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A NEW SUPERMARKET IN THE HIGH STREET.

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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PERFORMANCE (2009) OF THE TOWN CENTRE MANAGER FOR BARNES SW13 – SUE NICHOL.

The Council have asked for an annual report to be submitted, under the following headings and this is what I sent them.  It summarises the work I have done between January 2009 and January 2010.

Publicity and promotion”: Establish a database of all local retail businesses”.

  • Created and periodically updated.

“Contacts with the Council and the local Community”

  • The Council: I have developed contacts with the following departments in the council. – planning, transport, street lighting, waste disposal, parks, businesses, green businesses, licenses, funding, tourism and others.  The people in these departments know me now as we have often had informal meetings.  I have been particularly involved with the planning department over the North Barnes street refurbishment scheme and I discussed this with each individual shop on behalf of the council.  I have also lobbied on various issues affecting Barnes and successfully got our lamp posts checked and the Saturday market established. I failed to get approval for banners by the river, however.
  • I have regular contact with our 6 local councillors (Eleanor Stanier, Christine Percival and Rita Palmer in particular) also Serge Lourie – the Leader, Pamela Fleming and Geoff Acton.  Also our MP Susan Kramer and Zak Goldsmith.  I have written in detail about the problems with the landlord/ tenant law (1954) as it stands and have given this to Susan Kramer who is pursuing it with her researchers in the House.
  • I have meetings with the other town centre managers in the borough and the Richmond Chamber of Commerce regularly.
  • I have attended two distant courses with the police – Policing London (1 day) and Justice Seen Justice Done (3 days in Cheshire).   Also several local meetings at York House and in Barnes.
  • I make contact with the press whenever I can.  We have articles to be published on Barnes in Homes and Gardens, Living etc and Time and Leisure this spring.  I write every month in our local BCA magazine , Prospect and I wrote an article in the Barnes fair magazine (which generated some correspondence).
  • I attend all the council organised promotion events and many meetings at the council (for which I have designed two Powerpoint presentations).

“Gain an understanding of the major issue facing Barnes traders”

  • In order to gain an understanding of the major issues facing Barnes traders – I have held meetings with small groups of shops, distributed two questionnaires (one when I started and one a year later) and I visit all shops about once a fortnight.
  • I have attempted to deal with individual problems too (re: debts, leases etc).
  • I send out a monthly newsletter by e-mail and deliver to those who do not have e-mail.
  • All shops have my e-mail address, mobile phone number and address at Rose House.

Build on the database

  • I am researching into the details of Barnes’ landlords, meeting the ones who own many shops on an individual basis and I am planning to hold a meeting for the others.  We hope to get them interested in Barnes’ activities and in filling the empty shops with complimentary businesses that customers want.
  • For area of trade, I have recently carried out a shopper survey and earlier I carried out a survey of the catchment area of the Farmers’ market.  I have also recently sent a questionnaire to residents to find the catchment areas of our four individual shopping areas.
  • This market research (into shops, shoppers and residents) will provide a wealth of detail for use in Barnes for a while to come, I hope.

Develop contacts with other retail organisations”.

  • I asked for Mosaic and Acorn data from the supermarkets and Sainsbury’s very kindly provided.  (The police also provided useful data for us).
  • I have approached successful shops to enquire as to whether they would move into Barnes.
  • I have tried to involve the chains and franchises in local issues, but with no luck.  I have even had no luck in persuading Barclays bank to make their ATM more efficient on a Saturday morning.
  • I have recently met the marketing managers of Kew gardens, Esporto and The Barnes Wetlands centre.

Ways of making local shops more popular with locals”.

  • Summer late night shopping, shop in Barnes week, voucher schemes, Christmas late night shopping, charity events, directory of WHL shops.
  • Help shops to make the most of Barnes events – the Boat race, Head of the River, the Great River Race, Barnes Fair, Jazz at the Bull’s Head and the Wetland’s Centre.
  • We are in the process of producing a friendly map (copying the idea from other town centres).
  • I also established tree and lamp post Christmas lights this year (for the first time that people could remember) and many of the shops in the High Street have hanging baskets.
  • I have plenty of ideas but it is very difficult to do much without a budget.
  • The theme of next year’s Summer Fair is designed to revolve around our shops.
  • We are designing a web site.  We are on Facebook.  I have a blog to publicise what I am doing.
  • We also have in mind a Barnes’ Arts week, a big picnic, a loyalty card, a web site, a Barnes bag.  Action is being taken on some of these at the moment.  I have two volunteers who are helping at the moment.
  • Door drops, posters and articles in Prospect.  We hope to get some of Barnes celebs on board in the future.  Boris turned us down last year!
  • I have visited Legible London, lobbied the Council to improve sign posting within Barnes, and through Susan Kramer’s contacts I hope to get something done to improve signs at Hammersmith bus station.

“Finance”

  • I have raised money at Barnes Fair by running a tombola.
  • I raised money at Christmas by producing a calendar (which was an extremely lengthy and time consuming operation).
  • I managed to persuade the Water Board to give £200 to compensate for the problems caused by the road being up for so long.
  • This fund raising takes up a great deal of my time.  The richest shops in Barnes tend to sponsor the summer Fair and those links have been established for a long time.  I have not received any money from the council yet because of the match funding problem.  And I began my job in January 2009 in the middle of a serious recession.  It was not a time to raise money from the shops.  Despite this I have tried to set up a shops’ bank account and some shops have contributed but the unfairness is that the independents end up supporting the giants.  The larger the company the more they blame the mystery manager on a higher level, meanwhile giving nothing.
  • I am looking into this problem at the moment.

“Environment: Develop schemes to enhance “green” trading.

  • I am involved with “Greener Upon Thames” and have collected pledges (not to use plastic) from Barnes shops for the cause.
  • The BCA sell cloth bags and we are in the process of producing a Barnes bag which will be “green”.
  • I have written in Prospect (the BCA magazine) about the advantages of walking to the shops.

Sue Nichol (15th February 2010)

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