, but it was published before the recession.  We now have 20 – 25 vacant shops in Barnes….hardly a sign that it is “healthy” and given that we are one of the top ten places in the UK for internet shopping (Experian research), the situation is not likely to improve much in the near future.
This development is not in the “key frontage” section of the High Street.  Rather it is off-centre.  It could have become offices or even residential (or, as it was originally Council land – it could have been a much needed car park!).  Chris Wilkins’ shop however cannot change its land use from retail.  And as a final irony – it is in a conservation area!    
I worry that The New Economic Foundation’s forecast of “Death in the High Street” might happen on our very doorstep.

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