Regeneration project: Balham
With £1.44m from the Mayor’s Outer London Fund, matched by £510,000 from the borough, Balham is aiming to consolidate its position as a great place to shop, eat and relax. Balham has recently witnessed significant change, reflected by an increasingly affluent residential population, but has kept its multicultural community and identity. Balham town centre is well used by local residents and has started to become a destination in its own right. However, some elements of the public realm are tired and unattractive. Funding includes better lighting, landscaping and seating, as well as improved public space at Bedford Hill Place. Changes at Hildreth Street are also creating a lively pedestrian street with a market and café scene.
Thousands of people have been brought to Balham town centre for special events made possible by the Mayor’s funding. In July 2012, the Balham Food Festival was launched in Hildreth Street, and featured 27 stalls from the town’s best restaurants, cafés, bakeries and bars. There was also music from local groups like Balham Ukelele Society and the South London Choir. The town put on Balham Comedy Festival in 2012, with four nights of entertainment at the Banana Cabaret. Billed as a warm-up for the summer’s Edinburgh Festival, the event drew comedy-lovers from across London.
Architects Metropolitan Workshop have developed improvements to spaces in Balham town centre. Hildreth Street will be cleared of street clutter to make the most of the opportunity for cafes, restaurants and market stalls. The street is also being given a new, high quality surface and mounted lighting, allowing it to host events like the food festival. At Bedford Hill Place, a tired and bedraggled corner of a supermarket car park is becoming a stylish public space with handcrafted green tiles by artist Todd Hanson recalling Balham’s Edwardian and Art Deco past. A large blank wall dominating the view down the high street is being decorated with a bold mural also based on Edwardian architecture.
Investment has enabled the redesign of the Balham Partnership website, a well used but out-dated resource. Making it suitable for mobile devices has resulted in a huge growth in hits. A searchable map of local businesses and services highlights all of Balham’s traders, enticing people to explore beyond the short stretch of the main high street. A constantly updated events section brings attention to the range of different activities happening in the town, tying into a social media strategy to spread the word about Balham. The design of the website is part of building the Balham brand, and goes in tandem with physical changes on the ground.
The Balham Outer London Fund project is the result of three-way collaboration between the Mayor of London, the London Borough of Wandsworth, and the Balham Partnership, a long-standing local business group. The Balham Partnership is made up of representatives from local businesses, community, the council and the Metropolitan Police. The team have been instrumental in forming a plan for the area, which secured funding from the Mayor. In turn, the team has led the organisation of local events like the Balham Food Festival.
Balham station is a key transport interchange, with excellent tube, rail, bus and demand for good quality cycle provision. Investment is being made to provide safer and better lit cycle parking under the bridge near Balham station. Legible London signage is being introduced in the area at crucial decision points up and down the main road, to help orientation and understanding of locations behind the high road, as well as on the main thoroughfare.
Wandsworth Council has used the Mayor’s investment to commission feasibility studies for the underused area around Balham station. As part of the programme, architects and planners Metropolitan Workshop have looked how the town centre could be developed in the future in a way that aligns with current improvements and paves the way for further investment. For example, the architects developed outline suggestions for how the Waitrose supermarket site and adjacent library could be better arranged to provide a stronger presence on the high street for both.
Partners/client: LB Wandsworth, Balham Partnership
Funding: Mayor of London £1.44m, LB Wandsworth £510,000