Author: Cyril Richert
Lidl is planning an extension of its current store in Clapham Junction, with a part extension of the roof and changes in the car park, with new electric charging points.
Planning Application 2021/0859 has been submitted last months to apply for an extension of the current store. This is a minor extension, with the main purpose of adding a single storey on most of the roof and include the current outside area with trolleys to the inside of the sales area. The alteration will redesign the current roof, with most of the current height being used as the new first floor. Further back close to the railway will be located a block with a second floor. The current proposal include the car park reconfiguration with cycle storage along the Falcon Lane façade of the building and two electric vehicle charging points.
The proposal is to reuse the existing building with 4 goals:
- Taking into account the small Victorian terrace houses on the over side of Falcon Lane and therefore lowering the south elevation while locating the addition storeys further back close to the railway.
- Provide a street frontage along Falcon lane by extending the building (the building will be extended to the open air area where the trolleys and the InPost self-service lockers are currently located.)
- Provide 2 electric vehicle charging points
- Provide a DRS room (Deposit Return Scheme), which is a place for customer to deposit items for recycling and getting Lidl vouchers in exchange.
In term of height, the proposal will be mostly restricted to the current height of the existing roof. Although the same height should cover the building, result will be only additional floors on top of the warehouse and current bakery.
You might remember that in 2017 Lidl submitted a much more “ambitious” scheme. It was approved by the Council but received criticisms for not taking advantage of the site for a larger development. The main advantage of the scheme in term of town centre development was to offer a much welcome active frontage on Falcon Road.
CJAG supported the scheme, and praised the efforts of Lidl to not only listen but also address the concerns from the local resident and community groups. We remember that, following exchanges with residents, Lidl amended their proposal (planning application 2017/2972) in order to take into account the comments received from the community: they included a green roof, they removed car parks at surface level and proposed to extend the plants and greenery and keep the existing mature trees; they also increased the number of electric car chargers as we recommended.
However, as time passed and nothing happened, they confirmed to us that the application was put on hold. According to what they told us, Lidl Clapham Junction is one of the most popular and one of the best performing store in the UK and they even consider it as one of their flagship store. They were desperately trying to find a temporary alternative site to continue trading while redeveloping the main store. Unfortunately, they failed to find any adequate premises locally (which highlight some demand for large retail area locally, especially in light with the loss of the two Homebase, B&Q, and even Debenhams recently).
Therefore, with a very high construction cost (the green roof itself was about £1m), the uncertainty regarding the possibility to dig underneath the site for the car park, and the turnover loss caused by a much longer closure than expected, the 2017 scheme became unfeasible.
The original store build 30 years ago is not fit for nowadays business, and the recent year marked by the pandemic crisis and the increase of supermarket sales has shown that the premises needed to be extended. That is why the new proposal is a modest change to minimise cost and disruption to the trading activity (albeit the store will have to close during some construction phases).
We understand but regret that they abandon their previous scheme which was not only improving the town centre with the Falcon Road frontage, but was also a much more integrated design for the site.
Some concerns that Lidl may address
CJAG contacted Lidl to discuss the scheme and share some concerns.
We discussed the Electric Car (EV) Charging Points. The London plan is recommending 10% of active bay (charging in 4-8 hours and ready for use) and 10% of passive bay (electrical connection ready but no bay installed initially); for Lidl, with 60 car spaces in the scheme, it would mean at least 6 active and 6 passive bays. Instead, Lidl is proposing only 2 active bays.
Their project manager explained to us that their study has indicated that 2 EV for each store was enough across their portfolio (~850 stores in the UK). In addition, they will provide Rapid Charge bays (a rapid charging bay allows faster and more efficient charging of electric vehicles, usually in 20-30 minutes) which is much more effective than the average 6 hours (customers can only use the car park for 90 minutes anyway). However, they are aware of the future expansion of the ULEZ zone to Clapham Junction (from 25 October 2021) and know the trend towards electric vehicles; therefore, they are currently looking at the possibility of providing more passive bays, with the aim to increase the EV capacity as demand grow.
The location of bicycle stands along the frontage facing Falcon Lane seems odd. It would seem much better placed in front of the west façade, inside the car park. Due to the already tight access for the delivery lorry, it might be difficult to locate them along the west elevation, but we still think that this is something that should be explored (for example in front of the bakery prep/bakery freezer block, and moving west the parking bay by 500mm to allow more space). Another appropriate solution could be to sacrifice parking bays 1 to 3 to lodge the bicycle stand.
Last but not least, we insisted on the need to improve the area surrounding the car park. Especially in the absence of an active frontage, we think that some consideration should be given to improve the wall and surrounding vegetation, maybe re-using some of the 2017 proposal for greenery. We also suggest agreeing with the Council for a large new tree (not a sapling!) as shown in green in the picture below, with vegetation at the base.
As in 2017, we found a very receptive company, open to changes and amendments to improve the proposal. We are looking forward to seeing some changes to this scheme.
UPDATE 13/04/2021: Article modified to include information about Rapid Charge bays proposed by Lidl.
Lidl has also confirmed that they are always looking at more sites, especially in the area of Clapham Junction (they have a requirement for 9 more stores in the Borough). Appropriate sites could be from 14,000 to 26,500 sqft units or 0.8- 4 acre sites. They approached Homebase and B&Q site owners but sites were too expensive and developers rejected their proposals for a food store at ground level.
They opened two stores in February this year in Putney and Upper Tooting Road.