Crouch End retail in the Doldrums? – January to May 2019

Retail Survey

For the past few years, the Forum has conducted a retail survey looking at openings, closures and the balance of types of business in our well sized district centre. The most recent was in December 2018 with the conclusion

Reasons to be cheerful then, as Crouch End seems decently placed

but with an update in February

” A few weeks and a few shop closures later, with the Earl Haig, Subway, Oddbins and Sorbet gone, Santander going, perhaps Evans Cycles too. This is a closure rate three times that of 2018 (see list below), but just as notable is the nature of the shops. Last year all 15 closures were independents – this year, they’re all chains.

and since February things have moved on , with several units standing empty, and other changes taking place. To list a few (though please bear in mind the situation can change rapidly)

2019 Crouch End Shop/ Retail / Food and Beverage Changes

  • Currrently Vacant
    • Earl Haig – no longer a pub – there is a planning application in for it to become a nursery
    • Kwik Fit – gone, the building is to be demolished and redeveloped as a mix of housing and a gym,  MEB moved out some time ago, and the upstairs offices are vacated
    • Salon Seventy  Two  – empty now Paul Simon has this ‘sold’
    • Santander  – closing in July, no news of  a new tenant
    • HERE – standing empty
    • Subway  – Paul Simon has this ‘let agreed’ and the newly installed ice cream vendor is advertising for staff in the window
    • Oddbins  – empty now but soon to become Paddy Power
    • Sorbet  – empty now , but bearing a notice for the opening of Storksen which to the uninitiated might be the same business
    • Evans Cycles  – empty now and with an application for a change of use to restaurant now withdrawn – note that the arrival of Evans could be argued to have cost us Two Wheels Good and now both have gone leaving us without a cycle shop – let us hope that three hardware stores is a sufficiency not a glut
    • Thomerson’s  – a little like the Marie Celeste, with a good deal of stock still in place, but said to have closed down willingly as the owner retires, rather than forced out of business
    • Real  – has been empty for quite some time
    • Bespoke Dry Cleaning  – bearing a “To Let” board
    • Of Special Interest  – now cut down to half size
    • Cannon’s Fish and Chip Restaurant  – which did not last long, though the take away survives – there is some evidence of decoration at the Restaurant
    • Cassius and Coco  – empty, for some time now
    • Graham Fine Art  – empty for some time, though a new let is said to be agreed
    • Edith’s House  – tastefully decorated with old newspaper, but where a new business “The Clock” is said to be opening soon
  • Other Changes
    • Halifax  – remodelled to be till free – it could be argued a reduction in service
      NatWest ( has applied for planning permission for the removal of one of its ATMs
  • and available from Estate Agents as properties/going concerns are
    •  At Paul Simon –
      • Irvins (Topsfield  Parade) – let agreed
      • Property Net (Tottenham Lane) – let agreed
      • Weston Off Licence (Weston Park) – available
    •    Martyn Gerrard –
      • Hot Pepper Jelly (Tottenham Lane) – available
      • My Creche (Crouch Hill) – vacant, available
      • Funktional Kitchens (Crouch Hill) – available
      • Jerkmaica (Park Road) – available
      • Middle Lane Food & Wine – available
    •    & Claridges has –
      • Heirloom (Park Road) – available

So, a lot of vacancies and businesses looking to move on, but in many cases there are optimistic entrepreneurs ready to step in.

The red, amber green rating is my own subjective assessment of the seriousness of the situation. In red we can’t be sure why the business is on the move, nor what will happen next; in amber we have some clue as to what happens next; and in green we can see that a new, what I like to call ‘suitable’, business is soon to fill the current void. Note that this ‘thought’ represents the views of a single committee member, and is not the policy of the Neighbourhood Forum.

What’s to be done?

The malaise on all High Streets is widely documented, and the question for a Neighbourhood Forum is to ask “what can we do?”. The main tool a Forum has at its disposal is a Neighbourhood Plan, which is a collection of planning policies and a number of projects. Just becoming available are funds from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) which are, to some extent, under the Forum’s Control. How effective can these tools be?

Planning Policy

Rent and Rates and Internet Shopping

Said to be the defining factors driving High Street closures, these are absolutely not within the control of planning policy.

Change of Use

In the Highgate Neighbourhood Plan there is a line which reads

“Within the Village Core and where the Boroughs have designated shopping frontages, the presumption will be to protect A1 [shops] uses.”

Since this line was written, the government has published possible changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), including:

“We are proposing to extend the existing permitted development right for the temporary change of use from shops (A1) financial and
professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3), hot food takeaways (A5), offices (B1), non-residential institutions (D1), assembly and leisure uses (D2), betting shops and pay day loan shops to change to shops (A1) financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3) or offices (B1)

The intention of the Highgate statement is to preserve the High Street much as it now is, i.e. a place lined with shops. The aim of the NPPF changes is to allow the High Street to become what it will, effectively removing the distinction between A1 A2 and A3. A further change is proposed which would allow fast food outlets to become homes. It may well be that the NPPF approach is an example of an “adaptive policy” a means whereby if the policy makers aren’t quite sure what to do they can blur distinctions and relax rules, in the hope that “someone will  do something about it”.

Given that a Neighbourhood Plan sits at the very bottom of a hierarchy headed by the NPPF, and is denied any element of insubordination, there is little scope left for this sort of control at the local level.

No doubt I can be accused of over simplifying the aims of the NPPF changes, if so I’d welcome your comments at the foot of the page.

