Strand on the Green Businesses 'On the Brink'

Some owners claim traffic restrictions are driving them under

Annie's Restaurant on Thames Road. Picture: Google Streetview

January 14, 2023

A number of hospitality businesses in the Strand on the Green area are claiming that they are on the brink of closure blaming traffic restrictions in the area as a significant factor.

One restaurant owner says that the riverside district will be turned into a ‘soulless fortress’ unless changes are made to the way her customers can access the area.

Rises in costs due to inflation, particularly of energy bills had already been factored in, but the drop in the number of customers over the holidays compared to ‘normal’ trading could be terminal for some. All of the restaurant, pubs and cafes in the area we spoke to report disappointing trading over the Christmas period, a time when firms in the sector normally garner most of their profits.

The consensus among businesses that we contacted is that the traffic measures implemented in the Strand on the Green and Grove Park areas since lockdown have led to a significant reduction in the number of customers arriving by car. They report that bookings are down in a range of 25% to 60% with patrons telling them that confusion about the restrictions is discouraging visits with some people vowing not to return to the area after receiving a fine.

Currently the access restriction into the Strand on the Green area from the west near Kew Bridge from 8am to 7pm is not enforced by a fixed ANPR camera. Access from the east via the A316 is restricted at Hartington Road and Staveley Road for those without exemption and visitors must continue on to Hogarth Roundabout and travel along the A4 before entering the area via Sutton Court Road.

Lorraine Angliss, the proprietor of Annie’s on Thames Road and Little Bird near Chiswick train station has been a strong critic of the measures since they were introduced. After living and working in the area for 27 years, she says that 2022 was her worst Christmas trading by far and that takings were at a third of normal levels for the time of year. She had already had to stop opening at lunchtimes as this trade was particularly hard hit by the lack of customers driving.

She has warned that Annie’s may need to close permanently in 2023 after being in the area for 21 years during which time she hopes it has brought many people ‘fun and happiness’. While admitting that Covid-19 has been a factor, she says ‘the biggest and the most negative impact’ has been the road scheme that does not allow cars to drive along Thames Road from 8am to 7pm.

In an email to her local councillor, Amy Croft, Ms Angliss states, “The hospitality industry is already struggling for various reasons not least of all the train strikes and cost of living crisis. However, no access to Hartington Road and Thames Road has impacted more than anything else to a point that unless action is taken Strand on the Green will be a soulless fortress.

“Unless a solution can be introduced that allows access, my businesses Annie’s and Little Bird are literally finished.

“The area of Strand on the Green should never have been targeted in the first place and I do know that most of the residents are in agreement. I understand that from Hounslow Council’s point of view it has bought in millions of pounds in fines. The scheme has been introduced with no correct consultation of the residents and businesses. The chaos caused in the entire Chiswick area (including Chiswick High Road) by Hounslow Council is a disgrace and has worked only for the council and the revenue it has gained.”

Supporters of the schemes dispute that the measures are unpopular in the area and say that most residents are happy with the reduction in traffic.

Along with other hospitality business owners in the area, Ms Angliss says that a policy to restrict traffic access combined with limited public transport access has been a disaster for them. It is claimed that taxis and Ubers will still not come to the area. Ms Angliss says that she has no alternative to walk home late at night in the dark despite being afraid because she cannot get a cab to pick her up and this is an experience shared by her customers.

Ian Wright, General manager at the City Barge, “Absolutely, the traffic restrictions have had a major impact at the City Barge as well. The signage is confusing, and guests can no longer park nearby between 6-8pm weekdays, and 2-4pm weekends, which are our key trading times. Around Fulham the parking restrictions are just implemented on match days, which seems a far more educated and reasonable solution to potential traffic problems. We field 8-10 phone calls a week from potential customers who cannot work out how to get here, or where to park once they do. The businesses haven't been consulted at all, which is incredibly frustrating.

“I'd estimate an impact on trading of around 20-25%. The northbound restrictions on Hartington Road have also been extremely damaging to business.”

