Report recommends cancelling scheme to save money
Northcote Road pedestrianised
The pedestrianisation of a Battersea street could soon be abandoned as the cost of living crisis hits council spending. Wandsworth Council has revealed it must make “tough decisions” to support residents dealing with soaring bills as it plans to cancel the Northcote Road scheme.
The scheme was first arranged in 2020 under the council’s old Conservative administration and has seen Northcote Road close to traffic every weekend from April to September. The move allowed bars and restaurants to provide al-fresco drinking and dining along the street. It was reintroduced in 2021 and 2022, and it was described as “immensely popular” by former council leader Ravi Govindia.
But a new report to the council’s finance committee recommends cancelling the scheme in a move which could free up £2.5 million. The report says businesses will still be able to offer outdoor dining and the authority will look for ways to support the closure of Northcote Road in future years.
But Wandsworth Conservatives, which lost control of the council for the first time in 44 years in May after a Labour victory, have hit out at the plans. The group said they will oppose the proposal when it is debated at the end of September. The proposal will be considered at the council’s finance committee on September 29 before being approved or rejected at an executive meeting.
The two Conservative councillors for Northcote said the “hugely popular” scheme had saved businesses in the past and will help them if it is allowed to continue.
Councillor Aled Richards-Jones said, “It’s astonishing that Labour want to scrap a scheme that is hugely popular with residents and businesses, and comes at no additional cost to the council taxpayer. In the last two years, the scheme has literally saved many businesses which have been on Northcote Road for decades. As we head into future months and years where inflation continues to pose a threat, the increased trading during the pedestrianised summer weekends will really help those businesses.”
Councillor Emmeline Owens said, “The scheme isn’t just about helping businesses through difficult times – it’s about transforming Northcote Road into a safe street for shoppers, diners and families during the summer and creating a new focal point for the community. It brings new customers into the area which means the street stays vibrant and free from multiple vacancies all year round.”
A spokesperson for Wandsworth Council said the authority needs to make “some tough decisions” in prioritising where to spend money as it supports residents” facing severe hardship due to rising energy costs, inflation and soaring food price rises” during the cost of living crisis.
The spokesperson said, “While the council has co-funded the Northcote Road closure scheme with the Northcote Business Network for the last three years – partly using Covid support money which is now no longer available – proposals to introduce a permanent gates and bollards scheme will potentially run into millions of pounds.
“Under the proposed scheme some businesses will also lose trading space due to the working nature of the gates. Having spoken to all our stakeholders including businesses, the police, fire service, and transport groups, the recommendation is to remove capital funding earmarked for this scheme.
“This will be subject to committee consideration and executive approval. Having said that, councillors are keen to continue working with businesses in the area in drawing up plans for occasional road closures that support them, increase their custom and provide community benefits.”
Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter
September 23, 2022