Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Future of Norbury High St

‘I moved from Brixton to Pollards Hill North in Norbury 7 years ago. Over the years I have seen Brixton turn into a trendy smart neighbourhood. Whereas Norbury High Street has totally deteriorated into one the worst high street possible; it’s an absolute eye sore and gives me no pleasure to shop there.’

So wrote J1010 on the This is Croydon Today website last November.

‘Shops upon shops of meat & veg stalls, take away shops, bookmakers, pawnshops, and bric & brac shops. The charity shop constantly has its goods strewn all over the pavement due to people opening bags that have been left outside. It’s become dangerous to walk on the pavements due to the majority of these meat and veg stalls encroaching on the pavement space. ‘

J1010 asked ‘Can anybody tell me why are the council granting permission for so many of these types of market stalls and shops? Norbury High Street needs to become more diverse in it’s shops, as it seems to be catering only for one type of clientele. Why should I have to travel to Clapham, Brixton, or Lordship Lane to find the type of shops many of Norbury resident are crying out for? Less off these type of shops and more trendy bars, coffee shops and boutiques. Croydon council expects a hefty council tax from us so please let’s have some regeneration in the north of the borough.’

Joint Residents Association Action Saturday 3 August

The residential areas on both sides of Norbury High St are divided into four each with a residents association. This means that unless the four organisations work closely together there is fragmentation. Following a joint meeting earlier in the week a small group of their members met with Council officer Fiona Woodcock in the High St for over 3 hours on Saturday 3 August.
One of the residents David Clark explains that Fiona Woodcock ‘didn't 'mince her words' with the offending shopkeepers, telling the grocers where they were exceeding their areas and getting them to move their stock back to within that space. She also told them to return the 'Bread boxes' within 7 days to the bakery (which they were using illegally to support their fruit stalls). The grocers were also told not to pile their groceries up on the pavement when replenishing their stock, but to do it from the back of the shops.

Fiona came with her extending rule and camera and so was able to record and warn the license breaking offenders.’

On the following Monday ‘she was going to get ‘some of the white area lines replaced where they have been removed by some of the shopkeepers.

Fiona also got three of four of the shops to wash down the grime areas around the bins outside their shops. She reported to the council the 'rat run' area in the alleyway next to the Co-op.
'Creams' were told not to sit people outside after 7pm but to use that space behind a roped balustrade to form an orderly queue rather than have 20 odd people hanging about and blocking the pavement.’

On the Monday following at 9.15 am David walked the High St. The white lines had already been painted. Two shops were encroaching over their white lines and moved back when he spokes to the shopkeepers. As David says ‘It will need constant monitoring and enforcing which is Croydon Council’s responsibility.’

Previous Action Autumn 2010

This sort of action is nothing new and reminds us of the need to keep on top of local issues and not let them drift. The mis-named Norbury Village Residents Association’s November 2010 newsletter reported that following a meeting of the associations with the Council and the police the following steps were agreed.

·         Additional ‘Stop & Search’ exercises will take place in Norbury to verify legitimate waste in cars/vans.
·         The Neighbourhood Enforcement Officer agreed to fine and prosecute individual offenders, but they need more witness statements from the public.
·         A portable surveillance camera will be introduced by the Council to cover ‘hotspots’.
·         Portable signage will highlight problem areas.
·         All High Street businesses have been visited by the Illegal Enforcement Officers to check their waste contracts. Follow up checks will take place.
·         Council will provide the RA with “Envirocrime” stickers to place on bags that have been dumped.
·         10 new bins have been authorised to be placed along the High St.
·         The Council will raise the issue of waste not being cleared up after a refuse collection with their contractor. Also the problem of bags being left by the contractor for several days after street cleansing.
·         The RA agreed to try to encourage more street champions.
·         The RA agreed to discuss with lettings agencies what they tell prospective tenants about disposal of waste.

So clearly whatever action was taken in the autumn and early winter of 2010 the pressure for continual action must have lessened. The associations need to re-look at this list and decide which need to be acted upon again.

Learning From Saturday’s Exercise

So what was learnt from Saturday’s exercise? I was able to attend for an hour towards the end of tour of the High St. I put my initial thoughts in a posting response to an Inside Croydon story on rubbish problems elsewhere.
·         Residents association activists need to understand the nature of businesses, how marginal many of them are, and how extra costs can tip them into closing, creating more empty shops.
·         Residents associations must work with businesses.
·         It is the Council’s responsibility to ensure the enforcement of white line areas, rubbish collection, street cleaning and adequacy and proper siting of street litter bins.
·         Resolving many of these problems needs to involve tact and diplomacy.

It turns out that the Co-op owns five empty and run-down looking shops on the frontage.
Looming is the Government threat to enable shop premises owners to convert empty shops to housing without the need for planning approval. If this happens then Norbury High St could lose its identity as a shopping parade.

So what next?

The stretch of London Rd through Norbury needs to be re-identified as Norbury High St to improve its neighbourhood identify.
·         The four residents association should consider setting up a joint working group that will inspect the High St at least once a month, recording problems and taking them up with the Council.
·         The apparently moribund business group should be revived in order to re-build a collective business identify which wants to see the High St improve in its attractiveness to increase customers and improve the economic viability of the businesses, and enables businesses to work together in their dealings with the Council and landlords.
·         The business group should be represented on the working party.
·         The working party should examine high street projects elsewhere to see what could be applicable to Norbury High St e.g. West Norwood Feast.
·         The Co-op should consider setting up a joint working group with the associations and the business group:
o    to take steps to improve the frontage image of its empty shops including making one available for community use including by residents running very small businesses who cannot afford shop rents.
o    to discuss in the longer term linking its High St frontage empty shops in with its building on in order to give it a High St entrance and higher profile, with perhaps including a branch of the Co-operative Bank.
o    to invite all its local members to a meeting to discuss improvements to the Co-op shop.

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