Planning threat to last shop in Upper Brockley Road parade


The owners of the last shop on Brockley's historic high street, Upper Brockley Road, have applied for planning permission to convert it in to a maisonette.


91 Upper Brockley Road was formerly Moore Grocers, a general store that had fallen in to a state of disrepair. All of the other retail units on the street have already been converted, with this shop the last remaining link to the street's historic role.

We might be sympathetic to the argument that there is no market demand for a shop in this location - Upper Brockley Road is no longer a major thoroughfare - however, we know that isn't true. As we wrote here, it so happens that Brockley Central made an offer for the lease. We offered the asking price and the standard rent free period, we also offered to invest thousands of pounds to repair the retail space and make the basement usable. During the bidding process, we were told by the agents that there were two other parties sniffing around, before the property was withdrawn from the market. We were forced to look elsewhere to create what became Homemade London. As we said here, we have been waiting for this application to appear, ever since.

There is a market for a shop in this location. To allow this shop to be lost would be wrong. We hope the Council will bear this in mind and we will be submitting our account in response to the planning application.

76 comments:

Anonymous said...

wow I didn't even know there were any shops of this street.

Kate said...

a friend and I were thinking of asking about renting it out as a shop. sadly I bet it goes through despite objections from residents etc.

J. Wren Butler said...

Anonymous - there are shop units (well, just this one, now), but not any actual functioning shops.

It's a shame - I live on UBR and walk past that little rank every day and think about what it would've been like when they were all open.

The Cat Man said...

I think nick is wrong on all accounts here;

1. There is no significant footflow
2. There are presently vacant units around the station of the same size
3. The vacant units around the station have much higher footflow
4. Brockley road is in need of regeneration
5. There is a new pedestian area being created on Mantle road

the point about it being the only link to the past is reasonable, but that is no justification for saving it as a shop when there is ample vacant premises nearby. The building itself is of no significant architectural merit and does not warrant any special protection.

Brockley Nick said...

@catman - you don't know what you are talking about.

1. I am not asking for it to be given special protection, I am asking for a change of use not to be granted - ie: to maintain the status quo.

2. There are no similar units in the area and please stop going on about the Mantle Road units, they are completely different.

3. My point is that the unit on Upper Brockley Road is viable - my own offer for it is clear evidence that this is the case.

4. I said myself that there is not significant footfall on UBR - that's why it's suitable for businesses (like mine) which don't rely on passing on trade.

5. This shop's fate is entirely unrelated to the challenge of improving Brockley Road.

Billy said...

I wonder why they turned your offer down,but seem to be allowing it to be turned into a maisonette.

Brockley Nick said...

Billy, I'm sure it's easier and more profitable to convert it in to housing. As soon as the property was withdrawn from the market, it was pretty obvious what they were planning. It wasn't just our offer, btw, there was another offer tabled just before ours, according to the agents.

But that's why we have a planning system, to prevent people doing whatever they like in order to maximise profit.

Welcome to 2010 said...

right catman I want you to start a business in one of those Mantle road units. Until you do I want you to shut up about them.

Coulgate Street filled up very quickly because it's a nice street with pretty little units. those mantle road units are still empty because no one wants to start a business there.

Anonymous said...

If you can demonstrate a demand then it's no brainer isn't it? Although if they use catmans icy logic you're doomed.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, Catman seems to be saying that we should get rid of shops that people do want to lease in order to protect the ones (near his house) that people don't want to lease and have been largely empty ever since they were built, three years ago.

The Cat Man said...

No need to be defensive nick, my point is that UBR does not exist in isolation you have to look around the immediate area to see what the demographic trends are, I doubt for one minute that you could argue any business would be better suited on a quiet residential street compared to a centre of commercial activity - you talked about regenerating our 'Brockley ' town centre previously well this does nothing to promote it. In sure you are disappointed that this premise (near your house actually) was declined to you but clearly the owners felt there was more value in coverting it which us up to them!

As for mantle road, it's irrelevant where I live - the council are clearly building a residential 'high street' whether or not you like it

Anonymous said...

i like the way Catman has turned pavements into 'pedestrian areas'. Your optimism is admirable but deluding yourself only hurts you in the end.

lb said...

