Lavender Gardens, between Dorothy Road and Asda Clapham Junction
Lavender Gardens when it’s not dark
After (at least) ten years of trying I think I’ve finally got to the stage that lights will be installed in the path by by the Lavender Gardens playground.

Those using the path today may wonder why it’s an issue, but anyone who has used the path in the dark (and for commuters using it, in winter it’s dark before they’ve even left work) will realise it doesn’t always feel the safest place, despite only being a few yards from the lights of Dorothy Road or Asda.

The issue may largely be a fear of crime, one of the arguments against lighting I always met was that there was no crime or antisocial behaviour associated with the area. That is not necessary a good measure, as many told me—and I have experienced myself—you just don’t bother reporting it when you may have felt intimidated but nothing happened; you don’t think it makes any difference other than wasting everyone’s time.

We had come close to getting lights a few times. Asda had once offered to provide lighting from their buildings, but unfortunately this proved impossible to do from their structures without flood-lighting the back gardens and windows of neighbouring houses. I was hopeful a petition from local residents and users last year might resurrect the issue, but sadly the council returned the issue back to Asda and it was back to square one.

The difficulty was that it was council land, and therefore needed a council solution, but the council wouldn’t fund it.

However, the Wandsworth Local Fund, which allows for payments from developers to be used for local projects provided a possible solution. While a lighting project was just outside the remit, the council was bidding to itself for various projects including lighting and paving that were also just outside the remit so I was hopeful a tiny project like this would be successful. I submitted a bid which was kindly supported by one of my ward colleagues in Shaftesbury and two councillors from the neighbouring Latchmere ward and several months later it has been approved, getting the nod from last night’s council executive meeting.

There’s still lots more to do (I’m already assuming they won’t be done for this winter) and it’s been wrapped up in a bigger and longer term repaving project for Lavender Hill where it might run the risk of being lost so I’ll be checking up on progress regularly and hopefully we’ll soon be able to use a properly lit path.

I know I petulantly boycotted the ballot, but I’m so proud of democracy I could burst!

The people have spoken. Asda is in Battersea!

I’m not going to dwell on the ugly battles before like the time Mick Beck “confirmed” the store was in Clapham or point out that they are re-adopting a name they refused to admit they’d ever had (despite a relaunch with it two years ago).

No. Today is a day to be proud of Battersea, because it was Battersea that produced such a magnificent result. I suggest we all celebrate with something fizzy from Waitrose!

From their press release:


After weeks of debate amongst local residents, councillors, the local MP, and community groups, Asda is proud to announce the new name of the store as “Asda Clapham Junction, Battersea” following an instore ballot.

Even though the final ballot results showed Asda Clapham Junction as a favourite with customers the store were keen to ensure Clapham Junction is still recognised as being at the heart of Battersea.

Full Ballot results

  • Asda Clapham Junction 374 votes
  • Asda Battersea 350 votes
  • Asda Clapham Junction Battersea 109 votes
  • Asda Clapham 91 votes

General Store Manager, Mick Beck, said: “I’m delighted that we have finally come to a decision on the store name, we’re incredibly proud of our location and we would like to thank our customers who took the time to come in and vote – here’s to the new and improved, ASDA Clapham Junction, Battersea.”

I’m fully aware that many wonder why on earth I feel so strongly about Asda calling themselves ‘Clapham’. I’ve been expounding on it a lot recently, not on this blog, but the story has been covered on BBC Radio London, in the Evening Standard, the South London Press (not on their website) and the Wandsworth Guardian.

I think I’ll to a post I made on Streetbook:

To return to the discussion about the difference, London is not a bland homogenous entity. Its charm and beauty is that Battersea and Clapham aren’t the same. Just as Soho and Pimlico are different. Or Wembley and Kilburn. There are similarities, but the atmosphere, the vibe, is always different.

In many ways we are not only trying to protect the name Battersea, but also Clapham, which is mis-used to cover so much of South London it’s becoming meaningless.

To have an attachment to a place, you must first know that place. In exactly the same way you can’t truly have a friend or lover who is a stranger to you. To say that you love Clapham when you really mean Battersea only betrays that you haven’t yet made that connection. And it’s those connections and common bonds that strengthen our communities and society.

And I’d probably add a line from the Wandsworth Guardian for good measure:

It’s no coincidence that those who believe it’s Clapham are often those with weaker ties to the area; new residents, antipodean travellers, Yorkshire based supermarkets.

My opinions on it are fairly clear. What I just cannot understand is Asda’s opinion, or lack thereof. They are holding a ballot in store to ask people what they think. And I’m boycotting it. I know it’s just one vote, and am not going to suggest to anyone else that they boycott it, but it devalues everything, Battersea, Clapham and democracy.

I may as well hold a ballot on whether a giraffe has a long neck or to see if people think it would be quite cold in the Arctic circle.

Democracy is about opinions, beliefs. It’s about a political process and a choosing a vision for a town, borough, region, nation. It is not something that changes the facts. All a ballot will prove is that of those that voted some know the store is in Battersea, and some didn’t.

