Please forgive the rather long post but I want to bring everyone up to speed on the Northcote Road weekend closure.
Following the street closure at weekends for August, we have been inundated with requests from businesses and residents alike asking if it would be possible to extend the weekend closure of Northcote Road. Wandsworth Council have been incredibly supportive so far, and at a meeting on Monday they agreed to extend the closure up until when the clocks change. Due to the weather it is unlikely to continue beyond September, however if an ‘Indian Summer’ for October is on the cards then of course we will reconsider!!
I would like to share some of the impact the closure has had on the hospitality businesses if I may. The hospitality businesses have, since 2011, made up the predominant attraction for people visiting the street – cafes, restaurants and bars have been the main reason given by people for visiting the street in every single survey of visitors to the street since 2011.
Nine of the hospitality businesses would have ceased trading if the street closure had not happened. One business in particular arrived with a van to remove all their equipment on a Saturday, only to find that they couldn't park outside due to the closure. They were so astonished to see the footfall that they reversed this decision which in itself has saved nearly 20 jobs.
The council acted to close the street because the only window to try and save the hospitality sector on Northcote Road was the Summer. Hospitality businesses can make money by trading outside, but only during summer months. The retail sector will have their chance at Christmas, but the hospitality sector will have none – as things stand now they cannot take bookings from groups (so no Christmas parties), space inside is limited due to reduced capacity etc.
The hospitality sector collectively employs more people on Northcote Road than all the other businesses put together. There have been 42 people de-furloughed on Northcote Road since the start of the closure, and 49 new staff employed. We are planning that at the end of September the road will open – the retail sector can then see if the road closure actually affected them. For the hospitality sector, the opening of the road means a substantial reduction in trade that they have no way of making up.
In the survey done a couple of weeks ago, the majority of the businesses on the street said that they would like, or would not mind to have the road closed in September. The vast majority of residents who contacted the council said that they would like the road closed in September.
Of course we cannot keep 100% of people happy 100% of the time, but we have to go with the majority and help those that we can. I would like to thank residents who have had to walk the extra distance to the bus stops on Bolingbroke Grove, as well as the people for whom the road closure at weekends has been an inconvenience. Whilst the first couple of weekends were a bit fraught, the whole operation has become much slicker and we now know what to expect, and how to deal with it every weekend. Hopefully we can just have a few more sunny weekends between now and the end of September…!!