Lose this shop, and UBR has completed its transformation to a sterile wasteland of maisonettes. I'm a firm believer in preserving opportunities for mixed use in an area - Brockley is commercially dead enough as it is. UBR is a nice street and I'm sure, as Nick said, there are many businesses that might be interested in locating there. Particularly something a little different to the coffee shops or bars that the Council seems to think is the most any area like this can aspire to.

Makes me wish there was some kind of business group to promote and assist commercial relocation to the area; it'd certainly be of more use than the Brockley Society.

lb said...

"well this does nothing to promote it"

On the contrary, a greater variety of shops in Brockley - whichever part of it they are in - will in general encourage people to stay and shop or do business there rather than going to Lewisham, or getting the train to London or Croydon.

Brockley Nick said...

Erm, you still don't get it do you?

"I doubt for one minute that you could argue any business would be better suited on a quiet residential street compared to a centre of commercial activity"

Yes, I do argue that and we were prepared to stake every penny that we had on that fact. For shops that rely on appointment bookings, it's much more important that the location is nice than it has lots of footfall.

"you talked about regenerating our 'Brockley ' town centre previously well this does nothing to promote it."

Well yes it does actually - any shop capable of attracting a business to Brockley should be kept, in my view. The people who work and visit the shop will spend more money in the area, everybody wins.

"In sure you are disappointed that this premise (near your house actually) was declined to you"

Mantle Road is at least as close to my house.

"but clearly the owners felt there was more value in coverting it which us up to them!"

No it isn't "up to them" - it's up to the planning process, which is meant to serve the public interest. The public interest is best served by preserving viable local businesses in an area where the Council says this should be a priority.

"The council are clearly building a residential 'high street' whether or not you like it"

Of course I would like it, I have written nothing but positive things about the changes going on on Mantle Road, including the article about the pavement widening yesterday. This is more of your blinkered and nonsensical west Brockley tribalism which surfaces in your posts from time to time, when you are not complaining about multiculturalism.

The Cat Man said...

Yes fair point - if you know the business is there in the first place - my point is that somewhere near a commercial 'hub' would make much better sense.

In any case, the council cannot refuse this planning permission as there has already been a precedent set. Perhaps if nick was willing to pay a higher rent then the owners would change their mind - it's not their fault!

Brockley Nick said...

@Catman - your understanding of the planning system is as poor as your grasp of business.

Anonymous said...

Bloody hell Catman, I'm feeling sick reading your posts.

The Cat Man said...

@ nicks last post - fine, put your money where your mouth is - pay a higher rent to the owners if you think your business is 'ideally' situated there, if not - let it become residential. The owners wouldn't convert it if there was not enough demand

All this shows is that there is a greater need in the area for residential accomodation compared to the type of business you want to develop - so I doubt you would be willing to pay a higher rent for it in the first place - catch 22

love detective said...

"any shop capable of attracting a business to Brockley should be kept, in my view."

even bookies?

The Cat Man said...

Well we shall see - I'll bet a £50 to the bcag that it will go through on appeal,

If it's rejected, I pay, if it's approved, you pay - deal?

lb said...

"All this shows is that there is a greater need in the area for residential accomodation compared to the type of business you want to develop"

Unfortunately the surge in residential property prices means that this is the case nearly everywhere. It has little to do with need, and more to do with the fact that residential flats are a guaranteed money-maker. There's probably a great need for more affordable (i.e. social) housing in Brockley, but that's another matter.

This is why local authorities have to take a more strategic view on development, and preserve business use in some cases.

lb said...

"even bookies?"

Speaking personally, I'd say yes, even bookies.

Brockley Nick said...

Well LD - I am talking about the unit rather than the business itself. If the unit is viable without a change of use (which would be required for a bookies) then it should be kept. If a change of use is required then it's up for debate. But I am not personally opposed to bookies in principle - just opposed to adding to the massive number we already have unless there's no other option.

@Catman - read the article again. Note we offered the asking price. We also offered to negotiate.

Anonymous said...

Stop now Catman - you're making a complete tit of yourself. Your comments about multiculturalism (that thankfully seemed to dry up about a year ago) used to make you look hateful and nasty, your comments here just make you look thick. Drop it and walk away before you lose any more face.

