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No wonder the retailers on this London road – once a favourite haunt of Nigella – are in despair . . . How draconian Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes have DEVASTATED this thriving street

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Wandsworth Bridge Road in Fulham, South-West London, used to be a destination shopping street for discerning folk wanting to renovate their homes.

It was a known mecca for swanky lighting designers, curtain and fabric shops, flooring specialists and furniture retailers. Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud had a lighting business in the area long before he was famous. Added to that were upmarket restaurants, grocery shops and delicatessens that people would travel far to visit — not least Nigella Lawson‘s favourite butcher, Randalls.

But the road has visibly fallen on hard times. Thirty out of the 77 commercial units are vacant — a whopping 39 per cent, much higher than the national average of 14 per cent.

Of course, High Streets up and down the country are suffering, with retailers blaming crime, high rents, business rates and the cost-of-living crisis, as well as consumers’ increasing tendency to shop online. But why is this wealthy corner of London, where four-bedroom homes are on the market for £3.2 million, so badly hit?

The answer is traffic, say many businesses. In common with a growing number of streets in towns and cities across the country, it is the victim of traffic-control measures introduced by the local authority designed to improve the urban environment but which, many say, have only made things worse while killing off local businesses and shops.

Wandsworth Bridge Road in south west London was once known as a destination high street, but the street has since fallen on hard times

Thirty out of the 77 commercial units are vacant ¿ a whopping 39 per cent, much higher than the national average of 14 per cent

Thirty out of the 77 commercial units are vacant — a whopping 39 per cent, much higher than the national average of 14 per cent

Manager Kevin Roy outside his restaurant il Pagliaccio

Manager Kevin Roy outside his restaurant il Pagliaccio

Allison Rodgers at her eponymous designer shop on Wandsworth Bridge Road

Allison Rodgers at her eponymous designer shop on Wandsworth Bridge Road

Randall's Butchers on Wandsworth Bridge Road, owned by Roberto Barcellona

Randall’s Butchers on Wandsworth Bridge Road, owned by Roberto Barcellona

Anna Halliday who owns Hally's Cafe and Restaurant on the New King's Road

Anna Halliday who owns Hally’s Cafe and Restaurant on the New King’s Road

Fulham Valeting and Dry Cleaners is owned by Mohammed Seddiqi

Fulham Valeting and Dry Cleaners is owned by Mohammed Seddiqi 

Local business owners blame the downturn in trade on traffic measures

Local business owners blame the downturn in trade on traffic measures

So dramatic is the decline in trade and customer footfall in this part of London, according to shopkeepers, it serves as a chilling example of how town hall bureaucrats anywhere can ruin livelihoods by introducing green policies in the teeth of local opposition. 

In this case, Labour-run Hammersmith & Fulham Council has introduced a Clean Air Neighbourhood scheme that covers the area. In an attempt to stop so-called ‘rat runners’ using side streets, residents with vehicles registered in the borough can drive through them, but those who aren’t from the borough are banned from doing so.

The result is that visitors’ vehicles that would have used these side streets are all funnelled down the Wandsworth Bridge Road and the adjacent New Kings Road, causing an endless traffic jam according to locals. The scheme, introduced three years ago, has been extended as a trial across a far greater area for the past year.

The council says the measures have taken 15,000 cars off the roads across South Fulham every day. It also claims that in the first few months of the trial being extended in 2023, ‘there was a 54.6 per cent increase’ in consumer spending along the road compared with the previous year.

Many business owners dispute these figures. They also point out that a large number of customers — the elderly, the disabled, those buying heavy items such as furniture — need their cars.