To suggest that the long history of places like Battersea and Clapham can be changed by a few shoppers putting crosses on scraps of paper is nonsensical. While after a 1,000 years historians may still point to Battersea’s place in the Domesday Book, I rather doubt any will be referring to Asda’s pointless ballot in 3010.

If they want ballots perhaps they can have a look at the one being run by the Battersea Society which currently shows 97.8% of people know Asda is in Battersea. If they want something more neutral, perhaps the Wandsworth Guardian’s poll would do, that currently has 78% of people putting Asda correctly in Battersea. Or maybe the South London Press’s straw poll of shoppers which had 70% correctly stating it should be Asda Battersea.

So, I’m not taking part in something that shows nothing be disrespect to the area I love and its long history.

But despite that I’m looking forward to a result that reflects all the other polls and shows a sold victory for Battersea. If it’s any other result, I’ll have to see if the Asda manager will do me a favour if I stand for re-election, it would save all that lengthy campaigning!

The SW11 de-militarised zone, personified by Jack Dee and Vivienne Westwood

The whole Asda argument made the Evening Standard today.

I’m reluctant to call it an argument or a row because, actually, it’s nothing like that. It’s only people like Asda getting it wrong, being told they’re wrong, then given evidence that they are wrong, then shown that just a few years before they were getting it right, and that their website still gets it right, but being too embarrassed to admit they were wrong.

But the Evening Standard produced a useful map, highlighting Battersea, Clapham, and the “disputed area”.

I rather like that, it gives it an air of mystique. It’s got the behind-enemy-lines sort of sound that belongs to a Bond movie.

80 years ago, on people don't know where Battersea is, and the trains aren't any faster

Last time there was a coalition between the Liberals and the Conservatives was 1922. It didn’t end well, at least it didn’t end well for Lloyd-George. But some things were better.

Imagine you were at Victoria and needed to get to Clapham as quickly as possible. You’ve heard trains go from here to Clapham Junction, so you pull out your trusty copy of Bradshaw’s Railway Guide and look up the times…

Still probably too close to Clapham for some

Hold, what’s that, there’s a little indicator next to Clapham Junction. Better check what that refers too. Hold, it says here that Clapham Junction is actually “Mid. Battersea, 1¼ miles from Clapham.”

Phew, were it not for the accuracy of Bradshaw you’d have found yourself in the middle of Battersea.

And it wasn’t just Bradshaw’s Railway Guide.

Even in 1947 SW11 was in Battersea

Imagine it’s 1947, for whatever reason you find yourself away from home, perhaps working and staying in a guest house, you’re curious exactly where you are. You know the address is London SW11, so you grab an RAC guide you always have in your battered leather suitcase…

Ooo, that’s interesting, SW11 is Battersea it says here, SW4 is Clapham. Now you know where you are you might pop to the wonderful Battersea Park you’ve heard so much about, and you’re so glad you haven’t ended staying in that horrible SW4.

Asda Clapham Junction, in Battersea. Not Clapham

Of course, in this wonderful modern world in which we live you could probably just pull out your phone and look it up on the internet. There are plenty of sites that can do it, like this one for Asda that correctly says it’s Battersea.

If only their store manager had made the effort to check.

I have to offer huge thanks to Ian Freeman for sending me the scans. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that, although not a Battersea resident, he’s on the side of right in this battle, and won the SW11 Literary Festival Slogan for Battersea competition with “Battersea: It’s the dog’s”

If you want to download the full size scans feel free:

I apologise. I know that I’m banging on about this, but I’ve just had a response to my latest attempt at communicating with them. What’s getting to me now is not so much their insistence that they are in Clapham, but the fact that they don’t really know where they are and are having huge difficulties in communicating on the subject.

Back on the 1 October they told me that they were in Clapham.

I replied:

Thank-you very much for your reply. Unfortunately I’m not sure that you have fully covered my points.

I’m loathe to suggest this, but might the general store manager be wrong in this instance?

I’ve only lived here for 13 years, so it might be I’m wrong (I’ve no idea how connected he is with the area). However, I suspect that he probably isn’t quite as connected as one of my near neighbours who has lived within a few hundred yards of the store (even when it was a railway yard) for the best part of 80 years, she is adamant that the area is Battersea.

Plenty of others are making a similar mistake. Wandsworth council, which covers the area, seemed to think that SW11 is Battersea when they passed a motion on the subject in 2008 (link opens a PDF of the motion).

And Asda itself isn’t perfect. Back in 2008 you changed your name to reflect the area it is actually located (link). Even today your website still seems to think it’s the Clapham Junction store in Battersea (link).

It seems that there are an awful lot of people that need correcting on this issue!

I know a few people have had responses from one of your colleagues acknowledging a mistake has been made. But I also had an offer from one of your PR people to write a blog post about it on Your Asda and see what sort of response it got; although if we’re letting blog posts rather than geographical fact decide the outcome I think I might see about running a campaign to get it rebranded as Narnia, or possibly Hoth.

Might you be able to double check on the issue?