Brockley Nick said...

@LB - there is of course the local networking group of businesses that met at Mr Lawrence's and continues to exist as a Linked-In group. There was am expressed wish at the meeting that it should become a regular group - I'm not the right person to run it, if you wanted to get involved, I'm sure they'd welcome an organiser who actually runs a local business. There were a number of Ladywell businesses present, btw.

The Cat Man said...

Nick, you havnt responded to my bet - do we have a deal? I think the BCAG could do with the money for more plants.

Re . Rent negoiation - I'm sure if you offered a high enough rent that they would of taken you up. As for residential properties - we are still in very high price/salary multiples we need MANY more flats/houses to bring it down.

lb said...

Sounds interesting - I'll have a look. A regular group would be a good thing as then it might be able to influence, or at least inform, local authority policy, research available grants, match businesses with funding, etc.

Q said...

It is hugely important not to lose this shop facility. Write 'No to residential'.

Brockley Nick said...

@Catman - I am not responding to your bet for two reasons:

1. You are confusing a discussion with what should happen with one about what could happen. I accept that the Council may well allow this to be converted. I am saying that would be wrong and I am specifically challenging your assertion that there is nothing that can be done about it, because there is precedent. That is just not true.

2. I am not accepting your bet because beyond the realms of this website I don't wish to have any contact with you.

PS - for all you or the landlords know, I may have been willing to offer a million pounds a week in rent. But the offer to negotiate was declined. Also note that ours wasn't the only offer.

Kate said...

Unfortunately I think this will go through even if people object to it as a precedent has already been set with the others in the row having been converted to residential. It would be a shame as there are plenty of people who would be, and have shown an interest, in taking on the unit for A1 purposes. I'm a firm believer in supporting local shops where they exist and would prefer to shop locally than traipse into central London, Canary Wharf, Bromley or even Lewisham!

Brockley Nick said...

@LB - here is the link to the report on the group http://tinyurl.com/3abqk7t

The Cat Man said...

@nick - you just responded

@Kate - that's exactly my point

lb said...

Thanks Nick.

Just looking at your initial post some things, like the lack of a database of available premises, stand out - I guess the problem is finding people to administer it all.

Incidentally has anyone ever thought of a loyalty card or discount scheme encompassing several shops in the area? I realise this might create problems if businesses are directly competing in some products.

westsider said...

I have never seen anyone so unaware of their own intellectual limitations as the catman. How's your blog coming along catman?

Brockley Nick said...

@LB - yes, that database could have been a job for the TCMs, but they are being cut. If someone created it, I'd happily host it on here.

I have heard people suggest a loyalty scheme before - certainly could work.

Brockley Nick said...

@LB - yes, that database could have been a job for the TCMs, but they are being cut. If someone created it, I'd happily host it on here.

I have heard people suggest a loyalty scheme before - certainly could work.

Brockley Nick said...

PS - on that point, the shop we did end up renting is part of "Portman Village", an area which operates just such a loyalty scheme for the 20,000 residences in their immediate catchment area. When setting up the business, we were asked by the landlords to think about what special offers we could come up with to send to their local database. So it can work, with some joined-up thinking.

Might be worth a separate blog post...

lb said...

I suppose the way to do it would be to get a stamp every time you spent more than, say, a fiver, and after getting a fixed number of stamps you could get a certain amount of money off. Or something. This would at least make the card transferrable between different types of business.

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that even this space is going.

I am looking for a place were to open a restaurant in Brockley, preferably near the station.

The high street is so depress but, there is no space to open anything new.

Any suggestions?

The Cat Man said...

A loyalty scheme is akin to a local currency - something a number of areas have used to promote local trade. It would be a good idea but it means less money being spent on imports / other geographical areas - not exactly the type of plan to promote intergration

Brockley Nick said...

On Endwell Road, at the foot of Drakefell, there is an empty restaurant space, with a recently refurbished frontage. It's around the corner from the station, a little out of sight for many, but very close as the crow flies and you can rest assured that if you run a good restaurant in the area, word will spread like wildfire. Look at places like Coulgate Street and Harefield Road to see what can be achieved off the main high street.

