Friday, 29 January 2016

Jumbling Scouts

Those local Scouts are at it again. Their regular jumble sale is on again tomorrow afternoon, starting at 2:30pm (like it says in the pictures.)

There is normally lots of stuff to browse and buy - think of a charity shop having eaten magic beans - well you get my drift...

And all the profits go to help our local Scouts which has got to be a good thing!

So pop along and enjoy the afternoon browsing the brik-a-brack and munching the muffins.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Hair And Beauty

Changes in the high street continue to rumble on, this time in the beauty sector. Few could have failed to notice the grey curtains drawn across inside the front of Kims.

Regular readers will no doubt be glad to hear that the shop has not closed but is being renovated. The works started around two weeks ago and are about half way through so they are looking to open up with a brand spanking new look shop about half way through February.

Many will also have noticed another new beauty shop opening where the sadly lamented Mini Mart gave up the struggle after a mere two months, over two and a half years ago now. 

The new shop opened on the 16th January by Radhika who previously owned another such business but has relocated to the area. Hopefully this beauty shop will last a great deal longer than the previous occupants.

Surprisingly we certainly don't seem to have yet hit saturation point with hair and beauty shops in Central Road. So I'm sure this one will fit right in.

Make It Your Business

Last September saw the début Worcester Park Business Networking Event held at the Royal British Legion. The event received very good feedback and this coming Wednesday a second such event is being held - also at the RBL.

This idea is for local business people and stakeholders (a term I'll use here to mean people with some degree of influence and dependency in the area) to get together for an informal chat over a drink about the state of things in the area.

The event is being run by the Worcester Park Stakeholders Group, and generally organised by Cllr Richard Marston. It starts at 6pm and runs until around about 8pm.

So if you feel like having yak about business related things with people in a similar situation or people who may have some influence over those things - come along to the Business Networking Event on Wednesday.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Pound Shop Criminal

An ex-employee at Poundland was caught videoing customers at the cash register on his last day on the job. The cashier had placed his mobile phone on the shelf behind customers and set it to record the transactions as he served people on the Wednesday before last (6th January).

His plan was rumbled when when a customer noticed the phone on the shelf and asked if someone had left it there by mistake. The cashier said it was his but it was seen to be in video recording mode and the supervisor was called.

His explanation was that as it was his last day he had wanted to take a video of him working there as memorabilia. However customers weren't convinced and considered he might have been videoing them putting their pin numbers into the card payment machine so as to use the information for theft and other criminal activity at a later date.

The supervisor deleted the video he had taken although this unfortunately meant there was nothing to show the police who had been alerted but will nonetheless be carrying out an investigation in conjunction with Poundland management.

Meanwhile anyone who has shopped at Poundland on or prior to Wedneday 6th Januray is advised to check card accounts for any fraudulent transactions.

Pavilion In Place

Ordinarily I would have just included this as an update in the previous post about the landmark corner fish and chip shop. However I think this major change to the Worcester Park landscape deserves a post all of its own.

Down has come the familiar white on red 'K' on the corner, to be replaced by a 'P'. The 'Pavilion' signs went up on Wednesday along with a more temporary banner reminding us that they will be offering half price on their opening day - this coming Monday 18th January.

The view coming under the bridge into Worcester Park high street will never be the same again. However considering all the things it could have been changed to, I think they've done alright. It's not an unpleasant façade and I noted also that the tables and chairs inside subscribe to a similar natural wood theme. All that remains is to find out is if the food lives up to the standard set by the new design...

The Tavern Hotel

"What's happening with the old Worcester Park Tavern" is a question regularly asked. And as luck would have it, an answer is in the offing. And not just any answer - but what I believe to be quite a good answer...

In short, Holiday Inn (the hotel chain) is in the process of applying for planning permission to build a 4 storey, 90 bedroom hotel on the site.

Why is this positive? Ok, lets start with the negative and work forwards. The downside of this is that the existing building will have to go. I am not happy to see local history wiped away; something that utilised the existing building may have been more welcome. And regular readers will remember that there was a serious proposal mooted a couple of years ago to turn the building into an Ismaili Community Centre. The Ismailis seemed like a very decent group, especially in the way they engaged with the community. Worcester Park's eternal problem however stepped in to sour the prospect - the additional traffic and parking issues that would occur if a large number of cars arrived in a short space of time spurred local people on to support a petition calling for the development not to go ahead.