Today I got a response:

Dear Mr Cousins,

Thanks for your further email sent to my colleague Will Hayton. I’m replying to you on his behalf.

I am very sorry if you find the advert misleading as this was never our intention regarding the location of our Clapham Junction store.

The store is called the Clapham Junction store because it is just next to the Clapham Junction stop on the rail network. However, I have passed on your comments in this matter to the marketing team. They will be able to bear this in mind when planning any future adverts showing the store name.

Thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to our attention. If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind Regards

Kelvin Edet
ASDA Service Team

And where do you go from there? Not only are they failing to acknowledge the facts, they now seem to think their store is called ‘Clapham Junction’ (and it wouldn’t be a problem if it was). Possibly the tactic is to keep the incompetence going until I give up or die, whichever happens sooner.

They should never underestimate the determination of a pedantic man. (Which probably means they’ll keep it going until I die.)

Over a week has gone since I had my response from Asda explaining I didn’t know where I live, but they seem to have ignored my further email (despite Will telling me that I shouldn’t hesitate to contact them if I require any further assistance). Obviously I’ll continue chasing up on the subject.

It also seems that no-one else has had any response, with the sole exception of the Clapham Junction Town Centre Manager who has had a call from them.

Apparently the message was: “We are very sorry you are unhappy about the name. We have no intention of changing it, because it would be confusing.” When asked about the naming in 2008, or on the website, Asda just apologised (apparently not knowing the area or the history).

[I’ll add that I’m fully aware of how places change over the years. I just think that (a) Battersea is worth defending and (b) Asda have an atrocious attitude on this, which is basically just to tell anyone and everyone they are wrong – without even checking their own history. Then again, it is Asda so I’m not sure why I expected better.]

No sooner do I press publish on my previous post than my email pings with bad news from the front. Lorinda Freint, the Clapham Junction town centre manager, had also raised the issue of the store being nowhere near Clapham and got this reponse:

Thank you for taking the time to email ASDA regarding our Clapham Junction store.

I am sorry to learn of your disappointment as you believe we are incorrectly naming our store.

I have followed this important issue up with Mick Beck the General Store Manager, who has confirmed that the store has always been called ‘Clapham’. As the store is just off the Junction we believe it is valid to call the store by its current title. We also feel if we were to change the stores name, it would lose some of stores current identity.

I will happily pass your comments onto the Suggestions Team who can consider this matter further for you.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us, please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Kind Regards
David Raggett
ASDA Service Team

The Stalinist approach to revising history is astonishing. Given that they themselves rebranded their store two years ago reveals a shocking lack of self-awareness.

Airbrush, airbrush, airbrush: Pictures like this are being touched up in Asda's Department of Truth as you read

They themselves have in the past accepted the store is in Battersea. They changed their branding. But now a new manager knows better.

I can’t help but find it incredibly patronising to be told by someone in Leeds that we don’t know where we are. As if local people, supposedly their customers, are so moronic we do not know where we live or what our area is called. Nor have memory enough to recollect (or just dig out the photographic evidence) that their assertion is at best a reflection of being too lazy to check and at worst a blatant lie.

If they can’t be bothered to even look at their own website to see that even they still refer to it as Clapham Junction in Battersea it makes you wonder how much effort they put into anything else. There’s clearly an attitude that the customer is always wrong, and a little tiresome.

It occurred to me that I’d not provided any update on the naming of the Lavender Hill Asda store.

And the updates are actually quite exciting.

I replied to the email to me that suggested that the store is in Clapham whatever I thought. I also spoke (via Twitter if that’s a real conversation) to one of their PR team (@dom_asdapr) who suggested that ‘Junction’ is implied, or at least it was when he lived in Tooting eight years ago. He further suggested that if there is concern they could put something about it on their blog and rename it based on the response.

If it comes to the latter, since geography is not a matter of fact but the opinion of the internet people, I’m going to campaign for it to be named after the ice planet Hoth. They’d need tauntaun parking too.

While I’ve not had any further responses several others who wrote to them have posted their, far more positive, responses on Streetbook.

Biscuit wrote asking exactly where in Clapham the store was (having seen their posters) because he wasn’t aware of any Asda stores in the Clapham area. They responded:

The poster was referring to the ASDA store at Clapham Junction, the store we have is in Battersea. We don’t have another store in Clapham.

Micky G and Gail both had the same response to their complaint:

The Marketing Team have come back to me regarding your complaint in connection with Clapham Junction.
This is an oversight on our behalf and the marketing will be changed immediately.

It seems there’s three different positions:

  1. They are in Clapham
  2. They are in Battersea
  3. They don’t know and will ask

But option two is probably the winner. The responses that Asda is in Battersea were fairly clear, and I’m not you can put much store in a late night Twitter conversation with someone in PR (sorry people in PR). I’m just not going to say anything about the email I got.

Is it too early to call this a victory for the people of Battersea? I’m not sure, however, I’m impressed at what could be achieved by just a few people, with the facts on their side, getting together on a website and taking up an issue with a corporate giant may achieve. Dare I call it an example of the Big Society? Yes. Yes, I dare!