Conservation

Another element of planning policy has to do with the look and feel of a place. Crouch End’s Town Centre is very largely in a conservation area, which brings added control over the changes  shop keeper can make. Certainly, providing a consistent appearance to a shopping parade, can make it appear more attractive, and therefore more likely to attract the appropriate clientele. Seaside resorts are often characterised by flashing neon signs, brightly coloured shopfronts in varied shapes, with often provocative window displays. Crouch End is more subdued, with an emphasis on the ‘original’ and ‘traditional’. The facade has slipped somewhat in recent years, but could be restored by a clearer statement of what constitutes acceptable. There is some evidence of recent enforcement activity by the planning authority in that an unsightly external roller blind has been moved inside, a largely horizontal design has been reworked to more closely reflect the largely vertical designs nearby, and a blind considered to be inappropriate has been challenged.

A Neighbourhood Plan might usefully include more detailed design guidelines, to the general benefit of the shopping area. After a few years of enforcement the area could regain the nostalgic Edwardian appearance which our surveys show are popular.

Again, I’d welcome comments.

Pedestrianisation

This is a double edged sword. On the one hand the absence of danger, and air pollution and noise from the internal combustion engine do make an area more attractive to be in. But shopkeepers have a deep and abiding belief that providing parking spaces (and thereby motoring) encourages more custom. My own belief is that the more parking = more custom argument simply does not stack up. Crouch End has always been short of parking spaces. The local authority’s steadfast refusal to allow parking on the space behind Hornsey Town Hall has guaranteed this. There are a lot of forces lining up to compel us to revert to the stone age means of transportation, which is walking, and the “Ee, when I were a lad” bicycle. The forces include Greta Thunberg, The Mayor of London, The Haringey Cycling Campaign and, perhaps somewhat perversely, (get-there-on-foot) Transport for London. The Forum is currently involved with the Liveable Crouch End project which has the direct backing of three of those four forces, and the indirect backing of Greta. In combination they will probably be unstoppable, and notwithstanding the inevitable car/business owning backlash, they will have their way.

Let us hope that their claims of profligate spending by hordes of cyclists, and greatly increased footfall will be good for the High Street.

What do you think? Again, I’d welcome comments.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

CIL is a tax levied by the local authority on large developments, and is ring fenced for spending on infrastructure of benefit to the community. There are rules in place to direct the spending of the levy to projects identified and defined locally. There is a lot of money involved. The Forum estimates £900,000 from developments we already know about. You can read more here.

“The High Street” could be a project, probably made up of a number smaller projects, perhaps including improving the appearance of shop fronts, making pavements more welcoming, improving street furniture, erecting direction signs, creating green, tree lined areas. It’s to be hoped there are more and better ideas.

At the risk of appearing tediously repetitive, we have a space set aside at the foot of this page for comments. Please do chip in, or better yet get in touch ([email protected]) and perhaps come to a committee meeting. We would welcome your help.

Crouch End Traders’ Association

This association of local traders has recently shown signs of activity in association with our Neighbourhood Police Team. A proactive approach from the butcher, the baker and the candle stick maker is much to be welcomed.

So what is to be done?

Although planning policy seems to lack teeth the Forum will continue to search for suitable wording to be included in the Neighbourhood Plan. With fairly substantial amounts of CIL money soon to become available some meaningful projects could be put in place. The Liveable Crouch End project will change the look and traffic flows of the town centre. But to make a real difference we need your ideas and participation. I’ll say again , please do make comments , or come to a committee meeting

9 Comments

  1. Rachael Booth-Clibborn

    We also need landlords and agents to become more open to the concept of pop up shops and meanwhile spaces. There are so many small independent local artists, designers and makers who would love these opportunities but find it hard to get beyond the agents who appear largely disinterested.

    Reply
  2. Mark Afford

    What we need is a big visitor attraction of some kind to draw people to the Broadway.

    I’m thinking of a kind of arts complex, with a venue/theatre, cafes and restaurants, … a roof top bar perhaps – maybe even a 68 room hotel. All wrapped up in a grade II* listed £30 million art deco heritage attraction. Colour supplement stuff.

    What’re the odds?

    Reply
  3. Liv Arbull

    You better add Computers in the Alley to the closure list.

    Reply
  4. Linda Grant

    Why is Irvin closing and what’s replacing it?

    Reply
    1. Adrian Essex Author

      We have not said it is closing, rather that it was on Paul Simon’s website as ‘let agreed’. It is not any longer on the agent’s website. Why not pop in and ask?

      Reply
      1. Linda Grant

        Fortuitously I just bumped into Steven, the owner, and asked. He was baffled. Irvin is very much still in business.

        Reply
  5. Will Chan

    Where does this Paddy Power news come from? PSS, the agent is still showing the unit is available. There is also no licensing application for a bookie to go into that location.

    Salon 72 will most likely become a dental surgery – a planning application has just been submitted.

    Reply
  6. Harry Wood

    Is anyone interested in helping me maintain crouch end retail information within OpenStreetMap.org? It’s a community-editable free open non-profit map of the world, and I’ve been responsible for inputting a lot of shop names etc to the Crouch End map: https://osm.org/go/euu5x5WMQ- but I live down Hornsey Road way. It would be fantastic to get one or more Crouch End folks interested in editing OpenStreetMap. Finishing off adding shops, and maintaining with changes.
    I can explain more here, or by email, or I’m happy to give a face-to-face demo some time. We could even make an event of it!

    Reply
    1. Charles Sharp

      Yup, I’m up for that. Email me and we can chat about what you are doing.

      Reply

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