We need to introduce ‘streateries’ in Muswell Hill and Crouch End now to help our high streets
- Credit: Archant
Covid-19 is an extinction-level threat to high streets already battered by changing shopping habits, the explosion of chains creating unappealing identikit parades, and intense competition from online shopping.
Analysts agree that the key to revitalising our high streets lies in the experiences that you can really only have in person, such as visiting for food, drink and leisure. These also maximise “dwell time”. It is therefore crucial that Haringey’s pubs, restaurants and cafes survive coronavirus.
These businesses run on very fine margins, and the removal of just a few tables can wipe out their profits entirely. Therefore, we must enable them to replace the space they have lost indoors due to social distancing with outdoor space by temporarily converting existing pedestrianised areas or on-street parking bays into spaces where businesses can place their lost tables and chairs.
This has already happened in numerous places: Wandsworth, Westminster, Camden, Ipswich, Lewisham, and Liverpool to name just a few. But, despite requests, not yet Haringey.
It is not because we lack appropriate locations: parking spaces in central Crouch End or the square in front of Planet Organic in Muswell Hill would be ideal for outdoor dining.
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Nor is it because people do not want it. In discussions I have had for many weeks with Crouch End Traders and the neighbourhood forum, I hear across the board enthusiasm. Even businesses in different sectors support the idea because they know it will attract more people to the high street, keep them there longer, and increase spend across all business types.
The issue is Haringey Council. For example, it insisted that converted parking bays must be surrounded with expensive anti-terrorism-style concrete barriers. Of course we need safety measures, but this is excessive. Other boroughs have already moved ahead with planters or railings instead.
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Haringey’s dithering could be deadly for our high streets. Outdoor dining must be rapidly rolled out whilst the climate, both socially and meteorologically, is warm; and in time to maximise the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which runs until the end of August.
If the council waits even until September, it may find it is trying to support businesses that, by that point, are gone for good.
• Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison is leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition on Haringey Council.