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Flower stand at Clapham Junction Station: should it stay before the station’s entrance?

5 mins read
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The flower stall in front of Clapham Junction station has submitted an application (p.a. 2023/3883) for a newly designed kiosk. The new application is for a kiosk smaller than the current one (8 meters instead of 10 meters and 14 sqm instead of 22 sqm) with a trapezoid shape, and the front of the stand, facing the station entrance, being only 6 meters wide.

Proposed structure – Credit: Applicant’s document

While the proposed the change might be barely noticeable from the road, the main purpose is to request a permanent permission for the structure. Indeed, a temporary permission was granted in 2017 (2017/0146) for a period of five years, with the condition that it should be removed from it location afterwards and the highways restored to the surrounding condition upon expiry of the permitted 5 years.

Existing structure – Credit: Applicant’s document
Proposed structure with view from the station entrance – Credit: Applicant’s document

In order to support the application, Igloo Flowers highlights that there has been a consistent presence of a flower stall at this place for the last 30 years. In a more debatable statement, the applicant says:

“We believe that this will have a positive impact on views, the character or townscape of the immediate surrounding areas as well as in keeping with the conservation area it is in”

The flower stall in 2012 – Credit: Google street view
The flower stall in 2015 – Credit: Google street view

The flower stall is a very convenient service for many local residents and commuters who use the station on a daily basis and therefore is much appreciated. In 2016, it won a local award, Love Your Local’s Award, which was presented to the applicant by local MP Jane Ellis.

The previous application was discussed by the planning committee in April 2017 and was unanimously approved. At the time, the councillors said that the flower stall had never been found to be obstructive despite the length of time the pitch has been on
the site, and that it has become an integral part of the retail offer in the Clapham Junction town centre. Members of the Planning Committee agreed that “the flower stall was not incongruous or unsympathetic to the area” and they could find no grounds to refuse the application.

In 2017, Councillor Paul White, who is nowadays a member of the Planning Application Committee, commented:

“I often travel to Clapham Junction and have always been greeted by the site of a flower stall at the main entrance. It brightens my day and is exactly what a human needs in an urban environment. I was surprised to learn this is not a permanent sight, but feel it should be, to ensure all passengers at Clapham Junction can continue to have this fixture when alighting from the massive transport hub. I can see why the current owner: Simon Lyons, would want to enlarge his operation and make it more permanent and I support his efforts to do so. I don’t think the council should be in the business of limiting commercial opportunities and initiative, especially such an established business.”

The location of the flower stand is not appropriate say objections

Although there seems to be general agreement on the benefits of having a flower stall close to Clapham Junction station, a lot of people disagree on the current location, and the planning officers themselves having recommended refusal at the time. They explicitly criticised the bulk and obstructive structure just before the main entrance of Clapham Junction station, writing in their report:

“The flower stall, by reason of its excessive size and bulky appearance, has resulted in an unsympathetic and overly conspicuous form of development that has resulted in less than substantial harm to the character and appearance of the Clapham Junction Conservation Area which has not be preserved.”

They also stated:

“The flower stall, by reason of its excessive footprint in conjunction with its close proximity to a busy junction constitutes a road and pedestrian safety hazard. The structure is an obstruction which restricts pedestrian flow along the footway and would therefore fail to comply with policy.”

The Battersea Society is vehemently objecting to the application, underlying that in their view the arguments for refusal in the 2017 officer’s report are still standing, mainly that the proposal is too large and inappropriate for the location. Their three main concerns are:

  1. The disproportionately large kiosk disrupts the Clapham Junction Conservation Area’s visual harmony, failing to blend with the local architecture or nearby listed buildings, thus compromising its overall aesthetic appeal.
  2. The kiosk’s placement significantly limits pedestrian movement along the footway and access to the station, creating difficulties for individuals with buggies, luggage, wheelchairs, or visual impairments.
  3. It has an adverse impact on the main entrance to the station and to the shops in the StopShop centre, impeding access on the way in and out, and obscuring views of St John’s Hill and its streetscape, its bus stops, and the amenities it provides.

One of the objection received said:

“I travel to Clapham Junction regularly and used to live around the corner so remember this entrance before to current ‘stall’ (in reality a building) blocked access in out and past and any view to or from the station. Council policy rightly opposes street clutter smaller than this. Every other station on the line opens to a spacious forecourt. This building is in the wrong place, particularly when there are plenty of other vacant shops. The council should reclaim this pavement for pedestrians.”

The reduction of street clutter in London has been the subject of a report published in October 2023. One of their key recommendations is:

“Local authorities should develop decluttering strategies, with a focus on how decluttering can be incorporated into their existing street related activities.”

The immediate surrounding of the Flower Stall and the ShopStop entrance is regularly difficult to navigate with the pedestrian flows at rush hours exiting from the station and the number of cycles parked within a narrow path.

Dockless hire bikes blocking pavements around the Flower stall with busy cycle stands. – Credit: CJI

The need for a more appropriate location

In other stations, a flower shop is either displayed on the adjacent square or beside the main entrance of a station. We could give the example of South Kensington or Balham stations.

Flower stall at South Kensington station

Unfortunately, Clapham Junction, although one of the busiest stations in Europe with millions of passers-by each year, does not have any large outside square and space in its current layout.

There has been a miss opportunity during the implementation of the exemplar scheme (revamp of Clapham Junction street-scape) in 2010 when unfortunately the location of the flower stall was not discussed. This is also a shame that all the main arguments against the current kiosk raised in 2017 are still valid in 2023 but little was done in the past six years to find a more suitable permanent position.

The Igloo Flower stall is currently paying street trading charges as well as business rates to Wandsworth Council. A new location could be found in the vacant premises surrounding the station. Recently, there was a location available between Cafe Nero and Wasabi where Moss Bros had a shop. A place inside ShopStop might also be explored.

In the short term, with no alternative location, a recognised asset to the community and as the proposed structure is smaller than the existing one, the Council is very likely to renew the authorisation. However, to consider the objections raised, the committee could attach another condition of 5 years, refusing to grant permanent permission, especially as the new unit is free-standing (not requiring any pavement work) and is described as “semi-permanent“.

On the other hand, a refusal might be the incentive needed to force both the Council and the owner to find a more suitable solution for the flower kiosk while opening the main entrance to the shopping centre and the station.

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CJI editor and Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder and coordinator since 2008, Cyril has lived in Clapham Junction since 2001.
He is also funder and CEO of Habilis-Digital Ltd, a digital agency creating and managing websites and Internet solutions.

2 Comments

  1. They seemed to have forgotten the law of adverse possession if it applies here the part that says if you have been doing something for 12 years or more have the right to carry on! they have been there in one form or another for it seems 30 years!
    Good luck!

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