Posts Tagged ‘shops’

Will Minigolf save the Meridian South Piazza?

February 9, 2010

The Meridian South development in Hither Green was born under good auspices. Laying perfectly across the Greenwich Meridian line, it retains some of the features of the Hither Green Hospital that stood there before, a local architectural gem designed by Edwin T. Hall, also architect of Liberty department store.
To potential buyers Meridian South presented itself very well, and in fact it turned out a very nice place to live, it also has a beautiful central piazza, graced by a well kept green and truly landmark clock-tower. The piazza was supposed to host the bustling commercial heart of the development, making a peaceful place also a convenient one for shopping.

Unfortunately as the years passed all the commercial units remained empty and the settlers became familiar with the boarded up commercial spaces.
The problem of that place has been clear to me for a long time, and it’s one of planning, those business units enjoy no passing trade whatsoever. The development is rather enclosed, and although it’s not a gated community its design makes no effort to invite people from outside in, this is of benefit to the peace and quiet of the residents but it does not invite potential shoppers either.

Much emphasis is given by architect and planners to the “permeability” of a development. I think it’s fair to say that in this occasion that concept made it through only in part, but not enough to help trade in the development, but it’s a common feature of planning offices of Labour authorities to care more about housing targets than anything else, in fact not much of the original hospital would have remained if a local residents’ campaign wouldn’t have made that point effectively by involving CABE and ultimately forcing the planning department to protect at least some of the beautiful buildings of the former hospital as well as the precious mature trees thought to have been planted by a former superintendent and that protected by the hospital walls grew very well indeed (including a very rare Indian Bean tree considered the largest in the Country).

Quite obviously the development should have been planned differently, either by improving its permeability so that those units would have received increased footfall (but this would have obviously made the whole development less “nice and quiet”, a major selling point in its own right), or by placing the commercial units to the outside of the development altogether, either on Hither Green Lane or George Lane and adding commercial space to the existing shopping parade.
What it’s done instead is to add a whole new shopping precinct to Hither Green in competition with the two existing ones (Hither Green Lane and Springbank Road) that although not as nice enjoy a great deal of passing trade. And were you to open a business, where would you put it? Where it’s nicer or where it’s more likely to succeed?

But at the time this problem was not flagged up and all those that bought there were told that shops would have opened all around the piazza and in the biggest unit there would have been a gym.
In time only one shop opened, a Tesco Metro, and alone in the desert it remained for a long time, until last week, when the indoor minigolf opened!

When first word spread that an indoor Minigolf was going to open where a gym was expected instead many hearts sunk, and understandably too, but now it is here, and it’s a good one, and optimistically it may herald a new era for Meridian South.
Because whether you like it or not a good indoor Minigolf course is also a “destination”, and to an extent it may indeed put Hither Green “on the map”. It’s all down to marketing now, but among enthusiasts the word has already spread and in the first review of the course by someone in the know who travelled from Luton to play it we hear that:

“The course is the first full size Swedish Felt Minigolf Course that I know of in the UK.”

There you have it, Hither Green is now to Minigolf what Twickenham is to Rugby. We said it jokingly but it’s true. This is the gold standard of Minigolf, and it’s the only one of its kind in Britain.
And it’s not something that you buy off the shelf, as the owner says in his message to the minigolfing community:

My name is Nick, and I’m the manager of the course in Meridan South. I have spent the last 5 years designing and building the course, and then fitting out the unit. It had to be a Swedish felt run, as that’s what I used to play on back home when I was a kid (yes, I’m Swedish). I’m not too familiar with the lingo, but when you talk about A- or B- course I assume that it’s the size you refer to. It’s built according to the measurments for a competition course, the lanes being 90 cm wide, the greens 210 x210 and the holes 10.5 cm.
I have just recently managed to make contact with the BMCA, and of course I’d love to hold comps eventually, but may need a bit of help in organizing them.

So what next? Maybe a cafe. In fact rumours want that a cafe is in negotiation to open in another one of the units. And wouldn’t a Cafe benefit from the vicinity of a Minigolf? Of course it would. At that point the Piazza would have attracted its own footfall and maybe other businesses would want to open too, finally populating it with commercial life.

That would take some optimism, but who said that we must be pessimists? Surely this makes the piazza more rather than less likely to succeed. We have something to speak about, we must tell the world that the best indoor Minigolf in London is in Hither Green, only a ten minutes train ride from London Bridge.

It’s an opportunity to overcome the serious planning problem the Meridian South Piazza was born with. Unlikely as at first it may sound, the Minigolf may steer the Piazza towards that commercial vitality that so far eluded it.