Good luck and please open soon - Brockley still lacks restaurants.

lb said...

I'm not a big fan of the "local currency" model for economic reasons too tedious to enumerate here.

What do you mean by a loyalty scheme affecting "money being spent on imports", exactly? This is Brockley, not St Helena.

love detective said...

brockley clearly already has too much of an export driven economy leading to trade surlpus's exerting an upwards pressure on the brockley dinar

catman sees the downside of a local loyalty scheme as the danger that it achieves exactly what it sets out to do

The Cat Man said...

I would support a local / regional currency as I favour a higher spend on local trade, my point is about the hypocrisy that there seems to be people advocating a form of protectionism whilst a the same time wanting to encourage regional economic intergration (labour and capital mkts)

Where does the line get drawn?

Anonymous said...

The brockley dinar, like it. Has the added advantage of cat man not wanting to touch anything with a foreign name. Can we have a picture of bob marley on it to seal the deal?

drakefell debaser said...

Anon 11:50 please do check out the site that Nick mentions on Endwell Rd for your restaurant.

I will be there as soon as you open to try your food.

Catman, the widening of pavements and relocation of a zebra crossing is hardly an indication that the council are building a residential high street. Let’s not get carried away, Mantle Rd needs vast amounts of money spent on it before it will resemble anything more than a rat run.

Name said...

It's probably for the best that you aren't a businessman in this area, as it would change the nature of how this blog is viewed.

Bumbags said...

Wow- this is a heated one! I am also on 'UBR' btw, fyi, etc... As permission was granted for every other shop to be converted, I would doubt there are grounds to refuse this conversion of use. As a convenience store this place has always been a shambles, and I can't believe it made any decent profit. It may be a suitable place for some other businesses (actually a pretty little cafe would do rather well here, tucked away from traffic and with a little patio at the front). However, the owners have obviously decided to get out now, before any further downturn in the property market, and I think there is little to be done as they(understandably!) want to maximise return by converting. They stand to make A LOT more money this way.
I'm sorry Brockley Nick that this didn't go your way, and I'm sorry it's turned a bit sour with Catman, who I think is just being realistic about this.
It's fine and good debating 'what's best' for UBR, but you have to take into account this is an opportunity for the owners to make a hefty chunk of cash (I'd guess at least a couple of hundred thousand from a residential conversion). Personally, I'd do exactly what they are doing. Altruism would be a very expensive choice, and it's not anyone else's money!

Brockley Nick said...

@Bumbags

to be clear, I am not personally upset about missing out on this shop, my wife has found somewhere else and we are very excited about it.

I am worried about the potential loss of a shop in this location to the community. A shop with the potential to create local jobs and provide a useful local service.

Yes, the former owners and tennants let the shop fall to ruin. It can be repaired though and as you have suggested yourself, it is viable as some other kind of business.

The actions of the owner are entirely understandable - a quick profit and no headache (although they could sell it if they want to rid themselves of the responsibility). But what they want is not the point. It's not their decision, it's the Council's. The Council can say that this is a conservation area and no change of use is merited because there is clear evidence that the shop is viable. Simple.

As for catman, if you read the site for long enough, you will understand.

Name said...

Re speculation on the council's decision, I hope it will be filmed & streamed so we can hear the reasoning.

I would imagine that the decision will go to conversion, given the heavy targets this borough for housing, but it also needs money, around 70 staff were given redundancy recently, so business rates and fostering of enterprise could push the decision (subject to some consistent & coherent lobbying) the other way. Which I would be personally in favour of.

Anonymous said...

is it big enough for a restuarant?

Anonymous said...

Bloody hell Catman, I'm feeling sick reading your posts.
http://summer-feo.ucoz.ru/
http://summer-feo.ru/

Bumbags said...

@Brockley Nick I wasn't trying to suggest you were writing solely out of sour grapes over the site- I understand your points. I'd love a leafy little cafe (@anon not sure it's big enough for a restaurant btw).
The owners if they sold it now as a shop will make a lot less than if they get permission, convert then sell. I presume they've been advised of this. They may even just let it go after change of use permission has been granted, as a developer would snap it up.
ps I'll keep an eye out for the Catman posts...

