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Mixed reactions to al-fresco dining road closure as businesses lose thousands of pounds

By Charlotte Lillywhite, Local Democracy Reporter

Battersea restaurant bosses have slammed a road closure scheme which they claim cost them thousands of pounds every weekend it was in operation.

Businesses in Battersea Rise said the closure of Northcote Road to traffic every summer since 2020 for al fresco dining has drawn visitors away.

They said that due to the scheme they had been forced to cut opening hours, make staff redundant, in some cases, with owners performing bar or chef work for free.

They added that businesses on Battersea Rise and elsewhere in Wandsworth had been left behind and were already struggling with Covid, the cost of living crisis and rising bills.

Plans to cancel the scheme were green-lit at Wandsworth council’s finance committee on September 29 and will be decided by full council on October 19.

The council said the move would free up £2.5 million as it looks to help residents in the cost of living crisis.

Anna Olczak, 32, manager at The Goat on Battersea Rise (Picture: Charlotte Lillywhite)

Anna Olczak, who runs The Goat in Battersea Rise, claimed the venue lost around £2,000 in profit every weekend Northcote Road was closed to traffic this year.

The 32-year-old said: “It’s usually the weekends when the road is closed so everyone is pretty much dining al fresco over there and we don’t get anything here – especially because we don’t have any outside.” She added: “I appreciate it’s good for the businesses there but these ones struggle.”

Despite this, businesses on Northcote Road say they are desperate for the scheme to continue and it has saved many jobs and helped the whole area rather than harming it. Some warned they will lose customers if the scheme is cancelled.

Jar Prasomsub, manager of Rosa’s Thai Clapham, in Northcote Road, said she puts 30 extra tables and 60 more chairs out when the road closes. The 42-year-old said the scheme should be kept as a selling point for Wandsworth.

She said: “It’s been two years and the customers get to know now in the summer they can come to have lunch and spend time on Northcote Road. It really affects us if we don’t have Northcote Road closed next year.” She added: “I think it will affect the income and the growth of the businesses in this area.”

She said: “I don’t think it’s going to be so different for us because we’ve still got a few tables outside, and we’ve got the terraces. Other bars and restaurants will count on the tables on the street.”

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Northcote Road and Battersea Rise (Picture: Charlotte Lillywhite)

Jonny Dyson, chairman of the Northcote Road Business Network, which has contributed cash to the scheme for the past three years, said the closure brings more customers to the whole area. He said businesses use the profits to survive in winter and will fail without this extra income as costs spiral.

“All bars and restaurants in this area are quieter over the summer months, as the more affluent families decamp to various destinations for the summer, especially so this year following the opening up of tourism in a post-Covid world,” he said.

A Wandsworth council spokeswoman said the authority had prioritised consulting local businesses, including those on Battersea Rise.

They added: “We are committed to working with all businesses in the borough, especially those in the hospitality industry which are facing the biggest challenges from the after-effects of the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis.

“In relation to Northcote Road, retaining the scheme would cost the council £2.5 million and mean an ongoing cost to local businesses of £24,000 per week.

“In these incredibly difficult economic times, with the cost of living crisis affecting everyone in Wandsworth, the council does not believe this represents good value for money, but we are looking at ways that an alternative scheme might be able to be funded in the future.”

Pictured top: Pedestrianisation of Northcote Road in the summer (Picture: The Junction BID)

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