First Waterstones, who next? Crossrail 2 disruption ‘real problem’ concedes Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond
Crossrail 2 will be forced into making changes to current proposals after the first round of consultations believes Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond.
Current possible plans include the removal of half the Centre Court shopping centre and parts of the ‘Fridge on the Bridge’ car park, but operational decisions remain in debate.
But Mr Hammond feels the views of residents and businesses will give little option but to make alterations to the scheme.
“Crossrail 2 are assessing the number of responses they have received, of which they’ve had a lot, and I think they’ve had very few which are not in objection to the current scheme,” he said.
“I don’t think people are intrinsically saying that they love Centre Court, or any particular building on the Fridge, except for the pub, but what they are saying is that you can’t shut those buildings down without building elsewhere.
“If you were to build somewhere to keep the Fridge buildings broadly in the centre of Wimbledon, and then knock down and rebuild, then I think people would be happier.”
Mr Hammond also warned of the long-term damage the retail sector could face if plans were not moderated sufficiently.
He said: “I’m pretty certain that, even if they carry on with the current scheme, they’ll have to look at issues around phasing and not destroying the town centre.
“I don’t think shutting half of Centre Court works. I don’t see how you can put a line down the middle.
“People won’t have a reason to come here and will go to other places, so it would be a real problem for the centre of Wimbledon.
“Businesses are not going to want to come here or increase jobs if they’re going to be knocked down.
The town centre has already seen WH Smith and Waterstones close their doors, although the bookshop will be replaced by a bank.
While the closing is not directly related to Crossrail 2, Mr Hammond concedes it’s still a concern for Wimbledon’s shopping prospects.
“It’s a real disappointment. I’m pleased that they won’t be vacant units, but a WH Smith and Waterstones are very valuable in Wimbledon, and any town centre wants a mix of different shops.
“It could put off small businesses, so we have to make sure we put back what is bigger and better than was there before.”
Mr Hammond also insists that there will be some sacrifices to be made in order to get Crossrail 2 running for the benefit of the capital as a whole.
He said: “I think we have to accept that we are custodians to this project, and part of that is considering not just the people here but the future generations in this area, and some of the pressures that will face them.
“There’ll still be a wanting to move towards central London, so I think adding to London as a global city.
“In reality, the actual upheaval period will be six or seven years, but the timescale of us talking about and the first time it starts running is a very long time.”
Despite the lengthy consultation, Mr Hammond was not able to get everyone’s views on the subject, but hopes more people can become engaged in future discussions.
“There’s always more that we could have done. There are always people who never seem to hear what is being said, and whatever you do to get people engaged, there are always some people who feel left out,” he said.
“I’m sure there are some people we probably should have touched that we didn’t.
“I don’t think doing a few meetings in the town centre is enough, and I have told Crossrail that. They need to engage with the business community and the local residents.”