Google Street View of Sendero Coffee, Lavender Hill, Battersea

Sendero coffee, a relatively new addition to Lavender Hill (on the corner of Lavender Hill and Queenstown Road), has applied for an licence to permit additional sales and activity.

The application is for:

  • The sale of alcohol from 4pm to midnight every day.
  • Live music from 7pm to 10pm every day.
  • Recorded music from 6.30pm to midnight every day.
  • Provision of late night refreshment from 11pm to midnight every day.

Sendero is primarily a coffee shop (and a good one to boot, I’d highly recommend it) and I think it is a good addition to Lavender Hill, providing an attractive destination at the less desirable end of a road that, despite its potential, always seems to struggle.

This licence application is not that big and largely within the council’s policy. However, you might think it moves the shop away from being a coffee shop to something else although with only the upstairs flats as immediate neighbours it might be a suitable venue for later opening and quiet entertainment.

If you want to make a representation you have until 6 October. Representations must relate to the four licensing objectives:

  • The prevention of crime and disorder
  • The prevention of public nuisance
  • Public safety
  • The protection of children from harm

The council’s licensing pages provide more information.

If you wish to make an observation you can do so by writing to:
Head of Licensing
Licensing Section
London Borough of Wandsworth
PO Box 47095
London
SW18 9AQ

or by emailing licensing@wandsworth.gov.uk

Empty shops on Lavender Hill

The blight of estate agent boards will soon be gone from Lavender Hill now the Secretary of State has approved the council’s application allowing the signs to be banned from certain areas.

The application—under the town and country planning regulations—essentially removes the deemed consent for advertising in the area. While it might be reasonable for estate agents to advertise properties, such signs are less relevant in an internet age. Instead the signs are often left in place as a advert for the agents themselves, but leave the area looking tatty and down-at-heel.

Town Centre Partnerships across the borough have been campaigning for years to see this introduced, it has been very effective across the river in large parts of Kensington and Chelsea for several years. More locally, the inclusion of Lavender Hill in the scheme is largely down to one local resident’s tenacity in standing up for the road.

It’s a small step for Lavender Hill, but one in the right direction.

Big Fat Panda: Soon an Italian?

Two planning applications have been made for 281 Lavender Hill, currently Big Fat Panda.

Earlier in the year the Grand Union pub chain had made a very unpopular pair of planning and licensing applications which met with robust opposition from local residents. I was pleased to be able to help them by voicing my opposition at the licensing committee meeting.

The new planning applications have been made by Valentina, an Italian restaurant and deli chain. The initial reaction I’ve had from residents has been positive, and I can see how it would be a welcome addition to Lavender Hill in a way that Grand Union most definitely was not. The application still has provision for use of the outside area so there is the risk of some local disturbance, but the proposed opening hours only extend to 11pm which is a far cry from the late night revelry there might have been.

The risk after the rejection of Grand Union was a succession of inappropriate applications and one finally getting through. This, however, might be an almost ideal outcome for those who did such a great job in opposing Grand Union.

You can comment on the applications on the council’s planning portal, applications 2015/5107 and 2015/5108.

School poster ONE jpegShaftesbury Park School on Ashbury Road hosts the first Lavender Hill Farmers Market tomorrow.

I’m rather pleased to see it coming to the area. Wearing my pro-Lavender Hill hat, every little helps when it comes to increasing footfall in the area (even if it is a few minutes walk from Lavender Hill itself). But as a school governor at Shaftesbury Park it’s great to see the school being used and opening itself up outside of the normal school week.

Additionally the relationship has potential benefits for the school beyond merely, and I know the organisers have been talking with the school and the PTA about how the school can be involved.

The market is open from 10am until 2pm, and will be returning every week.

Gastronhome: a superb addition to Lavender Hill's food offer
Gastronhome: a superb addition to Lavender Hill’s food offer
I finally managed to try Gastronhome, which has been on Lavender Hill for a few months now. I’ve tried for a while to be a bit more active in supporting Lavender Hill’s restaurants (which in practice means when I can, since the family are of an age that means I don’t go out as much as I once did—and hope to again one day).

Several people had recommended it to me, and I was not disappointed. The food is immaculately presented and smelled and tasted delicious, even to a palette like mine which has paid the price of years of abuse. Small and intimate, it has all the hallmarks of a great local restaurant: and a great anchor for a stretch of Lavender Hill that has struggled but could be a real destination.

I’m not a food blogger, so won’t even try to describe the meal, but if you like good restaurants and great food and have even the smallest desire to support Lavender Hill’s struggling local economy then go there. You won’t be disappointed.

Shaftesbury has become something of a hot-bed of licensing activity recently. While the ongoing issues with Thirsty Camel seem to be over (the licensing sub-committee on 5 August granted the licence after the applicant assured them he had no personal or business relationship with the Kapoors, the previous managers of the business), two other licensed premises in the ward are having their licences reviews.

The first is Best One on Eversleigh Road. Trading Standard have requested the review following the sale of products to underage customers in test purchases. In February 2013 a test purchase resulted in the sale of tobacco to a 15-year old girl and the business owner was cautioned. This May a subsequent test purchase took place when another 15-year old girl was able to buy alcohol. Trading Standards are requesting a three month suspension of the licence in this case.

Lavender Grocers on Lavender Hill are the subject of the other review. In this case a 15-year old girl (I have no idea if this is the same 15-year old, it seems like a rather Victorian approach to child labour if it is the same girl all the time) was able to buy tobacco. Trading Standards are requesting conditions be added to the licence in order to prevent a recurrence.

