C’mon councillor tell us how you’re going to revitalise Wimbledon Village?
Lockdown restrictions are easing at last and it’s great to see those retail units closed for months reopening, almost like flowers in spring.
But all is not really rosy in Wimbledon Village. Just a ten-minute walk from Wimbledon station and a walk round the picturesque tourist magnet shows there’s clearly a challenge. There are lots of boarded up units, which will almost certainly never re-open and those that aren’t are quite similar. Take just three independent restaurants, all are offering Asian menus, Patara, Thai Tho, and Giggling Squid.
Nearer the station there’s Stick and Sushi, Itsu, Pho, and Kokoro. Then there’s a row of ubiquitous charity shops, including Mary’s living and giving, Cancer Research, the Red Cross and Oxfam.
Surely there can never be enough pubs, also serving food? Wimbledon Village itself has a special history when it comes to the art of feasting and merry making. There are nineteen Inns to choose from, The Baldfaced Stag, The Jolly Butchers, The Brewery Tap, and many others line Wimbledon High Street.
But the lack of business diversity in Wimbledon is mirrored across high streets across the UK. Even before the pandemic there was already an over supply of retail units and restaurants. As we all know retail has changed. We don’t need as many physical shops.
The British Retail Consortium reports that 2020 was the worst year on record for retail sales growth with in-store non-food declining by 24% compared with 2019. These results have also been reflected in footfall, which was down over 40% in 2020. After some retailers embraced rapid increases in demand, others found their doors closed for the third time at the end of last year.
The BRC believes action on rates, rents and grants is crucial to the recovery of ‘non-essential’ retailers and the wider economy, preventing the further loss of thousands of jobs in communities across the country.
These short-term actions will be crucial to allowing ‘non-essential’ retail to survive through a prolonged period of closure, avoiding administrations, shop closures and job losses. But in the long term a reinvention of the high street is going to be needed.
There are local elections on May 6. If like me you’re receiving campaign literature from hopeful councillors now’s the time to spot the ones who might be offering long term solutions.
We think the potential for residential conversions and building to let in derelict office and retail units will be an important part in the regeneration of Wimbledon.
You might say that we would say that wouldn’t we, we’re Chartered Surveyors!. Personally, I’ll vote for anyone with a better solution.
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