The Cat Man said...

@bumbags

please do keep an eye out - you will see that alot of my comments highlight the 'left of centre' hypocrisy that some people express

I'm just glad we have a common sense government now, albeit it would seem not from some bloggers!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nick for the information about the restaurant on Endwell Road. I will check it out.

Does anyone know what is going on with 173 Brockley Road the one with the sign "Gulep's Wine Bar"? It has a licence for a take-away, but it is always closed. Has it got a garden, and would it be available for rental?

Anonymous said...

Gulens Wine Bar opens at about midnight, sporadically, and hosts a number of shady characters.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Patsy said...

Maybe they are Anon 17:54? Also, there is a vacant commercial database the council runs. I think theres a link somewhere on the website?

Bumbags said...

@Catman- I'll keep an eye on you! I can't see anything offensive in what you've written here, just economic realism (actually 'they would OF taken you up'- that is fairly offensive!). Some people seem to leap on you though, so I'm suspecting historical form... Don't disappoint me now! ;-)

Kate said...

Would love to see a loyalty card scheme for Brockley but if that didn't get off the ground what about the Wedge card? It's a really good scheme involving businesses all over the capital and lots of businesses in Greenwich use it. www.wedge.com
On the issue of a new restaurant there is a unit on Harefield Road - trouble is that road is off the main drag and some people might miss it and walk on by. The owner of Tales on Moon Lane wanted to open a bookshop in Brockley but said he hadn't found any suitable premises for it (this was a year or so ago). There needs to be a concerted effort by the council to get behind local businesses and promote local shopping areas like they do in Westminster - maybe we should get Mary Portas down to encourage us all to shop local!!

Aricana said...

I lived on UBR for 12 years and think i only ever ventured into this shop once and agree that fighting to retain this as a commercial premises is a bit of a lost cause. Hopefully, there will be some interest in new commercial premises in central Brockley.

The Btockley Central website is a great community resource but I think the very unkind personal exchanges between bloggers must make others think twice about joining in the discussions.

Surely it be better to agree to disagree.

Sue said...

There is a South London Business Properties database, as Patsy mentioned, here, but it falls somewhere short of what's needed, particularly in terms of promoting its existence to owners of empty units and potential tenants.

Monkeyboy said...

Well no, not if you disagree.

uppertoff said...

I have lived on Upper B' Rd for several years and love it! I adored the visiting Mr Moore and picking up the odd loo roll in an emergency! The shop is the last one and yes I understand that many may think so what... get rid of it. I would disagree politely!!! I think the fact that it is the last shop is more a reason to hold onto it. Another residential property would just bring more cars to the road. Its getting quite cramped at present. I would love (alongside others who live on UBR a lovely Greengrocers. Its would be perfect and well used- people love fresh fruit and veg... you would only need to pop down the road rather than buy online... shouldn't we support local business. Sorry but shops at the cross are great - they would lose out BUT fruit and veg sold there is crap!!

Brockley Nick said...

@Sue - that database was discussed at the meeting, the problem is that it's not kept up-to-date properly.

@Aricana - I won't agree to disagree on matters of fact.

It is a fact that this site is viable as a business location because the estate agents received not one but two offers for it. That's why I brought up my own story, because it is irrefutable evidence that the unit was attracting commercial interest.

Of course the old shop wasn't viable, it was barely run as a shop. That doesn't mean that someone else couldn't create a successful business there, any more than the failure of the two previous cafes on Harefield Road meant that the Orchard couldn't be a success on the same site.

highhorse said...

It's a shame that Lewisham allowed all the shop fronts on Upper Brockley Road to be converted to residential use. When we lived in Brockley, hubby and I used to think how amazing UBR would be if all the shop fronts had become cafes/restaurants etc, with tables outside. It could have been like s smaller, much more beautfiul Upper Street in Islington... without the crowds! Well done Nick and Kate for having the vision to try to turn this space into something local, useful and lovely. Big black mark once again to Lewisham's planners who seem to lack vision, imagination and a sense of what's right for the local community. Eg: Gordonbrock and the art deco building in Ladywell.

The Cat Man said...

