Tonight Ealing Times is reporting that the new Westfield shopping centre is not having the impact on Ealing that some feared. Apparently although footfall in Ealing is down 7.4% this is actually better than the national average which is down 11.8%.
I have to say that this comes as no surprise to me. The idea that Ealing’s town centre competes with Westfield is ridiculous. Westfield competes with Brent Cross, Bluewater and the West End. Westfield competes with other “destination” shopping centres, places you go for a serious day out acquiring stuff. Ealing simply asks you to go out and do a few chores. Ealing has been a “recreation” shopping centre for years. That is why Beales couldn’t be made to work.
Back on 7th September I wrote this comment:
You are quite right that Ealing does not look like it can be a successful destination shopping area. You mention Kingston. The last time we tried to shop there we had to queue for a long time to park and then we found that there are very few places where you can get a decent lunch. The Italian we ended up in was mediocre to say the least. Bentalls didn’t have the lights we wanted in stock so we might as well have ordered them online anyway.
What Ealing Broadway and West Ealing can do is service their hinterland. One of the recurring themes in both development proposals and the Tibbalds work is the permeability of the new developments, allowing them to link with the rest of the town centre and parks. The White City development won’t allow you to push the kids on the swings in the park and get a coffee and do a few chores on Saturday morning. In Ealing you can go to the library, get new heels on your shoes, get some dry cleaning done and get some new pants at M&S. You can also get a good range of interesting food – something that White City, Brent Cross and Kingston really don’t provide. Been to Farm W5 lately?
The main customers for the town centre will be its own hinterland – a hinterland bolstered with some housing density in the town centre.
Most retail space is fairly flexible and there is a range of facilities that we need in the town centre that can exploit this space. We should have some density in the town centre and putting shared services on the ground floor of these is pretty sensible. You can can talk about these developments leading to excess retail capacity but if you look at what is proposed for the Daniel site in West Ealing where there is a scheme to put a polyclinic in a newly built, large retail premises you might accept that retail can be pretty much anything.
Coincidentally, tonight your councillors benefited from a repeat of Sir Peter Hall’s lecture on Ealing town centre. In the Q & As afterwards he agreed that the densification of the current sites was sensible. He said he “wouldn’t have any quarrel with the principle of densification in central Ealing”. He agreed that Crossrail was going to change Ealing and that it was “turning into something different – a middle London type of a place”. Hall was clear that there was enough transport land east of the station that could meet transport needs in respect of buses, trains, Tubes, etc. He accepted that there was no particular need for a bus station in the town centre, there were other ways of organising bus services.
I note that fully a week after the planning committee approved the Dicken’s Yard plans SEC have managed to update their home page.