A guest post from Richard Owen
I just read the piece by Harry Phibbs about the streetscene improvement works in Goldhawk Road, which includes pavement widening. Clearly there there are a number of real benefits, both practical and aesthetic from these schemes, though you are right to draw attention to the potential costs from increased congestion, especially as London continues to struggle to achieve satisfactory clean air standards.
I am concerned that we are failing to take a holistic and fully imaginative approach to upgrading the ambiance of streets like Goldhawk Road. What I always notice when travelling from Holland Park into Shepherds Bush is the sudden proliferation of security shutters in front of shops, and satellite dishes covering frontages – classic indicators of blight and underperformance.
On a Sunday morning the eastern section of Goldhawk Road can feel like a conflict zone in post-curfew lockdown. Ugly metal shutters cover more than half of business premises, and satellite dishes bubble and pustulate from the front faces of what were once attractive historic buildings.
Relocating satellite dishes to more sensitive sites on a building is not that expensive. Neither is removing an external security shutter or replacing it with a much less obtrusive open-linked internal grill.
The challenge lies in the fact that these are usually on private property where the council lacks powers. But if we are spending nearly £4 million on new paving and street trees, surely it is worth spending a little more to achieve a genuinely good result. In fact I would argue that the first tranche of any street improvement budget should always be spent trying to remove satellite dishes and security shutters, via grants or access to pre-funded council contractors.