London planners are waking up to the challenges presented by the new 24 hour London Underground services out of central London.
While some businesses are looking to increase opening hours in response to the changes, others are suggesting mayor Sadiq Khan has a confused strategy over late night entertainment businesses, which should be major beneficiaries of the new services.
And in the centre will be borough planning and licencing departments, who are braced for a fresh round of applications for late night venues along the tube lines with an all night service. Promoters are already said to be scouring neighbourhoods close to Underground stations for old industrial buildings that have potential for late night use. One told Mixmag: “We’ve looked up and down the Central and Victoria line to see what there is, and looked further into North London and further out East. There could be really cool warehouses available in some of these slightly more industrial areas which are serviced by a tube station, and having 24-hour access makes them more accessible.”
In April, Khan appeared to be highly supportive of London’s late night scene, which his overnight tube service is set to support. In a published statement, he said: “I don’t want young and creative Londoners abandoning our city to head to Amsterdam, to Berlin, to Prague where clubs are supported and allowed to flourish. I want them to be able to celebrate what they love in the city that they love, rather than punish them or force their activities underground or abroad. That is why, if elected London Mayor, I will address these problems head on.”
“Too many bars and clubs have been forced to close because they can’t afford to soundproof their premises once new residential developments have been built nearby. By introducing something called the ‘agent of change’ principle, the cost of soundproofing will fall on housing developers rather than venues. This is a simple measure but will have a massive effect on smaller, independent bars and clubs who often aren’t able to afford the costs involved.
“I will learn from Mirik Milan in Amsterdam. The work he is doing to unite businesses, residents and local authorities to support the night-time economy in a way that benefits everyone is something I want to replicate in London. I will therefore appoint a ‘Night Czar’ who will be a strong voice of support in City Hall for London’s vibrant night-time economy.”
However, Seb Glover, owner of Shapes club in Hackney Wick, has called on the mayor to make clear his commitment. His own club closed at the beginning of August, with Glover blaming the London Legacy Development Corporation for fighting attempts by him and his landlord to secure the long term use of the property as a music venue. Interviewed by an industry website, he commented: “In light of the closure of Shapes, a number of community programs have now ceased, a great number of jobs have been erased, and another bright thread in the fabric of London’s nightlife has been severed.”
“We appreciate Sadiq Khan is working to change the current climate for clubs, with measures mooted including appointing a night czar. We support these calls, but until something really changes for this creative community, for the love of everyone else striving to make something culturally great out of nothing, we ask you Sadiq Khan to Save London’s Nightlife.”
One of the early movers to take advantage of additional late night and early morning footfall is Tesco, who has spent the last few months pruning opening hours of some of its all night stores. The company is trialling all night opening at seven stores close to all night Underground stations. “London is such a vibrant and exciting place to live, work and visit and the night tube provides people with a great way to experience the city at a time that suits them best,” said Tesco London convenience director Martin Smith. The company started by offering “hydration stations” outside the stores, offering water and fruit juice to returning revellers.
“At Tesco we’re always looking for new ways to serve London’s customers whenever it is most convenient to them. That’s why we’re delighted to announce these new opening hours at select stores, helping to make life easier for those either working late or enjoying London’s nightlife.”
And Quintain, developer of the area around Wembley stadium, is promoting Wembley Park as the best round the clock destination for both residents and revellers. The multi-phase development includes late night shopping and entertainment, accessible with the Night Tube service.
The area is currently home to 1,300 new residents and 2,000 students, while the Tipi brand of rental apartments launched at Wembley Park in March, with 141 units. Currently, the developer is marketing its Emerald Gardens development where 475 apartments have been built across seven blocks, and its 19 storey Alto Apartments phase.
“The plethora of rail and road connections, including the much anticipated Night Tube, mean the area is well connected for those returning home late from central London to Wembley,” said James Saunders of Quintain. “It will be especially welcomed by our residents who work in Canary Wharf, go for an evening out in the West End and return home to Wembley Park late in the evening.”
LPA Perspective: As proven in decades before, new transport infrastructure brings new opportunities and development. In this case, as the additional infrastructure is being delivered after most people have gone to bed, there could be challenges.
The late night tube promises to unleash new night time economy opportunities, potentially setting owners of old warehouses against local residents, as they discover their tired shed is a cool music venue. Existing planning rules can, probably, cope – but Khan will need to be clear about policy, having made positive noises ahead of his election. But, with the announcement that the search for a Night Czar has begun, he appears to be on the case.