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Short stay car park for Hither Green Lane (with poll)

February 4, 2010

Lewisham borough presents a variety of local parades, some are very successful, some less so.
Today Brockley Central posted an item about Honor Oak Park, which is probably as good as it gets and should be used as a benchmark for what a local parade can aspire to, and discusses the implications of parking policies for the shops of the area. The Council has in fact revealed that preventing commuters from leaving their car parked all day there has helped shops.

I thought that this is also an argument in support of short stay car park to help shops on Hither Green Lane, that today can only draw trade from pedestrians as the Lane is completely surrounded by CPZ.
Some short stay car park for shoppers could be provided either on the side roads or by building parking bays on the Lane and in the past I have already put this proposal to the Head of Highways of Lewisham Council.

But is there popular support for this measure?

Catford deal closed

February 3, 2010

Lewisham Council has announced the completion of the purchase of the Catford shopping centre:

Lewisham Council has exchanged contracts in a deal that moves the renewal of Catford town centre a major step forward.

The deal will see the ownership of freehold and leasehold interests in and around the Catford Centre transfer from current owners, St Modwen Investments, to a wholly owned company set up by the Council to be called Catford Regeneration Partnership Limited (CRPL).

What next?

It is clear that what the Council wants to do is increase density, that’s what’s stated in the Council’s plan for the area, the shopping centre is a one storey building and this is for planners a huge opportunity. And since Catford is already an urban environment and we must build houses somewhere there’s not much that’s wrong with that, but of course the devil’s in the details.

Catford may not be upmarket, but it’s very lively, all the retail units are let out and working and the place is bustling with activity every day of the week. I believe that this is a richness that must not be squandered.
That area is the heart of Catford and as we know some open heart surgery procedures are a complete success but for the detail that the patient dies.
Do they want to retain Milford Towers? Do they want to scrap it and redo the lot? If so where and how will the residents be decanted? Do they have alternative sites for the shops that today utilize the units at Catford centre? The market?
The continued vitality of Catford must be the centre point of any plan.

Lewisham Centre is a flashing warning about what can happen when Lewisham Council wants to develop big projects and gets something crucial wrong.
Last week’s announcement that what was until recently a functioning shopping parade will be demolished to make way for a little garden is exactly the kind of risk that Catford starts to run with today’s announcement.
That demolition follows neglect, the neglect was caused by a false sense of security that a development would have taken place shortly. And now for quite a while there won’t be a new redeveloped centre and there won’t be the old parade of shops either. Only a “temporary” landscaping. A small fig leaf on a gigantic failure.

Let’s not move on from one failure to the next one.

The plan for Catford must be desirable and realistic, and it must not unnecessarily deteriorate the environment way ahead of the new development taking place.
And transparency is the key to success. As a guarantee that those involved don’t start believing in their own spin, with all the results (or non-results) that we’re now seeing at Lewisham Centre.

Catford is highly improvable and the Council does well to pursue a change. But it doesn’t all start and end at the shopping centre and Milford Towers, let’s not forget of other even worse parts of Catford.
The Plassy Road retail island is one of the worst places to be in-the-world. It’s bad planning on steroids. Is not even an urban environment, it would only make sense on a motorway, and an energetic effort should be made to transform it. I hope that the Council is speaking with all occupiers so that it can be redeveloped. Personally I think that that should be as much a priority as the shopping centre site.

Another big site in Catford is of course the Dogtrack. I opposed the currently planned development as too dense for a cul-de-sac that gives on a nearly constantly gridlocked road. But the objection was not upheld and planning consent was given in October 2008. Now the crisis has put a halt to it, but for how long that? I’d much rather see it used for something else, whether employment, education or wonderful almshouses overlooking Ladywell Fields. How appropriate that use would be for that site? We don’t build sheltered accommodations anymore! We’ll regret that when it’s out time to hit the scrapheap.

But in Catford there is also a trail of neglect that is completely down to TfL that holds up the area by keeping its options open for a re-routing of the South Circular that’s been talked about for years but never implemented, and that’s possibly the largest stumbling block for Catford.
Catford is an important centre and it’s clearly lost its ways. For the shopping centre there’s now a single ownership and that’s a good thing, for the rest there are many heads to knock together and a big job ahead.

It’s regeneration, but not as we know it

January 29, 2010

Lewisham Labour decided that ahead of elections this historic parade must be demolished because it will 'make a difference' and also 'create a good impression'.


Mayor Bullock decided that the once fine Victorian row of shops that now stands in front of Lewisham Police Station will be demolished and the site will be “landscaped”. Drunks and those waiting to sign on the offenders’ register (another town centre feature we must thank Lewisham Labour for) will have a nicer place to hang about.

