|New Data Reveals Extent of Putney Town Centre Decline|
Footfall on the High Street more than halves during lockdown
New figures provided to a report presented to a local steering group have shown the extent of the fall in retail and hospitality trade in Putney.
A Strategic Stakeholders Meeting for Putney Town Centre held remotely on 26 February was given a presentation about the latest developments in the local bid to the Future High Streets Fund.
A number of charts were included showing the extent in the decline in footfall and transactions in Putney. Mobility data supplied by O2 showed that the High Street was half as busy as it was at the same time last year all the way through the summer and up to the new year. Even during July and August, when restrictions were eased, activity remained at least 20% below the same period in 2019.
Data on credit card transactions for Putney Town Centre was supplied by Mastercard. The latest figures show that the number of transactions is down by around 30% compared with the previous year but, given that contactless payment is being encouraged and the lower limit for contactless has been increased, this will significantly understate the decline.
Across the borough there has been a 178% or 9,175 increase in the claimant count since March 2020 to 6% of the resident population and 22,000 residents were furloughed at the end of December.
Google mobility data for the borough suggests that ‘retail and recreation’ activity was down 68% compared to the previous year, in line with the rest of London but worse than the rest of the UK.
It is proposed that the borough’s Economic Development Office (EDO) be expanded to provide more support for local businesses and the council will be supporting the retention of the Putney Town Centre Business Improvement district when a ballot takes place later this year.
Efforts to boost Putney High Street received a setback last year when the Future High Streets Fund only gave a portion of the money bid for to enhance the town centre. A conditional offer of £1,056,812 was given which was only 69% of original business case.
The council’s aim was to create new public spaces in which shoppers could spend time in a welcoming urban environment and provide stronger links with and along the riverside; breaking the linearity of the High Street. It also wanted to look at ways to address the dominance of road traffic.
The funding provided will allow the upgrade of the library to provide a community and incubator hub which the council believes will improve the viability of the southern end of the High Street. There will be the provision of 110sqm of affordable workspace, new meeting rooms and a community café. It is hoped to start work on this project next year with completion before year end.
Work to improve the layout of Lower Richmond Road junctions to make them more pedestrian friendly will also be funded and the project is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2022.
The failure to win the fill amount bid for from the Future High Street Fund has meant that ambitious plans for the area around Putney Embankment needed to be scaled back. These included a new kiosk building on Lower Richmond Road which combined a bus stop, lift access and coffee shop. Under revised plans the lift would not be provided.
A range of other measures to boost local retail is also being proposed by the borough’s EDO. The EDO leads the Council’s town centre and high street activities and works closely with other services in relation to business, town and district centres and their communities. This includes liaison with the BIDs, assisting with management and implementation of regeneration and improvement schemes, facilitating the implementation of policies and initiatives such as licensing and waste; encouraging and coordinating responses to consultations; facilitating positive dialogue on transport and air quality matters; and acting as a go-between on everyday challenges.
The EDO believe it has learned from the pedestrianisation initiatives in summer 2020 how, through a partnership with business, creating well managed pedestrian focused spaces can lead to increased revenue and growth for hospitality businesses. There have also been lessons on how such interventions can impact upon wider accessibility for businesses and residents and the need for a balanced approach, appropriate to the location.
Encouragement will also be given to landlords to allow pop-ups to alleviate the problem of boarded up or vacant shops or to put in temporary window displays. Funding is also to be provided to encourage shopfront improvements.
A retail radio system which brings businesses together to tackle business crime is also going to be promoted. It is a rapid response system to warn linked businesses, police and the Council’s CCTV room of perpetrators and enable early intervention.
The EDO’s proposals for a recovery programme of this scale including extra staff would require an additional investment of around £1.5-£2million.
Disraeli Road cycle stands
Funding for all these works has come from council budgets, with contributions from the Putney BID and also a grant from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund. The council applied for this funding to help revitalise the town centre and help it overcome the challenges of vacant retail space, traffic congestion and air quality.
Although the Putney Society expressed disappointment at the size of the grant given by the government an extra £1.058m has been made available which will go towards a number of schemes.
The Lower Richmond Road junction is to be redesigned to improve pedestrian and cycle flows through the junction and between the high street and the riverside with increased priority and crossing facilities. This includes reducing the number of signalised pedestrian crossing stages and traffic islands to make the crossing simpler and easier to navigate.
Changes at this junction on will also look to incorporate improvements for cyclists particularly those turning left from Lower Richmond Road onto Putney Bridge, as well as on the bridge itself. Further investigations will also be carried out on how to create quieter and safer routes north and south so cyclists can avoid the busy high street.
It is also planned to utilises Thames Tideway legacy work to connect the High Street to the River Thames more directly. The proposal seeks to extend the Putney Embankment towards the high street and enhance the existing waterfront areas access. It could see a new kiosk building on Lower Richmond Road which combines a bus stop, improved access and coffee shop.
The taxi-rank outside the railway station is to be relocated to a nearby location with the aim of reducing delays in traffic flows on the High Street
If more funding became available the council wants repave the western side of the high street between The Upper Richmond Road and Lacy Road and to also resurface the road surface between the South Circular and Putney Bridge.
Transport spokesman Cllr John Locker said, “We’ve already seen the positive impact the changes completed so far have had on the high street. They have improved the physical and visual environment and helped improve air quality.
“Phase one is now nearing completion and soon we will embark on phase two which will deliver further upgrades, especially for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Our aim is to make the high street cleaner, greener and safer by tackling congestion and encouraging alternative forms of travel and we have been helped in pursuing these goals by the many local people, businesses and stakeholders who have shared their ideas with us and shown great support and enthusiasm in helping us deliver this landmark project.”
March 5, 2021