A sign encouraging diners and shoppers to 'spend local' on Wandsworth Bridge Road

A sign encouraging diners and shoppers to ‘spend local’ on Wandsworth Bridge Road 

Signs restrict vehicles between Bagley's Lane and New King's Road

Signs restrict vehicles between Bagley’s Lane and New King’s Road

Several 'for sale' and 'to let' signs now punctuate the once thriving high street

Several ‘for sale’ and ‘to let’ signs now punctuate the once thriving high street

Labour-run Hammersmith & Fulham Council has introduced a Clean Air Neighbourhood scheme that covers the area

Labour-run Hammersmith & Fulham Council has introduced a Clean Air Neighbourhood scheme that covers the area

In an attempt to stop so-called 'rat runners' using side streets, residents with vehicles registered in the borough can drive through them, but those who aren't from the borough are banned from doing so

In an attempt to stop so-called ‘rat runners’ using side streets, residents with vehicles registered in the borough can drive through them, but those who aren’t from the borough are banned from doing so

Similar battles between shopkeepers and councils are taking place across Britain. The vast majority of people want to see pollution and traffic reduced on Britain’s roads — but is this really the best way of going about it?

To find out, the Daily Mail spoke to business owners on Wandsworth Bridge Road or in its immediate vicinity, as well as some who have recently quit the area. What they revealed should give our town planners pause for thought . . .

No 60 New Kings Road: Hally’s cafe

Despite being around the corner from Wandsworth Bridge Road, this cafe is affected by traffic measures, says owner Anna Halliday, 38, who started her business in 2013.

For the first eight years, business was booming. ‘We’d have a queue out of the door at weekends,’ she says. Many customers drive. ‘People come here to meet up. It’s a real hub. But no one wants to sit in the traffic to come here any more. Business has dropped off a cliff.’

She says that up until the clean-air measures, the cafe was ‘making a decent profit’. Last year she was making an operational loss of £10,000 a month, meaning she has cut back on staff hours.

She is particularly upset that, when she spoke up about her problems, she received abuse from some locals. ‘I’ve had people coming in here and shouting at me, calling us selfish. It’s so divisive.’

Hally's cafe made a decent profit until the clean air measures saw it make an operational loss of £10,000 a month

Hally’s cafe made a decent profit until the clean air measures saw it make an operational loss of £10,000 a month

Dog and Groom on Wandsworth Bridge Road

Dog and Groom on Wandsworth Bridge Road

No 283 New Kings Road: Allison Rodger couture

Allison Rodger, whose designs have appeared in Vogue, moved to her Fulham shop six years ago. ‘My clientele are not local, they come from Chelsea, from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Sussex, all over. They all complain about the traffic and the fines.’

Business has fallen 50 per cent and she is now having to do far more of her trade online. ‘But that’s a nightmare. I am creative! I don’t want to spend my time dealing with IT.’

No 90-92 Wandsworth Bridge Road: Vacant

Until October 2023, it was occupied by Hector Finch, a successful lighting designer who moved here in 1995. ‘It was thriving. There was a real character to the place. Designers would bring clients to visit all the different shops,’ says Emma, Hector’s wife, who jointly runs the business.

Number 90-92 was most recently occupied by lighing designer Hector Finch which moved there in 1995, but is  now vacant

Number 90-92 was most recently occupied by lighing designer Hector Finch which moved there in 1995, but is  now vacant

They have moved out to nearby Chelsea Harbour. ‘People just stopped coming. It was very sad.’ She reckons footfall dropped by ‘at least 50 per cent’. ‘Wandsworth Bridge Road has been known for the past three years as a traffic jam. The perception of the clean-air scheme is that you’ll get a ticket or there is nowhere to park.’

No 99: Vacant

Was estate agent Haus until 2023.

No 101: Vacant

Used to be Aurelia Chinese takeaway, operating for 30 years. Closed during Covid in 2021.

No 103: Vacant

Was Topps Tiles from 2015-2021.

No 113: Randalls

One of London’s most famous butchers, championed by both Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver. It opened in 1988 and is now owned by Roberto Barcellona and his partner, Lauren Clark. 

‘My business is down 40 per cent compared with two years ago,’ says Barcellona. ‘I had ten employees, which we had to cut to six and now we’re just three. I am very worried.’

For Clark, the real headache is dealing with all the traffic tickets her suppliers have received.

Randall's is one of London's most famous butchers, championed by both Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver

Randall’s is one of London’s most famous butchers, championed by both Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver

In theory, anyone visiting can be logged on to a smartphone app, giving them permission to drive down certain streets. But she shows me a wad of 60 penalty charge notices, each one for £130, from just three months.