I must confess that I have a soft spot for that parade, I always thought that although unassuming and unremarkable it still is positively handsome and provides much of what ‘sense of place’ exists around Lewisham Centre. Looking at it one immediately understands something about Lewisham’s past, in fact as this period photo shows it was an element of the original market square.
But now where once were shops and prosperity only a boarded up ghost of a better past stands, and despite the fact that the Council’s plans for regeneration of the town centre may fail to materialize for who knows how long, the Mayor’s decided that he’s seen enough of it and it must go, now, or better, in the next few months, which incidentally coincides with next elections. Activity, activity!

From the Mercury:

Lewisham’s deputy mayor Heidi Alexander said:
“Whilst the big redevelopment of the town centre is taking longer than expected due to the economic climate, it’s important that in the interim we create a good impression in Lewisham.

“The temporary landscaping which the council have agreed to fund are going to be make a huge difference to how the town centre looks and feels.”

Taking longer than expected due to the economic climate?
Taking longer than expected due to the economic climate?

The Lewisham Gateway development received outline planning consent in April 2006!
With a buoyant housing market and a planning consent in the pocket works should have started soon after. If nothing’s happened since the fault is entirely of Mayor Bullock and his unquestioning Lewisham Labour group. The housing crisis only arrived 2 years after planning consent was given.

Labour promise of £200m of private investment to redevelop the area has been replaced by a £200k bill for the tax payer to demolish what was once a fine row of shops.
Elections are coming and Lewisham Labour have nothing to show for the years of announcements and the millions of public money spent on the fabled Lewisham Gateway project. That parade is a corpse and must be removed from the scene.

Mum’s Cafe to open this week

January 24, 2010

This sounds like excellent news for parents of young children in the area, it’s in Manor Lane, Lee, just outside the borders of Greater Hither Green and at a very reasonable distance from much of Lewisham Central.
From this week’s South London Press:

Rhubarb and Custard will open its doors at the end of the month and, as well as the usual coffee and tea, there will be pottery classes and chocolate-making for the kids while their folks relax over a brew.

The cafe is the brainchild of Louisa Gillespie, 37, Marion Cattanach, 40, and Lucy Hunter, 39, who met outside the school gates picking up and dropping off their children from St Winifred’s Nursery and Infant School and Junior School.

The trio then met Anna Ferla, 41, over coffee in Blackheath, and the four women, from Lee, together cooked up the idea of Rhubarb and Custard in Manor Lane, Lee.

I here declare a personal interest as my daughter has just turned 4 and therefore pottery and chocolate making sound very interesting indeed.

The Cafe opens this Friday.

P.S.: I wonder if the name of the cafe has anything to do with the animated series Rhubarb and Custard. The author, the great Bob Godfrey lives in fact not far away in Blackheath.

New Cafe to open on Hither Green Lane and Crazy Golf sneak peek

December 2, 2009

An update type of post on the highly improvable state of trade in Hither Green.

First piece of news, according to a very reliable source of information a Cafe (!!!) will open on Hither Green Lane in one of the empty units next to the chemist by February next year!
The other units will be occupied too, one of them by the Jimmy Mizen Foundation.

You read it here first!

Meanwhile at Meridian South…

…the Crazy Golf course is being prepared!
I took this picture a couple of weeks ago, so works should be more advanced now and hopefully it will open soon.
Will Hither Green become known as the home of London’s crazy golf? Will the crazy golf put Hither Green “on the map”?
Well, it will certainly do its bit to help and it’s a crazy idea and I do like crazy ideas. It looks like there actually is a gap in the market, so why not?
Best of luck to the management.

GLA asks Londoners’ views on closed shops

November 13, 2009

118HGL

With closures accelerating as the economic downturn bites, empty local shops have become an all too familiar sight in London. How could current planning legislation be wielded more effectively to stem the loss of the capital’s small retailers? The Planning and Housing Committee is reviewing measures designed to protect London’s local shops, looking at progress on implementing planning policies to support them and asking what more needs to be done through the London Plan.

 

Londoners are invited to submit their views on these issues by 30th November.
More about this important consultation here.

