High streets are a focal point for trade, employment, services and socialising, as well as an expression of local character. But after what some have been calling a retail apocalypse, these spaces are under threat.
Future London Leaders 23 visited three high streets across London as part of their high streets and markets theme to see how councils, BIDs, community organisations and other stakeholders are protecting, adapting and enhancing their high streets. For their second field trip, candidates visited North End Road, LB Hammersmith & Fulham.
Shops, restaurants, markets, residents, football fans, cars and lorries – all compete for space in North End Road. Different stakeholders with conflicting needs make the management and improvement of North End Road particularly challenging.
As part of the borough’s industrial strategy, Economic Growth for Everyone, the council commissioned an area assessment and transport study. The results of stakeholder engagement for these two studies are the foundations for the North End Road: A Community-Led Redesign catalogue of interventions, launched in June 2019.
An initial £1 million of new funding has already been negotiated from property developers to implement some of the ideas that emerged. Now, the council is waiting for the results of further applications for the Good Growth Fund and TfL’s Liveable Neighbourhoods Fund.
William Haggard, Director at CarverHaggard, responsible for carrying out the area assessment, explained that having a catalogue of interventions was part of their vision to provide potential solutions without knowing the amount of funding the area would receive. He argued that, this way, interventions can be clustered around site-specific projects and multiple funding applications can be made tailoring the mix of interventions according to each fund’s size and requirements.
Taking a step by step approach to interventions was welcomed by the council. Chris Patterson, Area Regeneration Manager for LB Hammersmith & Fulham and FoL Alumnus, explained that change doesn’t happen overnight and experimenting with incremental small changes allows you to test ideas, engage fully with stakeholders and get everyone on board before longer-term shifts.
For example, the permanent public garden and dwell space in the forecourt of Crowther Market (pg. 111 of the interventions catalogue) was initially set-up as a pop-up space with rented furniture during summer. After the success of the pilot, the council has now bought the furniture and the garden is permanently open to the public, providing a calm green space, contrasting with the busy market outside the gates.
Genuine engagement with the community pays dividends, as the community itself transforms ideas into action. Mark Richardson from North End Road Action Group (NERAG) is a living example of this. After reading about Rose Vouchers in social media, Mark got in touch with the organisers and the project now covers the North End Road market. The vouchers are a win-win scheme for both residents and market traders: it helps families on low incomes to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from local markets, supporting children with a healthy diet and at the same time supports the local economy.
FLL23 candidates will present their Proposals for London on the high streets and markets theme on 18 March. Presenting their own innovative approaches to deliver more resilient high streets for London – register here to attend.