"It is a fact that this site is viable as a business location because the estate agents received not one but two offers for it. That's why I brought up my own story, because it is irrefutable evidence that the unit was attracting commercial interest."

Completely disagree on this. There are two parties to every 'viable' transaction - yes, there was two offers from prospective tennnants, but not at a high enough rent to attract the owners attention. It remains 'fact' therefore that this isn't a viable business location at current rentable values.

lb said...

"yes, there was two offers from prospective tennnants, but not at a high enough rent to attract the owners attention"

Er, I think Nick stated that they offered the rent the landlords were asking for. Moreover, at least one of the propsective tenants offered to negotiate (i.e. perhaps go higher). Your point above doesn't make sense.

The Cat Man said...

clearly it wasn't what they were asking for. It is possible, of course, that the amount they would of liked was never disclosed (which is a shame) but none the less they took the option to realise a conversion to a residential outlet as being more profitable.

Brockley Nick said...

@Catman

"Clearly it wasn't what they were asking for. It is possible, of course, that the amount they would of liked was never disclosed"

Yes, it was what they were asking for, as I have said already. If they wanted more, they could have said so. It's quite obvious that they just want to convert it in to a residential building and have no interest in owning a shop. But the whole point of this thread is that it isn't up to them, it's up to the Council.

Please stop tying yourself up in knots, it's unbearable.

lb said...

1: "clearly it wasn't what they were asking for"

To quote directly, "We offered the asking price and the standard rent free period, we also offered to invest thousands of pounds to repair the retail space"

2: "It remains 'fact' therefore that this isn't a viable business location at current rentable values"

Yet at current rentable values at least two separate businesses wanted to rent there, at least one of which was prepared to invest substantial amounts in the property. If businesses are prepared to rent, it's viable, at least according to the business owner's own calculations (which are the only calculations which matter here).

Saying that a residential unit might realise more immediate profit than a commercial unit is irrelevant in this connection. Viability is a measure of whether a business likes the location judged against the commercial rent seen as appropriate for the area. Many shops in Brockley might realise more immediate cash when converted into houses, but they are still viable businesses.

No matter how you cut it, you're wrong.

westsider said...

Ah, but catman thinks that there's a secret price they wanted. He's been spending too much time on ebay.

catman your jealousy of the east side of the tracks is embarrassing. That's all this is. Your economic arguments are complete nonsense.

Anonymous said...

I'd be prepared to buy this building and keep as a shop.

uppertoff said...

@Ib - just to say I totally agree with you!
"Viability is a measure of whether a business likes the location judged against the commercial rent seen as appropriate for the area".
From what I can gather;
two business proposals were turned down... one of which has now loacted to an area outside of Brockely.

I am getting quite fed up with a discussion going round in circles!
I really hope Catman on the Wst side is working towards creating a community thats supports local business within the whole of Brockley ?

I am impressed with the business venture created by Broc' Nick et al...I have subscribed to receiving more info'...hope to make use of whats on offer... though it now requires a trek into zone 1!
its such a shame this could not have been located within the hub of Brockley.
Its utterly crazy that this proposal was not sucessful; it certainly highlights a lack of imagination on the part of Lewisham Planners.

We do not want another residential conversion on UBR!!!

I made the point of too many cars around before... interesting that the issue of a van hire business locally is todays news story. Now! that is not a business worth supporting - its caused disruption, Health and Safety issues and more congestion (see article).
I hope the council takes measured action...has anyone seen a traffic warden at the cross recently?!

It seems that the idea of a decent fresh fruit and veg shop within the area is not appealing for some? Shame :(.
Oh well...looks like more trips to Sainsburys then!

@ Highhorse...its a nice idea...a quieter version of Upper Street but we only have one shop left... could there still be potential here for a cafe?! Yes please!!
Lets keep the shop on UBR! I look forward to a business setting up shop soon.

uppertoff said...

ps...sp errors...inc' Brockley...ooops sorry typing relatively fast and no spell check!! - do forgive fellow bloggers...
If "anonoymous" - you have an idea for a business - go for it!!!
With all due respect Brockley Nick - I am sure that you did too...some thing has to happen...
soooooon!!!

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