(in the picture, fellow Libdem candidate for Lewisham Central James Jennings in front of empty unit at 118 Hither Green Lane – the unit is available for £8k a year, if you are interested in the unit then please email the Town Centre Manager here)

Shopping Centre gives more reasons to sign the petition

November 10, 2009

The Shopping Centre manager replied to my query about the leaflet’s rack (read previous post), here’s the reply in full. The reason he gives for removing the leaflets’ rack is that:

The information point within the shopping centre over time became overwhelmed with information which was not directly connected to the shopping centre. The information point became problematic with numerous issues regarding free newspapers, non-centre literature, bus and rail timetables, theatre leaflets and with members of the public being referred to it by the local library help desk.

As a result of the shopping centre refurbishment, a new information point was built to replace the old version. It was then decided that the information point would be solely  to provide information to our shoppers and shop units.

He also says that following my query the centre’s website has been updated so that mentions to the old rack have now disappeared.

And so here’s my reply:

Dear Mr Redden,

thank you for the reply.

I have to say, I think that the old leaflet rack  was particularly useful to many, you say that the library displays the same material, that’s true, but many people that do not use the library still come to your shopping centre.
May I ask you how many visits a day your centre receives? I’m sure I can find out how many the library has and then we can measure the impact of the removal of the leaflets’ rack.

You say that the people were referred to  the shopping centre by the library, well, that’s good, isn’t it? You surely want more people coming to the shopping centre and any referral surely benefits your trade and that of your tenants.

In your reply you mention “non-centre literature, bus and rail timetables, theatre leaflets” as some of the items you thought were a problem.
I honestly can’t understand what’s the problem with theatre leaflets and bus timetables, those are exactly the kind of information that I referred to as socially useful and that I think you’d well to display.

I have now started an online petition and hopefully if numbers will ask you to change your mind you’d reconsider.
http://www.gopetition.com/online/31890.html

All the best

Max Calò

I think that there’s only one way to conclude this post appropriately:

SIGN THE PETITION!!

Hither Green Community Association meeting report

October 22, 2009

Very good attendance at last night’s Hither Green Community Association meeting where updates on different aspects of community life where received from various people.

The Town Centre manager Deborah Efemini told us about shops opening at various locations on Hither Green lane. The unit at number 132 will soon have an art related business, A cafe is also due to open in the Meridian South Piazza.
This sudden activity at the long suffering Meridian South commercial units is attributable to the change of management that from Bellway Homes goes now to Johal Reagan which is much more proactive
If you are interested in one of those units you can contact David Byron on 020 8858 9303 or Chris Chidgey at 0208 532 2222.

In the largest commercial unit of the same piazza an indoor golf course will also soon open, but that’s been in the making for a long time so that’s not strictly news.
We were also told that the units on the shopping parade just by the yellow light crossing, next to the chemist, will soon have occupancy and also about developments at the unit at number 118 Hither Green Lane (towards the Spotted Cow end of the parade) that’s currently unoccupied and there a charity shop could open, this is an activity where the Church would be in part involved but they are looking for people that want to run it. If you’re interested please contact the Vicar here.
Another update Deborah gave was about the shopping centre where HMV is about to open an outlet.

There where then questions raised to Deborah about the problem of the car dealers and garages around the junction between Hither Green Lane and Benin Road where illegal parking has been making the area a complete mess for years.
And also about cars and shops I repeated the call for some short stay car park spaces on Hither Green Lane, a measure that would help some of the shops there that really suffer without the possibility to ever park a car nearby.

We then had a report from the Police and we learnt that the local Safer Neighbourhood Team for Lewisham Central is understaffed and likely to remain so because due to budget constraints the police is not currently recruiting.
We should have 1 Sergent, 4 PCs and 12 PCSOs, we have instead 1 Sergent, 2 PCs and 8 PCSOs. That’s for the whole of Lewisham Central Ward.
Another important information that was given is that recently there have been muggings where the victims were women who had their jewelery snatched from them on the streets by criminals on motorbikes. The advise was to avoid jewelery, that now replaces iPods on top of the list of items likely to be stolen. Also an appeal was made to avoid keeping valuables visible in your car as cars have been broken into even just for a few coins. This is a problem particularly felt at Meridian South, but there isn’t a place that is particularly safe.

This was followed by an update on signposts saying “welcome to Hither Green” and bearing a logo designed by a design student that was there to present it and take questions. This is an initiative that came out of what people answered to questionnaires about what could be done to enhance the area. About 10 of these signposts should go up around the area so attention should be paid to making them attractive.

Joanne Deverson (of HGCA) told us that after negotiations with Network Rail access has been granted to the overgrown Station embankement on Springbank Road so that it can be tidied up and landscaped by volunteer gardeners. There was real jubilation at this announcement.
The provisional date is 31st October (still in pencil) and everyone’s welcome to get a bit messy and help in. Tools and overall clothes including safety jackets and boots will be provided on the day.