‘We have suppliers coming as early as 4am. They hand us these fines and ask us to sort it out. It’s a lot of stress.’

No 115: Vacant

Was One One Five, a womenswear boutique between 2013 and 2018, owned by Pippa Ellis & Caroline Bamsey. They closed before any traffic measures were introduced and complained as far back as 2015 about how difficult the climate was for independent retailers.

By 2018, clothing bought online amounted to 23 per cent of all fashion sales in the UK. That figure is now 41 per cent, according to market research firm Kantar.

Number 115  has sat empty since 2018 and was home to boutique One One Five

Number 115  has sat empty since 2018 and was home to boutique One One Five

Angell Services occupied No 106 since 1964, but the unit is now empty

Angell Services occupied No 106 since 1964, but the unit is now empty

No 106: Vacant

Until recently it was Angell Services, a bedding, carpets, lighting, furniture and flooring shop that had been here since 1964.

No 136: Set to be vacant

This is still technically occupied by Trade Carpet, a specialist flooring company, but it is closed. ‘We could open, but no one comes any more. People just can’t get down the road,’ says Terry Kirby, the owner, who intends to move out properly in a few months. He has a Wimbledon branch to which he now directs customers.

‘When we opened this branch in 2016, it was good business. We were making about £600,000 in annual turnover. And it has dropped to £300,000.’ He says turnover at the Wimbledon branch has not fallen — proof, he adds, that it is the local traffic rather than cost of living causing problems.

He says he’d love to see fewer cars on the road, but people spending ‘£8,000 to £15,000 on replacing the floor in their home don’t come on a bicycle or public transport’.

No 148: Vacant

Euro Floors London was the tenant from 2016 to 2023. The firm, which supplies wooden floors, now operates from its Surrey showroom.

Trade Carpet still occupies No 136, but no longer opens because 'no one comes anymore', says owner Terry Kirby

Trade Carpet still occupies No 136, but no longer opens because ‘no one comes anymore’, says owner Terry Kirby

Euro Floors London was the tenant at No 148 from 2016 to 2023. The firm, which supplies wooden floors, now operates from its Surrey showroom

Euro Floors London was the tenant at No 148 from 2016 to 2023. The firm, which supplies wooden floors, now operates from its Surrey showroom

No 150, now vacant, was previously Smartec Home Solutions, a bathroom and boiler supplier

No 150, now vacant, was previously Smartec Home Solutions, a bathroom and boiler supplier

No 150: Vacant

Previously Smartec Home Solutions, supplying bathrooms and boilers.

No 166: Vacant

Was the showroom of Nina Burgess, a leading carpet and rug designer, from 2010 until last year. She has now moved to a smaller studio half a mile away.

No 176: Vacant

Until last year this had been Circus Circus, a party supplies shop which opened in 1985. The retailer is no longer in business.

No 180: Fulham Valeting

Mohammed Seddiqi has run this dry cleaner’s since 2017. ‘Before Covid, it was much better. Now, it’s OK,’ he says.

The number of people working from home is having an effect — fewer people need clean suits and shirts. Traffic is a problem, he adds, causing pollution on the main road. ‘We used to clean our windows twice a month, now it is every week. I’ve told the council. It’s all very well having clean side roads, but what about Wandsworth Bridge Road? What about the businesses here?’

Italian restaurant il Pagliaccio claims to have lost 90 per cent of its lunch business, down to the traffic measures as well as skyrocketing energy bills

Italian restaurant il Pagliaccio claims to have lost 90 per cent of its lunch business, down to the traffic measures as well as skyrocketing energy bills

No 184: Il Pagliaccio

An Italian restaurant, known to locals fondly as ‘Paggs’. Opened in 1992 by Teo Catino, it used to do 20 to 30 covers at lunch. But the closure of shops and design showrooms has had an effect.

‘I lost 90 per cent of lunch business,’ he says. ‘Now, I do next to nothing.’ The restaurant used to be open seven days a week, but now it is closed on Monday all day and Tuesday for lunch.

