Author: Cyril Richert
With a government grant of £100,000 in hands, Wandsworth Council decided to commissioned a study on the five town centres of the borough. The Mosaic Partnership was asked to “identify a positioning strategy for each of the borough’s five town centres“.
The consultant team has discussed the results of their questionnaire, based on the responses of about 1500 people across the borough, with 253 responses for Clapham Junction town centre.
According to the data, Clapham Junction has got the highest population within the 30-45 years old range: young with good income. The respondents have characterized Clapham Junction as:
- not really a centre, rather pockets of activities,
- become Northcote road centric,
- an opportunity to capitalize on what the train station can offer,
- well positioned for small office space, business meetings and working opportunities.
However the words grubby, shabby and scruffy have also emerged and people cite the lack of cleanliness, the need to be more focused on pedestrians, and the need for … a cinema.
The key recommendations of the respondents are:
- keep in mind the future aspect of major developments
- diversify the daytime economy
- embrace appropriate developments
- regular cleaning
- open-up the entrance/exit to the station (on Lavender Hill)
The consultants think tall buildings are inevitable for Clapham Junction
In a response to the question regarding the definition of “appropriate developments” as a key recommendation, the Mosaic consultants first said that within the next 10 years, Clapham Junction will be completely different and that the town centre needs a mixed of developments, including tall buildings.
As they confirmed that they are aware of the overwhelming opposition to the scheme of skyscrapers at the station proposed in 2008-2009, I was surprised to hear that. Apparently they do not have the same understanding of appropriate development as the thousand people who wrote to the Council 4 years ago.
First of all, it is less than obvious that Clapham Junction will be drastically different in 2023 than what it is in 2013. I was already here in 2003 and the major visual changes in the town centre within the past 10 years have been the exemplar scheme (new paving) and the opening of Brighton Yard entrance for the station, both happening within the last 4 years.
Second, all urban developers will confirm that you do not need skyscrapers to achieve appropriate redevelopments. As we said many times, there are other ways of redeveloping the station with new facilities, while preserving and enhancing the area. Basel station ins Switzerland, with similar characteristics, is a striking example of a considerate and efficient redevelopment
With the station at its heart, operating as a bridge between a preserved side with historical buildings (the Clapham Grand, Arding&Hobbs, The Falcon, Brighton Yard and the former parcel building, the TA entrance, …) and a more modern and tall one (Grant road, Winstanley), any transformation of Clapham Junction station should consider this aspect.
We need a global vision for the town centre
Elizabeth James, from the Battersea Art Centre, addressed the visioning project with some very interesting thoughts. She says:
“Appoint an internationally renowned architect for the master plan to give our regeneration the profile and positioning it merits. A re-imagining of this corner of Battersea centred on a station design. John McAslan & Partners have transformed Kings Cross station while respecting its heritage features.“
Her idea of increasing the retail space is actually exactly what they did in Basel in our example above. While some concepts might be more difficult to work on (“Re-orient the town centre access to make better use of the Arding & Hobbs building as a sightline on arrival“) the idea of a piazza has often been discussed, with the front of Asda (including the car park) has been seen as the ideal location (it might be a very good idea to involve Asda within the discussion!). This is actually reflected in the long term vision of the borough planners masterpiece for Clapham Junction (currently under discussion, see HERE):
Recommendations and branding
Developing Clapham Junction as a business hub that will also increase the daytime retail and shopping experience? De-clustering the entrance of Clapham Junction station on St John’s Hill and moving up the flower shop? Improving the signage and the link with the Battersea Art Centre as the destination to sustain independent creative retailers? Those are some of the ideas discussed at last week’s workshop organised by the consulting team.
In a search for branding, the Mosaic Partnership is suggesting a motto such as “The welcome mat”, “Make your connection” or “Your platform to” associated with the name “The Junction” or just “Clapham Junction”.
Watch our pages for more information on their findings and final recommendations for Clapham Junction Town Centre.