As ever, if you wish to make observations on either of these reviews they must be made by 1 September 2014 and they must relate to the four licensing objectives:

  • The prevention of crime and disorder
  • The prevention of public nuisance
  • Public safety
  • The protection of children from harm

The council’s licensing pages provide more information.

If you wish to make an observation you can do so by writing to:
Head of Licensing
Licensing Section
London Borough of Wandsworth
PO Box 47095
London
SW18 9AQ

or by emailing licensing@wandsworth.gov.uk.

If you are travelling on Lavender Hill for the next few evenings you might want to allow a few extra minutes for road works taking place.

The works are overnight, to minimise disruption, but affect a significant part of the hill: between Lavender Walk (basically the library) and Town Hall Road (next to Battersea Arts Centre). Four way traffic signals will be in place while resurfacing work takes place, currently scheduled from tonight until Friday morning.

A vintage Thirsty Camel

I’ve said before how grateful I am to Thirsty Camel on Lavender Hill for so tirelessly helping me with content for this blog. However, even I’m finding it tiresome. Indeed, I’ve dug out an old photo to remind me how Thirsty Camel looked when (it feels like) it all started.

To do a brief recap: they had a temporary licence suspension a few years ago for selling booze to children, then they lost their licence for selling counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes. They appealed this decision, but in the meantime the owners wife, and a company director, applied for another licence. This was rejected. And now the story continues…

Thirsty Camel have applied for another alcohol licence. The application is for the sale of alcohol from 8am until midnight on Sunday to Thursday, and from 8am until 2am the following day on Fridays and Saturdays.

I believe (but have been unable to confirm) that this application is from another person associated with the current management, and therefore continue to have little confidence that the business’s operation will improve. I know several residents objected to the previous applications, but since this is a new application they would need to repeat that objection.

If you wish to make a representation you have until 17 July. Representations must relate to the four licensing objectives:

  • The prevention of crime and disorder
  • The prevention of public nuisance
  • Public safety
  • The protection of children from harm

Given the premises track record of selling counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes and underage sales I consider the first and last items on that list are relevant to this application, although the last application drew some complaints about anti-social behaviour associated with the shop, so they are getting close to objections on all four criteria.

The council’s licensing pages provide more information.

If you wish to make an observation you can do so by writing to:
Head of Licensing
Licensing Section
London Borough of Wandsworth
PO Box 47095
London
SW18 9AQ

or by emailing licensing@wandsworth.gov.uk.

Empty shops on Lavender Hill

It is impossible to deny that Lavender Hill is struggling, especially the eastern end as the road approaches Lambeth. Old commercial agent signs blight the buildings, it has a high vacancy rate (markedly high when compared to the traditionally very low vacancy rate in the borough) and even some of the occupied units have a high turnover of tenants who try, and fail, to make a go of it there. Some of the shops, I suspect, have been vacant so long most people would struggle to have a memory of what was there before the doors closed for the last time.

The fate of our high streets is an issue that bubbles around in the national press. Recently Martin Vander Weyer wrote an optimistic piece concluding it is too soon to write off the high street in The Telegraph. Mary Portas has been criticising the coalition government of failing our high streets. Bill Grimsey’s review for the Labour Party proposes a rebalancing, using business taxes from more affluent areas to support less affluent areas.

It is, perhaps, a typical case of calls that “something must be done,” but not much consensus, and possibly not that much will, to do what is necessary.

I remain optimistic that Lavender Hill can survive and thrive. So often it seems to be on a tipping point, with new businesses opening and starting to create a destination, only for some bad news elsewhere just to take the edge off the good. But when several excellent shops, bars and restaurants do survive, and there is an affluent demographic living in the immediate area, it’s just not plausible to say the road has no potential.

So what can be done for Lavender Hill? And that’s a question I pose, rather than one to which I think I have an answer.

I can make plenty of suggestions. Perhaps the best change would be a reform of business rates. This would make a huge difference to traders on Lavender Hill, and elsewhere, who are often crippled by a system that just doesn’t work in the modern world. Or changes to planning law, so a more dynamic framework can be put in place and the gradual creep of residential halted. But that sort of reform is probably out of the scope of a local councillor, and there are plenty of people already calling for those reforms.

However, there are plenty of things that can be done locally. Dealing with the pox of agents’ signage would change the feel of the road. I think parking can be improved, as can the general environment (just look at how different St John’s Hill feels, which has similarly wide pavements and a mix of bars, restaurants, shops and homes to Lavender Hill). It would be useful for Lavender Hill to have a stronger collective identity (everyone knows what Northcote Road is about, even if they may not like it).

Lavender Hill will, barring a U-turn, be losing council support this year or next, and I’m keen to dedicate time as a born-again ward councillor trying to support it. But what do you want to see on Lavender Hill? Is there anything that puts you off? What would attract you to the road?

The Thirsty Camel off-licence on Lavender Hill

I’ve just found out that Thirsty Camel’s application for a new licence was rejected at last night’s licensing panel hearing.

The current licensee had lost his licence after being found selling counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes but a new licence application was made by an associate, presumably so they could continue trading in exactly the same way as before.

Despite my libertarian instincts, this is a good result: in trading illegal cigarettes (and previously selling to underage drinkers) the shop was competing unfairly with other retailers and putting customers at risk with products that were potentially harmful.