Author: David Curran
In the 1980s, Clapham Junction emerged as a profitable spot for DIY traders. Close to the city centre and full of nice-but-tired (and, at the time, just about ‘affordable’) housing, the DIY stores realised there was a huge appetite for property renovations and that they were on to a good thing. Over the years a big B&Q, as well as two separate branches of Homebase, sprung up along the York Road, as well as a pair of Travis Perkins branches on Battersea Park Road and Lombard Road serving the more serious builders. Over the last three decades lot of the materials that went in to renovating, upgrading and extending the houses of Clapham Junction (as well as the wider catchment north of the river) came from these big box stores.
But that’s come full circle now, and the DIY stores that did so much to feed the regeneration of the houses of Clapham Junction are themselves getting priced out of the area.
Landlords are unlikely to renew leases for large warehouses with open-air car parks, when they’re being offered big money by developers looking to build high density developments on them.
The Homebase on York Road was the first to go – it closed a couple of years ago, and it’s now well on the way to being a 24-storey block of flats and a new headquarters for the Royal Academy of Dance.
Homebase as it was, and the future Royal Academy of Dance – images © Google and © Patel Taylor Architects respectively.
And now it’s the turn of both the Homebase and the B&Q near Wandsworth Town railway station to face the wrecking ball.
Pension fund Legal & General announced in May that is had bought both of these sites – and that it plans to combine them as a single huge building project. Costing about half a billion pounds to build, this will deliver about a thousand flats (as well as 85,000 square feet of commercial space, which is a relatively small amount of the overall site – on the basis of recent experience of developments near stations we can probably assume this will involve at least one gym and at least one coffee shop).
The projects were controversial: Homebase in particular saw repeated planning applications rejected, before the decision was finally taken over by Mayor Sadiq Khan who approved the controversial scheme. The final planning consents include 35% “affordable housing”, and funding towards a new entrance to the adjacent railway station. The B&Q part of the site was slightly less controversial, but still saw criticism for its sheer size.
There’s an unusual twist to this development: unlike most developments where the flats have been sold off as quickly as possible, this will be Legal and General’s largest ever “Built To Rent” scheme – i.e. they will hang on to all the flats as an investment, and rent them out in the long term. This fits quite well with the aims of a pension fund, which wants safe and stable (rental) income in the long term, rather than a quick buck from selling the properties; it’s also why pension funds typically own a lot of shopping centres and student accommodation.
Artists’ impression of part of the scheme © Legal & General
We may see some small changes to the designs along the way: Legal & General are reportedly making minor tweaks to the design of the B&Q site without altering the height or bulk of the buildings, probably reconfiguring some uses and potentially reducing the commercial area. They are exploring some potentially more significant tweaking of the Homebase site (where there’s more time to get the approval for minor changes) – though given how controversial the planning process was last time they won’t want to reopen the planning permission from the start.
Unsurprisingly B&Q aren’t too happy about losing these profitable town centre sites (they’re also unhappy about losing their Old Kent Road site). They are trialling a small ‘high street’ branch in north London that’s more like a Tesco Express – but ultimately when the leases on their 1980s stores run out and the land they’re on gets too valuable there’s not a lot they can do about it.
So where does this leave us? Obviously there’ll be a huge number of rental flats coming on to the market in Wandsworth, which is causing some concern locally about the impact on train capacity, and whether the station can handle the additional numbers. There’s something to be said for professionally managed flats on long-term leases, the quality should be decent for those who do rent there.
The biggest change for most of us is likely to be the loss of the DIY stores themselves – as there aren’t many other options for miles, and there are no alternative sites for them to move to! We will miss the convenience of the ‘all in one’ big stores with the plentiful parking, but there are plenty of other local and independent options in the area, depending on what you’re looking for. It’s worth supporting your local independent traders – so when B&Q and Homebase close, do think of them when you need something rather than driving out to zone 4/5 in pursuit of DIY stuff! We’ve compiled a short list below – do let us know if we’ve missed any…
Looking for DIY stores near Clapham Junction?
