Apparently Edgware town centre is suffering a decline. I say "apparently" as I don't know, as I almost never go there, because it is horrible, and there is nothing there of sufficient interest to draw me to make the not very nice (by any method) journey there.
I think Edgware town centre has long had problems. The suburb grew entirely due to the construction of the Northern Line of the London Undergound in the 1920s, of which its station formed the terminus of one branch, and, with efficient, direct connections to both the West End and the City, it was always predominantly a dormitory. The so-called High Street, part of the A5, is nothing like a high street, except at the war memorial, with a few slightly villagey-looking shops and restaurants surrounding it. Most of the High Street consists of car showrooms, car maintenance businesses, warehouses, and storage sheds, with a few seedy shops and "cafs".
|Edgware's "High Street" on the A5. Yes, it really does look this miserable. (Google Earth)|
|The boarded-up Railway Hotel in Station Road, Edgware (Google Earth)|
|The "Masons Arms" crossroads at Edgware town centre (Googe Earth)|
On weekdays during the rush hour, Station Road suffers from massive congestion, with extra pollution from the large number of buses using it and the bus station. It is a very poor walking environment, with staggered two-stage crossings with islands and cages for pedestrians to negotiate, and walking-unfriendly, wide-mouthed side road junctions at roads such as Manor Park Crescent and Edgwarebury Lane, plus a profusion of pedestrian "safety" barriers (because pedestrians can't be trusted to cross in the "right" places, and cars can't be trusted to stay on the roads). The worst place is between the A5 crossroads and Premier house, where the road in and out of the Broadwalk car park interrupts pedestrian progress on Station Road with an utterly inappropriate five lanes of traffic at a signalised junction where it seems to take forever to get the green man to get across. Needless to say, there is no safe or appropriate way to cycle into this car park, though there is a bit of cycle parking there. There is a narrow, mal-designed cycle lane which skirts the inbound lifting barriers, but, as pedestrians also seem to have no properly-designed route from this part of Station Road to the car park, they walk here, understandably. There are several narrow pedestrian footpaths that also lead into the car park from other directions, but they all ban bikes.
|Churchway, Edgware, the dismal place where five lanes of traffic in and out of the Broadwalk car park meet Station Road.|
So when I found, though the Barnet Council website, this video about Edgware, entitled Portas Pilot: Station Road, Edgware, I was intrigued to know what it would suggest for improving the area. Having watched it, I have to say I am none the wiser as to what this "Portas" vision is.
If you view this on the YouTube site you discover that there is a whole gentre of these Portas Pilot videos, from all over the country, including one from Sussex entitled, slightly amusingly, Seaford Shags Portas Pilot bid. There seems to be a small industry of producing these videos. Well, I can't see how the production of these videos is going to save one failing town centre.
The Edgware video gives quite a good impression of what the place is actually like, and shows most of the features I have mentioned above. But there is no planning or public policy solution here, just well-intentioned, but empty, blather and piffle from a variety of people. In fact, worse, it contains just more of the same historically-failed thinking as before, coming from the policeman, who thinks it important that it is made easier for people to park to access the shops that are not in the Broadwalk Centre, while we see, behind him, a Station Road full of parked cars.
I won't go here into all the evidence that shows that, even in apparently car-dependent places like this, most journeys to shops are not by car, and most expenditure in local shops is not by people arriving in cars. I won't go into the lack of evidence that exists for the slightest relationship between the provision of car-parking, its cost, and the success of shopping centres. A good post was provided on this subject on At War With The Motorist – see also many other relevant posts on that superb blog.
All I'll say is this: People who wish to drive to a shopping centre, park in a huge free car park, and wonder round a covered mall, have ample opportunities to do such, and good luck to them. There are huge roads provided for them to get to these places, and they use them, in this area to access the Brent Cross Shopping Centre (which certainly has played a major part in undermining NW London centres like Edgware over the last 40 years), Westfield at White City, Westfield at Stratford, The Harlequin in Watford, St Anns Centre in Harrow, and so on – maybe even Bluewater in Kent.
Other people want something completely different. I mean, completely different, as an experience, and will look for where they can find it, or satisfy all their shopping needs from a comfortable keyboard at home, and their social needs in other places.
Edgware town centre, only one mile from my house, will not be seeing much of my custom in the foreseeable future. What would it take to get me there? Well, if the boroughs or Transport for London built me a convenient and safe bike route to get there, that would be a big thing. What that would have to mean in practice would be Dutch-style segregated cycle tracks along the A5, which is amply wide enough to take them. What else? Pedestrianise Station Road, at least during business hours. Demolish the ugly buildings and restore and care for the nice ones. Use the vast area allocated to car parking better. Create more intelligent access arrangements for the buses, and allow cycle access everywhere.
Without these measures, I am sorry, but I have to say:
Edgware town centre, Portas Pilot you may be,
You are still the weakest link, so it's goodbye from me.
|The A5 Edgware High Street. No room for segregated bike tracks, or course. (Google Earth)|