The Power of Norwood High Street

Lambeth, London

Type: Digital month-long consultation
Client: London Festival of Architecture
Status: June 2020
Pilot project: A Co-working space
Collaboration: Station to Station, the West Norwood & Tulse Hill Business Improvement District

This activity for the London Festival of Architecture is about the potential and power of Norwood High Street as a symbol for many similar London high streets currently in crisis. We believe Norwood High Street and its surrounds can be re-invented as a creative and cultural link between Brixton and Croydon. There are key sites available for affordable housing and developer-led projects, but we want to ensure the street level remains in use by and for the local people. This means affordable workspace, parks, pop-up venues, ecology walks, cafés, innovation hubs. We need to ensure the local makers, artists, school-children, freelancers, young families, SMEs and senior citizens have a high street that serves their needs. Working with the local community and in collaboration with Station to Station, the Business Improvement District for Tulse Hill and West Norwood, A Small Studio proposes a radical re-think of the use of this high street. 

Public consultation

The British high street has been in gradual decline for the past 20 years. The number of empty shops in 2020 is at a record high of 12% nationally. However, the COVID-19 lockdown might lead to a re-emergence of the high street because during lockdown, residents have turned to their corner shops for their convenience and proximity to home. We think there is untapped potential in Norwood High Street, which is currently an area with limited commerce but with a wealth of industry, artists and makers working around its edges.

The Power of Norwood High Street

Working with the local community and in collaboration with Station to Station, the Business Improvement District for Tulse Hill and West Norwood, A Small Studio proposes a radical re-think of the use of this high street, as a month-long digital consultation on The Power of Norwood High Street. Through a series of online talks and web-based interactive workshops, we will work with different local demographics to get a wider (and more exciting!) series of proposals to revitalise and redefine the role of Norwood High Street. We will concentrate on: the existing high street buildings (currently mainly commercial); a future high street square; and the mixed-use fringe (mainly artists & makers workspaces). The programme culminates in an online exhibition to showcase the community results. These results will also inform the ongoing Neighbourhood Plan that is currently being written by a cohesive committee made up of local community representatives, residents and a number of built environment professionals including A Small Studio and Station to Station (BID).

Citizen-led approach

This project is about understanding the untapped power that Norwood High Street has and promoting a citizen-led approach for its regeneration. Using the Mayor of London ‘High Streets For All’ recommendations for and inclusive, shared and locally-responsive growth on the high street, all activities share a common ethos: Take a strategic place-based approach; Promote citizen-led regeneration; Be inclusive by engaging harder-to-reach citizens; Protect diversity and choice; Recognise the social value of high street economies; Value the contribution of high street businesses; Champion high streets as social, civic and cultural infrastructure; Value high streets as sources of civic pride and local identity; Champion high streets as public spaces; Uphold an evidence-based approach.

Who is A Small Studio

A Small Studio is a design studio based in London and work in architecture, interior design, landscape, planning and research. Being small means that we are flexible. Although we are chartered architects and professional researchers, we use the studio as a platform to work with other professionals. We frequently collaborate with makers,  builders, artists, landscape architects, filmmakers and writers.


Who is Station to Station

The BID is actively involved in this collaboration as A Small Studio’s aims are ours – to push Norwood High Street to reach its full potential as a dynamic, affordable workspacing hub for all of Lambeth. Our aspiration, and Lambeth Council’s, is to see this underused and unloved street bought back to life; full of workers from start up companies and creative industries, sharing workspaces with artists, makers and designers. In a post Covid 19 world, we would like those small businesses that have struggled to cover costs to make this area their new base for flexible and affordable workspace.


Events for booking

We will present: What is the project; Why we are interested; Who is it for?; When are the activities?; How will we share information and reach a wider audience? Who we are?
To attend the Presentation on the 1st June just sign up here
This activity is for children to get involved in reimagining West Norwood High Street. This will be via Feast, the West Norwood monthly community event organised by local volunteers, as part of their children’s activities. The purpose of this activity is to engage young school children in drawing and model-making to explore and share their ideas for what type of street frontages shops could have and what type of activities they would dream of having in their local High Street. They can share photos of their creations at and this will be part of our Zoom Exhibition on the 26th June.
Find out how to be part of the Activity for Children via Feast on the 7th June on West Norwood Feast
This Pecha-Kucha is open to all via Zoom. There will be six presentations from invited architects, artists and planners who work locally. Each will present a utopian vision of how Norwood High Street could be regenerated.
To attend the online Pecha Kucha on the 17th June just sign up here
To give some ‘food for thought’, the focus of this webinar ‘High Streets, lowlands by Ed Wall’ is to show how landscape tactics can be applied in an urban context.
To attend the Landscape Webinar on the 19th June just sign up here.
This is an informal open discussion to learn how Croydon developed a program of ‘meanwhile strategies’ for converting their empty shops into useful spaces. Members of the Regeneration Team together with local artists, business and makers will discuss the benefits from flexible light-industrial workspaces.
To attend the Open Discussion on the 25th June just sign up here
The purpose of this is to hold a closing event where all the information collated throughout the month-long consultation can be viewed and comments made. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the closing event will be turned into a virtual exhibition on the website
To attend the Exhibition on the 26th June just sign up here.

