The council’s efforts to secure additional trading space for Northcote Road’s pubs, bars and restaurants so they can operate safely has proved successful with highways bosses at Transport for London agreeing that the road can be closed to traffic from next weekend.
From July 11, Northcote Road will effectively become pedestrianised at weekends until further notice – with the empty road space being made available for businesses to use so that their customers can maintain social distancing rules.
The road closure (see map below) will also make this route quieter and safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
The move mirrors a similar council initiative in Wandsworth’s Old York Road whose hospitality businesses have also been given al-fresco space following town hall appeals to Transport for London.
Consent from TfL at both locations has proved pivotal. Because both contain bus routes that would need to be diverted, neither scheme could proceed without their blessing.
This al-fresco go-ahead has been prompted by a letter last week from council leader Ravi Govindia to London’s deputy mayor for transport Heidi Alexander.
Cllr Govindia’s letter asked her to support the council’s efforts to provide a critical lifeline for hospitality businesses in Old York Road and Northcote Road - by allowing the council to increase the space available for local businesses.
Cllr Govindia said: “I’m delighted that our appeal to Heidi Alexander and her colleagues at TfL has borne fruit for Old York Road and now also for Northcote Road. I would like to re-emphasise my thanks and gratitude to them for agreeing that we can make these changes.
“This could prove a crucial lifeline to the hospitality businesses in both locations as they seek to overcome the economic challenges created by the pandemic.
“We will be looking at other areas in Wandsworth to see if similar action can be taken to support businesses in those parts of the borough.”
To ensure that all hospitality businesses across the borough can lawfully access outside space and set up tables and chairs for their customers, the council has agreed to simplify the process of applying for a street licence and waive the normal fees.
Pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to utilise outside space, subject to a short consultation period to ensure that the businesses behave responsibly and take steps to ensure their neighbours do not suffer undue noise disturbance and that passing pedestrians are not obstructed.
The council’s cabinet member for economic development, skills and employment Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “Many businesses are facing a hugely uncertain and precarious future and so we need to do all we can to help them overcome this pandemic and get back on their feet. Thousands of jobs locally depend on it so it’s important we take action to support them.
“This is why we have handed out more than £53m in support grants to small businesses and why we are now fast-tracking the arrangements for street trading. This is a pragmatic solution that will offer these businesses vital support and give residents who have been in lockdown for months and complied with the restrictions the chance to meet up and enjoy a get-together meal or drink with friends and family.