Reading through the news today, a couple of different stories caught my eye, so here they are.
First, an article in the Tottenham and Wood Green Journal cited a recent planning case that probably doesn’t come up all that often: the problem of too many churches. Yes, one street in the London borough of Haringey has been virtually over-run with church goers after eight different places of worship opened. Clusters are not uncommon in many industries – take shoe shops or hi-tech companies for example – but is religion really one of them?
The article brought up a good point, which is that the dominance of one activity can actually cause harm to an area. This seems obvious if we think of the late night economy, betting shops, or take aways. In this case the problem – in addition to not having obtained planning consent for change of use from industrial to place of worship – was that the churches were “squeeze(ing) out other prospective businesses” that might contribute more. So, traffic, parking problems and neighbor complaints aside, it boils down to an interesting economic development case. Let’s hope the churches find other, happier, homes and that new enterprises starts to fill those empty buildings.
The other story that grabbed me concerns the Oxford Street Christmas Lights, which were switched on November 1 by girl group The Saturdays. This may quite possibly be a record for earliest switch-on ever. The consensus seems to be that the bright and early switch-on is a reflection of retailer worries. According to the Retail Gazette, high streets are expected to again see a decline in Christmas spend this year as internet retailing grows. Oxford Street may be one of the world’s leading retail destinations, but its stores still need to have shoppers ready and willing to spend (not just look at the pretty decorations).
Here’s TimeOut London’s link to the major Christmas lights around London. Local council websites will have information about their high street events too. Don’t forget your high street this holiday season.