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
Publication: Norwood High Street for All (coming soon…)

This activity for the London Festival of Architecture was about the potential and power of Norwood High Street as a symbol for many similar London high streets in crisis. We believe Norwood High Street and its surrounds could 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 remained in use by and for the local people. This means affordable workspace, parks, pop-up venues, ecology walks, cafés, innovation hubs. We needed 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 proposed 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 an area with limited commerce but with a wealth of industry, artists and makers working around its edges.

The Power of Norwood High Street

This was a month-long digital consultation on The Power of Norwood High Street. Through a series of online talks and web-based interactive workshops, we worked 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 concentrated on: the existing high street buildings (mainly commercial); a future high street square; and the mixed-use fringe (mainly artists & makers workspaces). The programme culminated in an online exhibition to showcase the community results. These results also informed 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 was a month-long digital consultation on The Power of Norwood High Street. Through a series of online talks and web-based interactive workshops, we worked 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 concentrated on: the existing high street buildings (mainly commercial); a future high street square; and the mixed-use fringe (mainly artists & makers workspaces). The programme culminated in an online exhibition to showcase the community results. These results also informed 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).

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 was actively involved in this collaboration as A Small Studio’s aims are theirs – to push Norwood High Street to reach its full potential as a dynamic, affordable workspacing hub for all of Lambeth. Their 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, they would like those small businesses that had struggled to cover costs to make this area their new base for flexible and affordable workspace.

 

Click JOURNEY to see the results from a collaboration with urban ecologist Joanna Ferguson with whom we have develop a Bat’s Highway

Click ACTIVITIES to see the results from our Poll, the Pecha Kucha and the Roundtable with Lambeth Council 

Click LANDSCAPE to see the results from our Workshop for Secondary School Children, the Workshop for Residents with Learning Difficulties and the Landscape Webinar.

Click SPACE to see the results from our Roundtable with Landowners, Open Discussion about Temporary Strategies, Workshop for Residents with Learning Difficulties and Activity for Children.

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
East Anglia Records: Artist, Landscape Architect Tutor, Designer, Musician
Mark Fairhurst Architects: architecture studio 
One Hundred Projects: Ed Wall, Academic Leader Landscape 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.

Norwood Works

West Norwood’s Key Industrial Business Area (KIBA) is the largest industrial area in Lambeth. There is a shared ambition to grow the area’s reputation as an enterprising hub, both for the current industrious community, as well as a welcoming place for future businesses. The unmistakable blue used in the branding is by Mylands; Britain’s oldest family-owned paint manufacturer who are based on the estate. The brand name, along with similarly branded murals and signage coming soon, will put ‘Norwood Works’ firmly on the map as a place of ingenuity, hard work and a place to be proud of.

Hashtag our Norwood High Street

#norwoodhighstreet #norwoodworks #westnorwood