Isn’t the cost-of-living crisis a bigger factor than the traffic? Catino admits his mortgage has gone up £3,000 a month and his electricity has shot up fivefold to £100,000 a year. ‘Yes, it’s having an impact. We’ve had to put up our prices.’ A basic margherita pizza has increased from £9 to £11.

In a good week the restaurant used to turn over £27,000. Now, it is half that. ‘I am pumping in money now. We are not making any money. I’d be happy if I was breaking even,’ says Catino. He insists the traffic is deterring many customers. He hands out vouchers for free pizzas to encourage people to eat there.

No 190: Vacant

From 2019 to 2023 it was Motte, an interior design business.

No 192: Vacant

Was Kkot, a floral designer.

No 190 was most recently Motte, an interior design business

No 190 was most recently Motte, an interior design business

'Space for rent' advertised at No 192, which was most recently floral designer Kkot

‘Space for rent’ advertised at No 192, which was most recently floral designer Kkot

No 194: Vacant

Now empty and a forlorn site, this has had a succession of restaurants in the past decade. Most recently it was Fenn restaurant, before that Harlequin, before that the Delizzia pizza restaurant, and in 2012 it was Mina Tandoori.

The owners of Fenn cited a shortage of staff as the reason why they closed it a year ago. They have opened a successful upmarket restaurant, Nest, in Shoreditch, East London.

No 196: Pietra Wood & Stone

Felix Wood is the sales and marketing director of this flooring company. He says it is not realistic for his customers to cycle or take public transport.

‘Our display panels, which we regularly lend out to our clients, are big and can weigh 20kg or more, so the only option is to visit by car. But our clients are now afraid to drive to our shop in fear of getting fined. Those that aren’t deterred by being fined are dissuaded by the mile-long car park that has become Wandsworth Bridge Road.’

The council should invest more money in local businesses rather than on ‘putting up banners with meaningless slogans on lampposts’, he says, referring to the ‘Spend local . . . Help your community grow’ posters that run down the road.

No 314: London Plastercraft

Tracey McKeever, 57, who is owner Mark’s sister and helps run the business, says: ‘People don’t come here any more because they can’t. Walk-in customers have fallen by 70 to 80 per cent. There used to be a steady flow.’

London Plastercraft at No 314 reported a 70 to 80 per cent decline in walk-in customers

London Plastercraft at No 314 reported a 70 to 80 per cent decline in walk-in customers 

A now closed pizzeria on Wandsworth Bridge Road

A now closed pizzeria on Wandsworth Bridge Road

The company makes traditional architectural cornicing, ceiling roses and fireplaces. ‘The council did offer us two parking spaces for customers, which are by Fulham Broadway station. That’s a mile away!’ she says with exasperation, pointing out cornicings that come in 9ft lengths. ‘The whole dynamics of the street have changed. It’s so depressing.’

She adds that she has osteoarthritis and is waiting for a knee replacement, meaning she can’t — as some clean-air campaigners would like — cycle to work. She takes the bus the 1.6 miles home. ‘It used to take me 15 minutes, now it can take as much as an hour and 20 minutes.’

No 297: Vacant

Empty since 2016, when it was a Tiles DIY showroom.

No 297 has been vacant since 2016, when it was a Tiles DIY showroom

No 297 has been vacant since 2016, when it was a Tiles DIY showroom

No 328: Vacant

Said Gommari opened his Habibi Moroccan tiles and interiors shop in 2008. ‘It was ideal,’ he says of the area that was full of interiors shops. ‘But every day I saw shops closing.’ He says the passing trade dried up even before the new clean-air measures.

‘A lot of people would ask, ‘Do you have parking?’ and we didn’t.’ The other issue was his rent, which rose from £12,000 a year to £20,000 a year. He shut the shop in 2020 during Covid and moved to Harlesden, North-West London. ‘The rent is cheaper up here. And customers can park,’ he says.

He also now does about 70 per cent of his business over the internet. ‘If it wasn’t for the storage, you could run your business from your front room,’ he says, explaining why many fellow interior design shops are leaving the High Street.

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