Apart from the volume of traffic the main problem with Borough High Street [the southern end mainly] is the collection of dreadful, souless modern buildings [John Harvard Library, Maya House, the Overseas Visitors Office and at least half a dozen others]. There's is little that can be done about it, except where there's an opportunity to put in retail at ground floor level, [even if it is a Costa, but look at what is opposite - the scruffy Plan personnel office]. Therefore I can't share Maurits' optimism that it has the overall potential to become 'the nicest high street in London'!
However, a rationalisation of the forest of metal sign posts, preferably including the pig-ugly camera gantry, and a general greening [with young trees, not hanging baskets] may help to alleviate the concrete jungle.
With regard to the empty buildings on the east side, I understood these are owned by Guys and thought a planning application was made a couple of years ago, but I'm not sure what for, and obvously nothing is being done currently to revive them. The ex-benefits office on the corner of Union Street and another site further up the road are prime sites, but I guess any refurbishement is up to the current owners, whoever they are. Perhaps they are in the same ownership as the some of the property lining part of Southwark Street, most of which has been largely neglected over the years.
There's no way the footpath between Newcomen St and St Thomas St can be widened. It's a complete
bottleneck during lunch hour with all those portable shop signs on the pavement that have to be negotiated
and the Barclays cashpoint and bus 'queues' that just stand blocking pedestrians way.
I find it much quicker to walk in the road. Maybe the buildings on that triangle of land with the War Memorial
the bank and the pub could be cleared and pedestrianised - OK, that 'aint going to happen.
Alas, the closed buildings are liable to be pulled down and more glass-and-steel luxury flats at astronomical prices with KFC in the bottom are liable to go up. THAT;s what we shoud guard against! Mickeysalt is right that the rents are chasing the small shops away, but what can we do if we dont patronise the small shops. I agree that Borough High St. should be talked up to the public as an historic place and revamped as such.
Hanging baskets...yes, I am not keen on them myself as they need watering and in the current climate, that might not be such a good idea. Some other greening would be great, but what? Trees would have their branches ripped off by lorries and buses. Cacti??? Palm Trees???
The campaign over on the BBC's Action Network is moving on and growing, with comments from people who seem to support the initiative (to get the council to improve Borough High Street). Some useful comments and ideas on what could be done, have been posted.
I notice that things are moving forward with the 'Shard of Glass' tall building which will be sited between Borough High Street and London Bridge Station. This will mean the top end of the High Street will be massively changed. It's an opportunity to improve what needs improving and to conserve what needs conserving.
The lower half of Borough High Street ought to now rise in importance, strategically, for Southwark, for Borough Market and for the City of London as a whole (including London Bridge environs etc).
If you have any more thoughts or ideas, why not put them either here, or on the Action Network. It might be an idea for me to send the list of ideas to the Mayor on behalf of all? I would list those who contributed etc, if that were seen to be a good idea. A collective response would be much more powerful.
I walk down Borough High Street twice a day.
I genuinely feel that the quickest, simplest and nearly cost free action the council should take, is to clear the pavements of junk.
I never find the volume of traffic a problem - its the volume of pedestrians using the narrow paths, which are blocked further by signs on the inside and refuse bags on the outside every evening.
You can't saunter, or stop to look at anything. The street is a dirty rat run leading to a train station (or Borough Market) for most people - not a quirky street with lots of great pubs (ok, and crap ones) but with plenty of independent trader cafes and small shops clinging on.
Sometimes its the things you can't see which have an effect and I think the corralling of people, and their inability to walk the street withough constantly dancing around obstacles makes the whole place feel like a drag - I always feel completely different once I step out onto London Bridge, even though its jammed full of people, you can keep your head up as you walk.
Two things cause most of the blockages on the street - commercial hoarding and furniture, and refuse bags.
I don't know what solution there is to the refuse bags - although when I lived off Tottenham Court Road they strictly enforced an "after ten pm" rule for putting out bag. I don't know how that could practically apply to businesses (particularly small business) on Borough High Street.
So, assuming that they have to muck up the street with bags every night, I do think businesses have a cheek to further block the pavement with their signage, holding boxes, newspaper stands and huge ice cream fridges in summer (I kid you not).
In January it improved a lot suddenly, then one by one they all started to creep back.I asked the council to explain why the stuff disapeared, and what I could do to help them control it - no response. Last year they told me that as part of Southwark's environmental plan, they intended to rent out the pavement to business in some areas. I've asked if this has happened - again, they have seemed cagey and said there was no criteria for rental to view, no register of businesses which rent pavement space. (I have wondered if this is because the Slug and Lettuce was just in the process of getting their application to get tables at the foot of the war memorial, which I and others protested against).
So fair enough, some business will get use of a wide bit of pavement to advertise their business. Personally I don't mind potted plants outside Silka restaurant at Borough High Street London Bridge tube exit, where the path is suddenly unusually wide.
And for the entrepenuers out there: don't you think the area street is crying out for healthfood/ and gift shop? All those office staff birthdays .....
I eat crow - southwark Council just got back to me and they have confirmed that
"the shop front licensing report was agreed by the licensing committee in February".
They are providing me with a list of shops that have licences.