Then I did my update on the Hither Green Community Hall and Arts Society activity, this means the cinema event of last Sunday and the struggle for the Park Hall Cinema, commonly known as Kidz Korner but now back in use as a shop under the name of “mostly 99p”. Now, my take is that this is preferable to having the building demolished or empty and it allows us time to put together the large funding we need to get hold of the building. Obviously the degree of success of the current shop will play a major role in determining the chances of success.
In a couple of weeks we’ll have a meeting with a serious potential private investor, two weeks ago we met with the Council’s bosses, we discussed options and the possibility is very much alive.

But, as I explained, in the meantime we constituted ourselves as an organization that “aims at promoting cultural events in the area with a view to establish an Arts and Community Centre in Hither Green”, and we carefully chose this wording to avoid tying up ourselves with one specific building, that as important for the area as is, is not as important as the activity that we need it for. So, emboldened by the spectacular success of last Sunday we’ll now think of more cultural activities to promote in the area.

One immediate consequence of the event is that Crave Arts Theatre that ran the Drama workshops for children at Sunday’s event are keen to start a regular drama group for kids in the area and this is a first tangible improvement to opportunities in the area as a consequence of our work. The availability of after school activities is a big indicator of a healthy community and we can do with more of them, so from me this is particularly welcome.
If you are interested in the Drama club you can contact Crave Arts Theatre here. A course may already take place on half term week.

My update was really well received and many people asked questions including how to join and help, which is the best question for me. If you want to help too then just write an email to contact@hithergreenhall.org.

Last point on the agenda was the election of a new steering group committee, many of the old members stayed in, but not the chair Chris Freed, who was the chair from start and did the work to set up the association and get it going from zero to where it is now. A huge thanks to her is due. Well done Chris.
A few new members joined the steering group and so with fresh blood end enthusiasm the association should produce even more good initiatives for Hither Green.

Monster 99p store to dominate Hither Green Lane

October 12, 2009

Hither Green Lane, 1913.

Original-Park-Cinema-1913

Hither Green Lane, circa 1930.
Park-Cinema_Talkies

Hither Green Lane, October 2009.
KK-99p

When a cinema building is transformed into a 99p store you can legitimately say that the area is going to the dogs and something must be done about it.
It surely doesn’t bring the area up and it’s a gross misuse of what once was a great community asset, but let’s look at the positive, at least it’s not being converted into 6 flats, it has planning consent for conversion but due to the known issues with the housing market there probably wouldn’t be any profit in it.
A couple of months ago me and other 48 residents successfully objected to an especially inappropriate planning application for a modern block with 9 flats on the site and now the developer who is not extravagantly wealthy and is stuck with this particularly ill-judged property investment probably needs to make some money to stay afloat, so a commercial tenant may do the job, let’s try to make this new shop only a transition towards something much better and that this area desperately needs.

Let’s free him from his burden! Let’s acquire the building and make it into an Arts and Community Centre. I’ve been in touch with the developer, he said he’d sell it to us. We’ve involved the Council as well as well as other potential funders, including private groups. If the stars align correctly it could be done.

There is a very big argument in favour of this initiative (it started here). That corner is the most important location on Hither Green Lane, as in 2006 the Hither Green Urban Design and Development Framework also found out.
It’s the site of the original ‘Hither Green’ that gives the name to the area and still holds the key to the success of it.
The area doesn’t have any cultural offer and doesn’t have any space for performances or any community activity apart from the Church.

In support of the initiative to transform the former Park Cinema, now 99p store into an Arts and Community Centre this Sunday 18th October we have organized a cinema day, with added free drama workshops for children in the morning.
Come along, there’s a smashing program and a rare opportunity to meet your neighbours in a relaxed foyer in between films. We’ll also have a fully licenced bar. Doors open at 2:30pm with tea and cakes from the Golden Afternoon Tea Company, this will be followed by a screening of My Fair lady.
At 6pm there will be Buster Keaton’s the Balloonatic with live piano accompaniment, that will be followed at 7pm by a recently reissued Ealing production of great interest (I proposed this film), Pool of London (1951), a murky noir in the fascinating setting of post war Docklands and that broke a taboo with the first ever interracial relationship in a British Film.
This event takes place at the Firemaster building, 174-176 Hither Green Lane, entrance from Lanier Road.

One final point, this initiative is not something coming from the Libdems, it’s a community initiative, in fact people from all sorts of political persuasion are involved. I started it in my personal capacity before taking a final decision to run for Council and did it because I thought that it was necessary for the area.
Hither Green Cinema FINAL 150 dpi