In the 1950s Streatham had the longest and busiest shopping street in south London. However, a combination of factors led to a gradual decline through the 1970s and a more rapid decline in the 1980s. Streatham got a bad reputation. But so what. Things changed so much. The reality is amazing.
Streatham Retail Decline and Recovery History Part 3
In the 1950s Streatham had the longest and busiest shopping street in south London. Streatham became the site of the UK’s first supermarket when Express Dairies Premier Supermarkets opened its first 2,500 square feet store in 1951; Waitrose subsequently opened its first supermarket in Streatham in 1955, but it closed down in 1963.
However, a combination of factors led to a gradual decline through the 1970s and a more rapid decline in the 1980s. These included long-term population movements out to Croydon, Kingston and Sutton; the growth of heavy traffic on the A23 (main road from central London to Gatwick Airport and Brighton); and a lack of redevelopment sites in the town centre.
This culminated in 1990 ,when the closure of Pratts, which had grown from a Victorian draper’s shop, to a department store, operated since the 1940s by the John Lewis Partnership, coincided with the opening of a large Sainsbury’s supermarket, half a mile south of the town centre, replacing an existing, smaller Sainsbury’s store opposite Streatham Hill railway station.
Several recent additions, such as Argos, Lidl and Peacocks, are located in new retail spaces on the site of Pratt’s but, in common with other high streets, retail recovery has been slow. And a substantial proportion of vacant space has been taken by a growing number of restaurants, bars and coffee shops.
In September 2002, Streatham High Road was voted the “Worst Street in Britain” in a poll organised by the BBC Today programme and CABE. This largely reflected the dominance of huge traffic along the High Road.
Plans for investment and regeneration had begun before the poll, with local amenity group the Streatham Society leading a successful partnership bid for funding from central government for environmental improvements. Work started in winter 2003-04 with the refurbishment of Streatham Green and repaving and relighting of the High Road between St Leonard’s Church and the Odeon Cinema. In 2005 Streatham Green won the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association ‘London Spade’ award for best public open space scheme in the capital.
The poll was an incentive for Lambeth London Borough Council and Transport for London’s Street Management to co-operate on a joint funding arrangement for further streetscape improvements, which benefited the section of the High Road between St Leonard’s and Streatham station, and the stretch north of the Odeon as far as Woodbourne Avenue. However, further spending has currently been suspended because of TfL’s budgetary shortfall.
Streatham Festival was established in 2002. It has grown to a festival with over 50 events held in an array of locations, from bars to churches and parks to youth centres, attracting over 3,000 people.
After several years of delay and debate over phasing, construction started in the autumn of 2011 on the Streatham Hub – a major redevelopment next to Streatham railway station. The project was a joint development by Lambeth Council and Tesco.
The Streatham Hub project involved the demolition of Streatham Ice Arena, Streatham Leisure Centre and the former Streatham Bus Garage, and their replacement with a new leisure centre and a Tesco store with 250 flats above it. The leisure centre would be owned by Lambeth and would have an ice rink on the upper floors with a sports hall, gym and swimming pool on the levels below. Streatham Leisure Centre had been closed since November 2009 due to health and safety concerns when part of the pool hall ceiling collapsed. Streatham Ice Arena closed on 18 December 2011, having celebrated eighty years of operation in February 2011.
In August 2011, Streatham was selected as one of the areas to benefit from Round 1 of the Mayor of London’s Outer London Fund, gaining £300,000. Later, Streatham was awarded a further £1.6 million, matched by another £1 million by Lambeth.
The money from this fund was spent on improving streets and public spaces in Streatham. This includes the smartening up of shop fronts through painting and cleaning, replacing shutters and street signs as well as helping to reveal facilities behind the high street such as The Stables Community Centre.
Streatham Library has also undergone a £1.2 million refurbishment. The Tudor Hall behind the library was brought back into public use as The Mark Bennett Centre providing a meeting and performance space.
The central reservation along the A23 is being removed, which involves some repaving and resurfacing, planting of new trees, and the creation of an enlarged bus and cycle lane.
Streatham Skyline introduced new lighting to highlight some of Streatham’s more attractive buildings and monuments with the aim of improving safety and the overall attractiveness of the area.
In November 2013, the new Streatham Ice and Leisure Centre opened to the public. The leisure centre houses a 60 m x 30 m indoor ice rink with 1,000 rink-side seats, a six-lane 25 m swimming pool, 13 m teaching pool, four-court sports hall and a gym with 100 stations.
The jazz venue Hideaway continues Streatham’s long entertainment tradition. It features live performances of jazz, funk, swing and soul music as well as stand-up comedy nights. It won the Jazz Venue/Promoter of the Year category in the 2011 Parliamentary Jazz Awards.
Playing a vital role in the regeneration of the area, are private developments also taking place on Streatham high street. One of them is London Square Streatham Hill.
A collection of high specification studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments being build.
London Square Streatham Hill. It offers a gated private resident’s landscaped courtyard gardens, concierge, resident’s gymnasium and underground parking.
In the next couple of years, plans to restore some of the oldest art deco apartment blocks are being finalised. This will see some of the Victorian buildings brought back to their former glory.
Streatham is now the place to be.