- Travis Perkins have a big branch at 37 Lombard Road. Welcoming to DIYers (just ask), they’re frankly not the place for plants or soft furnishings, but if you want bricks, paving, electrics, garden tools, and wood, and especially if you want big and heavy things, they’re a decent option. There’s a shop for their range of smaller items on site – the bigger stuff out in the yard is ‘pay in advance’. There is some car parking. Sign up for a (free) customer loyalty account and get a small discount. There’s a smaller branch specialising in kitchens on Battersea Park Road.
- Wickes. A bit like an old fashioned version of B&Q or Homebase – it’s got a similar range but with more heavy duty materials and lacking the plants / blinds / cushions / more decorative elements. Unfortunately you’ll need to go all the way to the bottom end of Garratt Lane.
- Screwfix at 208 York Road. Owned by the same people as B&Q, don’t be fooled by the small size of this counter service business (which runs on a similar model to Argos): it has a huge range of smaller items in the back stockroom, with everything from screws and sockets to lawnmowers and garden hose. Notable for its very good website, Screwfix also have very efficient click & collect and delivery operations. Indeed Screwfix evolved from being mail-order-only business and tend to stock things that can be put in a delivery box – so there are not a lot of paints, and no big raw materials (wood / etc) or perishables (plants / etc).
- Toolstation, which is similar to Screwfix and has some local branches, and a useful mini-Habitat next to the new Argos inside Sainsbury’s Garratt Lane. Argos itself has a wide range of house and garden furniture.
Paint, hardware & plumbing
- Decor Express on 44 Lavender Hill. Paint is the speciality here, with a comprehensive range as well as an in-store mixing service – but also stocks a wide range of ironmongery, plumbing and tools, and a smaller range of electrics and general decorating materials. DIY-friendly and helpful staff – but note it’s only open until 3 on Saturdays, and closed Sundays.
- Leyland Specialist Decorators Merchants at 38 Battersea Park Road. Part of a small London chain; very similar in range to Decor Express – the emphasis being everything you may need to decorate, and with a range of wider tools and equipment on the side.
- LHP Lavender at 2 Queenstown Road. The place for all things plumbing – just ask at the counter; looks like a serious place for professional plumbers but it’s fine to wander in brandishing a broken bit of something or other and say “do you have something that will fit this”.
- Brewers Decorator Centre on Battersea Park Road (formerly Park Paint). Good for paint and associated tools, friendly staff.
General small hardware shops
- Barkers on 8 Queenstown Road. A DIY store from the old school, about 90% of the range is in the back room – just ask and chances are they staff will find it. Helpful staff and a resident dog (weekdays only), you’ll be surprised at how wide the range is, including tools and hardware galore, all manner of electrics, plumbing, timber, paints (no mixing) and a key cutting service. Closed Sundays.
- Lavender Hill DIY at 147 Lavender Hill. Classic hardware shop with a range including small hardware, tools, soil and garden tools, the full HG cleaning product range, and some electrics. Dulux paint mixing service. Open Sundays.
- Rainford on 212 Battersea Park Road. Similar to Lavender Hill DIY – a small stock with an eclectic range of general hardware.
- Hand tools, ironmongery, fixings ,etc, etc, available from hugely experienced Belton and Slade by the Wandle on Wandsworth High Street.
- A. Gatto and Sons in 206 Garratt Lane SW18 – power tools etc, another very experienced dealer with a wide ranging stock
- Battersea flower station – running on what was presumably once a private footpath parallel to the railway close to Battersea High Street, this is the one for outdoor plants, as well as having a small stock of pots and planters.
- Neal’s Nurseries on Heathfield Road next to Wandsworth Prison. Part of the Capital Gardens mini-chain, and by far the biggest plant shop in the area, it stocks a huge range of plants, as well as a wider mix of general garden materials.
- Topps Tiles – have a general branch at Queenstown Circus, and a smarter ’boutique’ branch that’s more of a showroom on St Johns Hill.
- SDS, way down at the far-from-the-station end of Northcote Road – for ironmongery, and window and door fittings.