• Lower Marsh

Case study: a changing Lower Marsh

This week, Waterloo lost one of its last remaining dry cleaners, another in a recent set of closures on Lower Marsh. Lower Marsh has been known for decades as an important retail and market street providing for the shopping needs of the local resident population.

As its value as a central London location has risen, landowner developers have shown new interest and now three hotel schemes have been given planning consent on the street, with only one site replacing a former bed and breakfast. Inevitably, the development of hotels will change who is on the street and what they’ll be looking for, so shops and cafés that cater for hotel guests as well as local residents will likely do better in the years to come. But as one of the hotels (a site between numbers 100 and 108) is built out, some of the independently-owned shops that help provide Lower Marsh with its character will lose their leases, and traders fear that the rent in the new units (which Lambeth Planning insisted replaced those that are to be lost) will not be affordable enough for them to return.

With all the developments happening at once on Lower Marsh, the street currently suffers from a rash of vacant units along its length. It is not the case however that the street is failing economically – for the most part, developer interest is leading to shop closures as leases are terminated ahead of building work.

But in addition to the inevitable disruption that the shops and market will endure as three construction sites open up at once, uncertainty abounds as to what the ‘new’ Lower Marsh will feel like in a couple of years’ time. Will it be affordable to local people? Will the shops cater only for tourists? Will there be any shops at all or will it just be bars and restaurants? At the heart of all this are serious concerns about what development means to an area like Waterloo and some businesses are rightfully asking what the BID is doing to retain the character of Waterloo shopping streets like Lower Marsh.

What we will do:

  1. Listen to members’ concerns and act on them where we can
    Where major planning applications are received, the BID asks for the views of local businesses and represents them to the council. Businesses can also object on their own behalf to planning applications, and the BID can advise on how to do so. We are also helping to write the South Bank & Waterloo Nighbourhood Plan which will include local planning policies designed to preserve existing – and create new - affordable units for independent businesses.
  2. Promote Waterloo’s shopping streets
    Through initiatives like the Great British High Street, events like Waterloo Food Month and Waterloo Christmas Carols and the newly launched Star Card loyalty scheme, we will promote Waterloo’s shopping streets to as many people as possible.
  3. Run Lower Marsh Market
    We run Lower Marsh Market to help drive people to the street. The expansion of the market has increased footfall and putting tables and chairs on the street has encouraged them to stay for longer. We are trying to make the offer as mixed as possible, so the market meets the needs of local residents as well as workers.
  4. Seek the coordinated efforts of developers to reduce disruption during construction
    If several developments happen at once, we will work with developers to reduce truck movements, dust and noise during trading times.

The BID is running a Mamber's event that anyone interested in what’s happening to the high street can come to. After a talk about how high streets are changing in London, there will be an opportunity for discussion about the local situation. We would be very glad to hear the views of any BID member. The event is free. All are welcome to join in the debate.

The State of the High Street
Thursday 8 June, 2017, 08.30am-10.00am
Build Studios, 203 Westminster Bridge Road