Tag Archives: high street regeneration

The future’s bright, the future’s green: Regeneration in Herne Hill

At the beginning of the year I blogged 10 ideas and tips for town centre regeneration. Now I’ve been to see the last of the seven High Street Renewal Award winners, Herne Hill in London. Herne Hill received a share of the £1 million prize fund to put towards regenerating the town centre and they’ve been busy with exciting plans.

Herne Hill market is one of the main attractions, drawing in up to 4,000 people on a Sunday. The team are working with The Edible Bus Stop to design some innovative new street furniture. The seats will have planters with trees, bike racks and awnings. They’ll be portable so they can be rearranged depending on the occasion. They’ll have solar panels and lights so they can be used for night-time events. The lido nearby were so impressed that they want to use the same design for their poolside furniture.

Portable seats

Herne Hill have chosen green as their signature colour to fit in with their green surroundings. This simple move helps to create an easily recognisable identity for the area that can be applied to anything from the lamppost banners and maps listing local businesses, to the public toilets and railway bridge.

I asked Lucy Reynolds, Herne Hill’s Town Centre Champion, for her tops tips on high street regeneration. “Build a huge volunteer base” was her response. This was echoed by most of the high street teams I’ve visited. Work out how many volunteers you think you’re going to need and double it. Lucy also suggested focusing on some small wins that you can point to and say “We did that”. Lots of small things make a difference and lead to bigger change. The locals can see that things are improving and it also helps to attract more funding.

When I asked Lucy what the most challenging aspect of town centre regeneration has been so far she talked about dealing with resistance and the tension between the existing community and new entrepreneurs. It can be hard to find a balance between improving an area and attracting new businesses, and keeping those who’ve been there a long time happy. As areas regenerate prices go up and some people feel forced to move away. I was born in Notting Hill so I can relate to this. Although I love my new home, Woolwich, having to leave my hometown broke my heart.

What’s next for Herne Hill? South London Makerspace is a shared creative space that people can work in for a small monthly membership fee. They can make things, share tools, use 3D printers, and learn from each other. The plan is to find a permanent home for the space. Other plans include working with a local architect to make the railway bridge more inviting, and revamping the pedestrian underpass.

Railway bridge
Railway bridge now
What the new railway bridge will look like
What the new railway bridge will look like
Underpass now
Underpass now
What the new underpass will look like
What the new underpass will look like

To see more on Herne Hill and the other High Street Renewal Award winners have a look at DCLG’s Town Centre Regeneration Pinterest board (depending on your browser you many need to be logged into Pinterest to view it).

#InspiredBy Kirsty Rose Parker, the woman behind The Shop

Sunday 8 March is International Women’s Day, an opportunity to talk about women who’ve inspired us. I’m inspired by Kirsty Rose Parker who set up The Shop in Nelson.

Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s not just a shop. It’s a community space where people can  relax and drink coffee, bring the kids, watch artists at work, take part in a workshop or just use the wifi and charge their phones.

The shop itself sells vintage, new, second-hand and hand-made items, all displayed creatively. As much as possible is sourced locally, and unwanted items are lovingly restored and sold.

The shop 4

Run by Pendle Leisure Trust, The Shop was set up with funding from DCLG and the Arts Council. Any profit goes back into the project. Here’s what Kirsty has to say about it:

How does The Shop help the local community?

We are trying to help the local community by creating activity in the town centre which will attract more footfall and more visitors into town itself. We are running a workshop programme of activity in The Shop and have just started to advertise a series of artist commissions to encourage exciting projects designed to bring people back into Nelson.

The shop

What did you have to do to get the project up and running?

Getting the project up and running has not been easy. It took over a year to raise the money for the whole project with a few hurdles on the way. Our first Arts Council bid was turned down but we re-worked it and made some changes and then we were successful.

The shop 8

What was the most challenging part?

Negotiating leases was easier than expected but slower than we had hoped. We only got the keys five weeks before our advertised opening weekend. And then only four weeks before opening the electrics in the building were condemned and then we had to carry out a number of cleaning and painting tasks by torchlight! The team really pulled together and after some very long days the Shop did open to the public on the 6 December.

Since then we have continued to tweak our stock and our displays, to advertise the place more, we’ve set up a Mum&Baby group on Friday mornings. The outside of the building has changed dramatically as we have new signage and a paint refresh to make our space look more colourful.

The shop 7

And the most rewarding?

What is really lovely is listening to people talk about what we have done here. Comments include “It reminds me of Covent Garden”, “It’s very different isn’t it?” and “Oh it is nice to have a new shop in Nelson”. Most visitors seem to love having something so quirky and unusual for their town, which has been a bit left behind in the past.

The shop 5

What advice would you give to people who want to start their own community project?

Make sure it is something you are passionate about and can still be passionate about six months later, when you are tired, or carrying heavy items, or being criticised. It’s not easy but it really is worth it. Also, plan everything out and make lists. Work from the end of the project backwards. Imagine what it will look like when it’s all done and then work out what you need to do to make that a reality. And say yes to any training courses or conversations from people who have done it and been there.

Overall, we are team who are committed to changing our community, we believe in our town and want it to be vibrant and exciting. We are a creative group and our shop reflects that being full of colour and ideas, and is a space where you can make yourself at home.