Aziza at Coffee Traveller said, “Our business is indeed significantly down. Our locals still support us, but we used to have many customers from outside of the area. No longer. Why? Because people do not drive to the area because they do not understand the rules and therefore would rather not take the risk. And some who have, have been fined because they inadvertently have gone down the ‘wrong’ road and ended with a fine.

“The situation is very unsatisfactory for hard working business owners.”

Another local business owner who asked not to be named said, “It is no surprise to me to hear that neighbouring operations are talking about closing. In the words of the late lamented Terry Hall – ‘this town is coming like a ghost town’. We have a core of custom from local people and footfall from the river has remained good but the number of people arriving in cars has never fully recovered since lockdown. The effect of this is devastating as we have significant fixed costs, so our bottom line is wiped out. The other challenges we face such as getting staff, rising raw material costs and energy bills are frustrating but the damage done by the traffic measures is the most infuriating because it is unnecessary. The councillors advocating it have no understanding of how business works or, apparently, little sympathy with those who chose to make their money this way. At this stage I can’t see us surviving the year, but a removal of the restrictions would really help”

Access to Strand on the Green is restricted by Kew Bridge
Access to Strand on the Green is restricted by Kew Bridge. Picture: Google Streetview

Cllr Croft replied to the email from Ms Angliss by saying, “Firstly I am sorry to hear that there has been a negative impact on your business, from the traffic measures that have been introduced, that was certainly not the intention of the scheme. Whilst the aim of the scheme to reduce rat running traffic through Riverside has largely been successful, I recognise that this has had some unintended negative consequences for some residents.

“I am working positively with the Council to try and reduce the negative impacts on residents whilst maintaining the overall aim of the scheme, as part of this I have been feeding in responses and views from residents, so that the Council are able to see the individual effects on individuals.”

Some business owners feel that there is a growing crisis in the area which may come to a head in March when the energy support scheme ends. There is a fear of a domino effect in which the closure of one business reduces further the attraction of the area and that only the riverside pubs will be sustainable as they are less dependent overall on car-borne customers.

Richard Griffiths, Chair of the Strand on the Green Association (SoGA) said, " I do not agree with Lorraine's complaint. There are many businesses across London dealing with similar footfall issues. There is credence to her complaint that the 'access only' which according to Jefferson Nwokeoma is to be 'self-enforcing' simply does not work on a north/south basis and better clearer signage would help.

"SoGA along with Grove Park Group and Burlington Road have been and still are campaigning for 9 time controlled cameras for the SCLTN to stop rat running but provide easy access for all and sundry who wish to visit the area."

The council says that the current restrictions were shaped by analysing traffic data in the area and a public consultation with residents, businesses and local partners like schools in late 2019. The feedback was reviewed along with the traffic data and the measures were then implemented as part of the Council’s Streetspace scheme in 2020 with some subsequent revisions based on later feedback.

Cllr Katherine Dunne, Hounslow Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Climate, Environment and Transport, said, “Our low traffic neighbourhood schemes are intended to help bring about a significant reduction in traffic, making roads safer, less congested and our air cleaner.

“By providing a quieter, safer network of streets we want to encourage greater levels of active travel for local, short journeys. They are also designed to improve air quality and prevent motorists from using residential streets as a cut through between major roads. The Thames Road scheme does not prevent drivers from using the road to access residential properties or local businesses in the area. The ‘access only’ restrictions act as an efficient deterrent to prevent through traffic without the need for camera enforcement.

“We have consistently spoken to and listen to residents and businesses in the area, and where necessary will act in the best interests of the local community.

“We know that businesses across the borough are facing huge challenges especially those in the hospitality industry and the long-term effects of the pandemic and current cost of living crisis. With inflation at a 40-year high, businesses are facing rising costs and customers with less cash to spend.

“It’s difficult for business owners to face these challenges alone, which is why we have been implementing a range of innovative business support programmes and distributed over £70m worth in grants over the last two years. Our business support programmes will be continuing this year with a focus on trading through the challenges of the cost of living crisis.”

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