Clapham Junction redevelopment

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It is interesting that so many people seem to start discussion on this subject from an assumption that the Junction needs some sort of regeneration or improvement in terms of the buildings that currently exist. If one looks at the 700+ responses to the Twin Towers debate on the Wandsworth website, however, it is startling how few people really seem to think that the present buildings should be demolished – many love the Junction the way it is. Whilst no-one could possibly argue that the present buildings are lovely, they are functional, well maintained and inoffensive. Meanwhile the area continues to prosper and improve with more new shops and services all the time.

Indeed, the overwhelming complaint relates to the station itself and the intolerable levels of overcrowding and unsafe conditions, particularly on platforms 15 – 17. There is also some level of objection, which I personally strongly share, to the traffic situation around the crossroads by the station entrance.

The former is most certainly Network rail’s responsibility to deal with and the Council should be pushing for Network Rail to stop avoiding its responsibilities here. Some improvements will happen this year with the opening of the Brighton yard entrance which should take quite a lot of the present flow from the West of the station and therefore ease the overcrowding in the underpassage. (Indeed, one of the reasons we objected to Metro’s application was because it would have cut station entrances from the planned three back to two thereby failing to capitalise on these benefits.) However, there is still much that can be done to provide enhanced access to the platforms and possibly link St John’s Hill with Winstanley Rd for non-station users, either by increasing the numbers of overbridges/underpassages, or by widening the existing ones. In addition, Network Rail must address the platform straightening issue on platforms 15-17 to provide a safer method of training and de-training passengers.

In an ideal world, a regeneration of the Clapham Junction area would consist of a fabulous new station complex on the site of the existing buildings South of the tracks on the model of Birmingham New Street. This would recognise the function of the site as a station, and allow a reasonable development of additional office and retail facilities without creating the eyesore of high rise residential blocks. The site should easily justify such a development based on passenger numbers, and I believe that this should remain our aspiration.

Turning to the traffic situation around the station, this again is the subject of ongoing improvement plans through the Council’s Exemplar project. I don’t know how this project currently stands, but if it goes ahead this should prioritise pedestrian movements around the junction creating safer and more amenable atmosphere, removing some of the present clutter and freeing up pedestrian flows. It seems incredible that it has taken so long for this scheme to get off the ground and it should now be pursued with all expedience. As a further enhancement, the Council should looking at creating a proper bus station North of the station to provide a proper transport interchange.

It seems to me that these structural improvements will do far more to enhance conditions at the Junction than any new development of residential or hotel blocks.
I would welcome your comments.

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Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder.
Dual qualified as a solicitor and barrister, and has 20 years’ experience negotiating contracts and specialising in construction law and disputes. She lived in Clapham Junction area for 10 years and is now based in the UAE.

2 Comments

  1. There are some elements of this post that I certainly agree with. The improvements to the streetscape and pedestrian flow are well-overdue and will do much to ease the crush in the Junction. However, the problem is the lack of space available. There is only so much pavement and without the demolition of some of the buildings farther up St John’s Hill, the congestion can not be properly addressed.
    The Brighton Yard entrance will be an improvement on the current situation. But I am sceptical of how much it will relieve congestion – the ShopStop entrance is much farther down the street than Brighton Yard.
    I do have to take exception to a couple of points made.
    First, Clapham Junction is prosperous, yes, but the area suffers from a severe lack of retail capacity. One bit of information that came to light in the tall buildings debate was the pressure on retail. Shops may be moving in, but they are replacing other enterprises NOT adding to the mix. Ultimately, Clapham Junction will suffer as businesses seek more amenable pastures .
    Secondly, I understood from the information in the planning application that the land for straightening platforms 15-17 was owned by the Metro Shopping Fund consortium. They made clear that it would be available for straightening work as part of the whole development package.
    Surely, you cannot accuse Network rail of avoiding its responsibilities if 1.) they do not own the necessary piece of land and 2.) they have already put forward a proposal but it was rejected as a result of public pressure. Isn’t that a bit of having your cake and eating it?

  2. The Brighton Yard will certainly attract those coming from upper St John’s Hill. It may also offer a convenient exit for those using the over-bridge.
    However I agree that a better solution would be a link between the main entrance and Brighton Yard, as customers will have the choice to use the over-bridge or underpass from any entry. Similar improvement is necessary in the Grant Road side.
    Regarding your comment saying “the area suffers from a severe lack of retail capacity” I must say that I disagree. I was walking last weekend with a friend from North London, and she was astonished by the number of restaurants, bars and shops in the area as we were going through Lavender Hill, Battersea Rise, Northcote Road, St Johns Road… In addition I note that there are not only a big Asda, but a Waitrose, a M&S, a Sainsbury, a Tesco within the same square mile.
    However I agree that there is a need of more space for business and companies (business centres?). However the mood amongst developers we met was to say that it does not make enough money in the current economic situation and (unfortunately!) they make more profit with residential (thus they promote).
    Regarding the strengthening of the platforms 15-17 we do not accuse NR of anything. As you highlighted, they do not own the necessary land (although they should try to negotiate/buy the land from MSF – Metro does not use the land and does not plan to develop it, so to refuse to give/sell it would be difficult to justify).
    However we criticize NR for not taking their prime responsibility on the redevelopment of CJ, especially in view of the oncoming increase related to East London Line, Cross Rail and Heathrow link.

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