Contributors to The Power of Norwood High Street

West Norwood Feast: children’s workshops in the West Norwood monthly community event organised by local volunteers
L’Arche: organization building community with people with learning disabilities
The Elmgreen School: secondary school
Local residents
Norwood High Street Landowners
Portico Gallery
Small Medium Enterprises (SME)
Shopkeepers of Norwood High Streeet
FFLO: landscape studio
Harry Bix: Artist, Landscape Architect Tutor, Designer, Musician
Mark Fairhurst Architects: architecture studio 
One Hundred Projects: Ed Wall, Academic Leader Lanscape at the University of Greenwich
Prior & Partners: urban planning and design firm
R2 Studio Architects: architecture studio
Untitled Practice: landscape and architecture design office
Lambeth Councillors
London Borough of Lambeth: Business, Culture and Investment Team
London Borough of Lambeth: Planning Team
London Borough of Lambeth: Policy Team
London Borough of Lambeth: Regeneration Team

How will we use the results?

The project ‘The Power of Norwood High Street’ will be used to inform the Neighbourhood Plan. The Norwood Planning Assembly (NPA) is currently writing The Norwood Green Town Plan which is the Neighbourhood Plan for Norwood. This is being written by a cohesive committee made up of local community representatives, residents and including a number of built environment professionals. The Norwood Green Town Plan sets out a shared vision and ambitions for our neighbourhood over the next 10-20 years.


Why prepare a neighbourhood plan?

As a community we worry about the cost of living, job security, access to shops, facilities and green space and the impact of air pollution. We worry about what kind of place Norwood will be for our children. We also worry about the nature and impact of new development that takes place within our community. The Plan will set out our ideas for addressing these and other issues to ensure Norwood remains a great place to live, with a prosperous and resilient future. In particular we want to make sure that Norwood does all its can to respond to the global impacts of climate change and the climate emergency that has been declared by organisations worldwide, including the UK Parliament and Lambeth Council. Our vision and policies will be defined to ensure that environmental issues are considered in every aspect of planning, development and regeneration.


What is a neighbourhood plan?

The government’s Localism Act 2011 is intended to give local communities a greater say in planning issues, and to let local people decide upon a vision for their area. Under the Act, towns and parishes can prepare Neighbourhood Plans, which will form part of a district plan. Neighbourhood Plans can cover not only development, but infrastructure needs, like schools, roads, medical provision, water, electricity, gas, waste water disposal, broadband, and economic and social objectives. The Green Town Plan is our neighbourhood plan for Norwood which, once adopted, will help shape the future development of the area. The Plan is being prepared by the Norwood Planning Assembly in collaboration with local community organisations: Norwood Action Group; Norwood Forum; and Station to Station BID.


What does the process involve?

The process involves drafting a plan and engaging with the community in its preparation. The Green Town Plan will then be submitted to an independent assessment to ensure it is consistent with the Lambeth Local Plan and London Plan and national planning policies. If the Plan passes external examination it will then be subject to a referendum in which all residents eligible to vote can express their views. If more than 50% of voters support the plan, then decisions on future planning applications must take the Neighbourhood Plan into account. There are challenges however, particularly from recent changes to government planning policy which aim to free land for building. It  s also very important to realise that some change is inevitable. The Plan must comply with local and national planning policies and these require Norwood to accept some new housing and business development. Crucially, the plan must be consistent with Lambeth and London plans and its policies which take priority. The task for NPA is to work within these constraints to serve the needs of the community and preserve the vision for Norwood which local people want. That’s the goal and that’s what we are aiming for.

Hashtag our Norwood High Street

#norwoodhighstreet #norwoodworks #westnorwood