The Ismaili community, true to their honour, decided, having listened to the community, not to pursue such a proposal in an area where they felt it weren't wanted. I could see both sides of the situation and think the Ismailis made the right decision. I even stated two and half years ago that I felt a hotel would make the best use of the site.

There are possibly many potential uses of the building and/or the site however the range economically viable possibilities is most likely rather small and probably consist of flats, some extremely clever new retail idea or a hotel.

Directly across the road from the site is the X26 bus stop, with buses straight from and to Heathrow airport. Immediately behind this bus stop is Worcester Park railway station with trains direct to Waterloo (and when Crossrail comes through - trains to Victoria and other parts of Central London too). This makes this spot very attractive to anyone flying in to do business in London. A hotel at this site could be a very successful business for that reason alone.

The plan here is not for a Holiday Inn Express, this will be much grander affair with a restaurant and bar and so it should hopefully attract a clientèle with a little more money to spend. Now while some of those guests are sitting in the hotel bar (possibly enjoying a few jars with some locals who've found a new watering hole) others will be wandering up Central Road looking for a nice restaurant or other local bar to sample the local delights (or needing a new shirt, a haircut or whatever). And this is where the community will benefit from the extra money being spent in the area. Local businesses will benefit from the additional customers and need to employ more people, creating more local jobs in the area.  (I bet HSBC are regretting their decision to close their Central Road branch now...)

And while there will be parking for numerous cars underneath the hotel, the likelihood is that many guests will arrive on the bus or train (being most convenient for business travellers) and most will not be arriving all at the same time anyway, even if they do bring their cars - so the traffic / parking issue with this development is minimal.

I am keeping an eye on the Kingston Council planning website and look forward to seeing the actual planning proposal when it is submitted. I will be hoping of course that the design of the new hotel is sympathetic to the area and not just a nasty steel, glass and concrete block. (I will have words to say if this is the case...) However, with this caveat, given all the things this site could be, I feel this once, Worcester Park is getting the right end of the stick and might be the  the economic kick start the area has been looking for for a while.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Last One To Go

Central Road could be about to lose it's last two 'original' homes from a set that used to run almost all the way down to the railway line. The unique twin terraced building which has been home to Vivash Hunt Solicitors for many years is subject to a planning application to demolish these late Victorian/Edwardian villas and develop a four storey block of flats (with a shop on the ground floor) there instead. Please have a look at the planning application for more details.

Vivash Hunt merged with Brand and Co Solicitors in North Cheam in April last year to form Vivash Brand LLP. It is understood they were happy with the premises in Central Road but their lease was not renewed, and so they moved out with the new firm being based at the London Road offices.

These historical buildings used to line this side of Central Road and are known to have been built between 1894 and 1907. The photo below on the left was taken around a century ago. You can see the actual building in this photo just like the one on the right taken recently.

The map on the right is a ordnance survey map from 1913. It shows the line of similar dwellings extending right down to Windsor Road. Then, after Worcester Park Farm, they continued down to what is now The Brook pub.

This example is now the only set of these original dwellings left. 

I for one will be very sad to see them go and I would suggest that retaining this small single link with this aspect of our local history is worthwhile. The deadline for objections is the 29th of January so I would encourage you to write a letter of objection to Sutton council.

It is not easy to get a development like this turned down. There are very few grounds for refusal for such a development however the visual impact of the new building and the effect of the development on the character of the neighbourhood, given that it will mean the loss of the last of these historic buildings from Central Road can sometimes sway a planning decision.

Below is the line drawn plan for what the new development will look like (click on it to enlarge). It looks to me that there is not a single thing about it which shows any respect to the historical building it is looking to replace, nor the art deco style in other parts of the high street. I do not consider this design to be a positive addition to the area and the loss of this little piece of local history is, in my view, too high a price to pay for the local community for this to be given planning permission.

