Regeneration project: Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham

Lewisham has received £80,000 from the Mayor’s Portas Pilot scheme, boosted by £137,000 of its own investment, to revive three disconnected high streets in south east London: Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham. Though home to historic buildings and thriving communities, the area has cluttered streets, empty shops and poor signage. Investment has helped to fulfill the area’s potential, creating three distinct, complementary and well-linked destinations. The creative town team, SEE3, set up three projects that focus on reanimating the high streets with interesting shops, markets and community events. Twelve pop-up shops have allowed businesses to test their ideas and bring empty units back to life. Two other empty shops have been used as community hubs, hosting exhibitions, workshops and events.

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Animating places

Empty shop units in Lewisham have been brought to life as pop-up shops and community hubs. In Sydenham, the first hub, ‘Jill’, opened at Christmas 2012 and held events, workshops and exhibitions for six months, with 27 local artists selling work. The hub hosted a temporary library, a mosaic exhibition and theatrical performances, attracting over 300 people. The space was also used by the town team to hold discussions about the future of the area. The unit has since found a permanent tenant, while the pop-up shops continue to enliven the high streets.

Hosting events

Portas Pilot funding has allowed a range of events across Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham, attracting visitors from across London. The whole initiative was launched with a weekend of events at the first three pop-up shops, the first market in Kirkdale and the ‘Jill’ community hub. The Market Makers project produced nine markets across the three high streets, with over 100 trading opportunities for local businesses. A regular monthly food market was set up in Sydenham, while pop-up markets in Forest Hill added vintage furniture and arts and crafts to the mix, and Kirkdale hosted its own retro themed market.

Supporting business

Made possible by Portas funding, The Shop Revolution has given businesses and entrepreneurs the chance to trade on the high street in Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham. The project is renovating empty units and offering short-term tenancies to start-ups. One of the first pop-ups in Forest Hill, The Butchery, collaborated with a local greengrocer to provide fresh meat and vegetables and has since taken a permanent lease on the shop. The Market Makers project has offered over 100 opportunities for entrepreneurs to trial market trading. Local businesses were also being helped to improve their online retailing with specialist workshops.


The SEE3 Town Team that evolved with the Portas Pilot investment has become a central part of delivering each element of the programme and ensuring a strong legacy from the funding. The voluntary team formed to work on the original funding bid, and includes councillors, traders and residents.

Borough: Lewisham

Partners/client: LB Lewisham, Greater London Authority, SEE3

ConsultantsDesigned by Good People

Funding: Mayor of London £80,000, LB Lewisham £137,000

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