Regeneration project: Sidcup
Bexley has been awarded £1.2m from the Mayor’s Outer London Fund, matched by £582,000 from the council, to revitalise Sidcup town centre. Although Sidcup has an attractive and popular high street, it has received little investment in recent years. The project, under the banner ‘In Store for Sidcup’, is focused on boosting trade along the high street. An innovative scheme to help new businesses set up, it is giving grants, free retail space, advice and training. Businesses are being offered incentives to relocate to Sidcup, while those already on the high street are receiving advice on marketing and merchandising. Streets and public spaces are also being made more inviting and attractive.
The number of empty units in Sidcup town centre rose significantly recently, and is at a 30-year high – the highest in the borough. Investment will give businesses a chance to move into these empty spaces, and bring life back to the high street. The first empty unit has been taken over by Architecture 00:/ and Social Spaces, where they are testing the feasibility of new business ideas, with mini retail ‘boxes’ available to rent within the unit. Existing businesses outside Sidcup are also being offered advice and support to relocate to the high street, including a grant to fund set-up costs.
A more pleasant and accessible high street is being created in Sidcup via a range of public space improvements. Led by architects Untitled Practice and planners Urban Movement, the pedestrian areas along Sidcup High Street from Elm Parade to Sidcup Hill are being resurfaced to create wider pavements and better crossings. New public spaces outside the library, suitable for a farmers’ market and other outdoor events are also being created. Substantial community consultation is being sought at every step, supported by specialists Cornerstone Strategies.
Investment in Sidcup is being used to improve shop fronts throughout the town centre. With the expert guidance of Retail Revival, chosen businesses have been paired with designers who are following the principles in the high street design guide. The design guidance encourages inspiration to be taken from existing traditional shops in the area that are sensitive to the unique, historical architecture of Sidcup’s gabled parades. In addition, local sign makers have produced a set of quirky hanging shop-signs to contribute to Sidcup’s growing brand.
An empty unit on Sidcup High Street is being used to help new businesses set up. Sidcup and Co., designed by Architecture 00:/ and Social Spaces, hosts talks and workshops for local traders and start-ups, and serves as the wider project hub. Between July and October 2013, the space hosted the ‘Box Shop’ – giving start-ups the chance to sell their products or services in a range of different sized boxes and stalls. A group of retailers worked together to run the shop, host events and start building a local traders network. In additional to shop front improvements, existing businesses are being supported by business consultant, Retail Revival.
Preparing for change
Untitled Practice have developed a High Street Design and Identity Guide that sets out the principles for public space and shop improvement works in Sidcup town centre, as well as other improvements funded by the council. The principles outlined are supported by existing planning policy and supplementary guidance. The document ensures that all changes are coordinated and result in a unified high street.
Partners/client: LB Bexley
Funding: Mayor of London £1.2m, LB Bexley £582,000