Thanks to Richard Johnson and David Rymill for the majority of the photos and research.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

A Visit To Cuddington

For many of those of us on the Sutton side of the railway line, the dark and mysterious lands under the bridge and down to the left past the old WP Tavern represent an unexplored realm of magic and obscurity. This section of Worcester Park, mainly Cuddington ward in the borough or Epsom and Ewell, I must admit is the bit of Worcester Park I know least.

When I took over the chair of the Worcester Park Residents' Association in July, one of the first things I did was ask the members to agree to a change in the constitution to include people from the whole of KT4. Previously membership was restricted to those in the two Sutton Wards of KT4 (Worcester Park ward - mainly north of Central Road, and Nonsuch ward - mainly south of Central Road), making the WPRA a Sutton centric organisation. This was done for good reason at the time however I felt it was time to reach out to those on the other side of the bridge and bring all of Worcester Park together in an organisation that can tackle issues that affect all of us wherever they happen to be in the KT4 area. Thankfully the membership agreed with me and the constitution was changed.

A very positive direct result of this is that it was now time to start forging bonds with the local stakeholders (for want of a better word) in these other regions. I had already started a dialogue with the Councillors in Old Malden ward (the part of Worcester Park in the Royal borough of Kingston) but had not until recently spoken with the councillors in Cuddington ward. And so I emailed them regarding the WPRA, inviting them to future meetings and to start tentatively building up some links.

Cllr George Crawford very kindly invited me to a meeting of the Cuddington Residents' Association and last Thursday I took him up on the offer. For those who don't know, Cuddington Residents' Association has over a thousand members and the three ward councillors are from this residents' association rather than from any political party. In fact the majority of councillors on Epsom and Ewell borough council are Residents' Association members rather than from any political party.

I was made to feel very welcome by the members and very much enjoyed seeing how things were done in their part of the world. While many aspects of the meeting were quite familiar - the reports by councillors and others on various things going on, membership, neighbourhood watch etc, it was interesting to see the different emphasis on certain things and how people there engage with their area. It was also refreshing to see any references to politics as being 'out there' affecting some issues as opposed to directly affecting things in the room.

It was also interesting to note some of the areas where we in the Sutton part of WP could learn from them and other areas where we could perhaps offer something back, clearly demonstrating another of the advantages of working together.

Either way it was a very interesting meeting and I believe the start of the WPRA and Cuddington RA working more closely together in the future. And certainly a little of the veil of mystery has been lifted from this part of Worcester Park, at least for me.

Iceland Loses Power

Shoppers today were confronted by two large power generators and a large hole blocking half the footpath into Stone Place. The whole saga began last night when Iceland (and the flats above) all lost power when their dedicated electricity cable threw a wobbly and burnt out.

UK Power Networks were soon on the scene digging down to find the reason for the sudden power loss. Meanwhile Generators were brought in this morning to at least keep the supermarket running (there's another one around the other side for the flats.)

It seems the whole length of the cable is damaged so it may still take a while (and some luck) to get the job finished.

Apparently however there is no truth in the rumour that Iceland will be changing their name to SoggyPuddleLand. (Seriously though I hope they didn't lose too much frozen stock).

Update (16th January)

It's nearly a week later and the generators are still there.

I spoke to the manager briefly who said that luckily they had not lost any stock. The freezers have a built in backup that lasts for around 12 hours so as long as they were able to get the generators in within 12 hours of the power loss, which they did, all the stock was safe.

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year New Fish

It probably hasn't escaped many people's notice that the situation with Kingfish is once again in flux (Thanks Nichu and Tony England for raising initial awareness).

The previous owners sadly lasted less than a year having opened in February. There is a partnership of three new owners and I spoke to two of them (Umit and Joe) yesterday. The biggest (or at least most noticeable) change will be the that the name is changing. 'Kingfish' will be no more, 'Pavilion' shall be the new name of Kingfish.

They are not greatly altering the internals however they are looking to bring back a little of the dark wood charm that was there before.They are hoping to open on Monday 18th January. The other big news is that they will be offering everything at half price on opening day (two and a half weeks away). Given that their work is mainly decorative and not structural they are fairly confident about their opening date. So if you like to plan you meals ahead, remember Monday 18th January will be fish and chip day at Pavilion!