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2013

Harrow Road Survey

Office of Karen Buck MP

Introduction Karen Buck MP and Ward councillors around the Harrow Road have been increasingly concerned about a number of issues that are affecting the area, namely the Harrow Road itself. These issues range from the predominance of too many betting shops and fast food outlets to the general scruffiness of the area with too much litter and unsympathetic streetscape. The poor environment in turn encourages anti-social behaviour including, drug dealing and alcohol abuse. In response to these concerns, Karen Buck commissioned and sent out a survey to better understand the problems facing the Harrow Road and to use the response as the basis for the necessary pressure to bring improvements. Summery The survey was distributed over two wards, Harrow Road (HR) and Westbourne (WB). From just under 200 responses, we were able to gather a wide range of opinions about the Harrow Road. A sizably majority of respondents felt that it had stayed the same over the last year, but this is tempered with 27% feeling that the Harrow Road has gotten worse over the same period.

During the last year or so, do you feel the Harrow Road area has:
Improved Stayed the same Got worse Skipped question

7% 27%

17%

49%

“It is a shame that the promising start with the market has not continued. The selection of stalls is not very attractive and the smells from the fishmonger stall linger around long after the stall has closed. There are too many betting shops along the road. They seem to particularly target this poor ward and attract a lot of customer who convene outside the betting shops. There is a lot more rubbish around since the Sam's chicken shop opened. They should do more to encourage their customers to use bins provided. I would like to see some more good food (takeaway, restaurants, a bakery with more than white bread) options but at the same time I am concerned that those may have an impact on noise levels to the back of the shops along Harrow Road. There used to be a restaurant where the Coral betting shop is now which backs on to the back of our house and we previously had noise issues from their extractor fans during the nights and the use of their back yard by customers late in the evenings. I am not keen to see coffee shops like Starbucks and Costa moving in. Whilst the variety of shops along Harrow Road could be better, there are some good independent shops and cafes there which are working hard to build a local customer base and make the area more attractive.” (Respondent) 2|Page

Though a majority feel the Harrow Road has stayed the same over the last year, 52% of respondents feel the Harrow Road’s amenities are great but at least convenient in terms of its shops and services. 23% stated that they consider the shops and services as poor.

Are the Shopping and Services in the Harrow Road?
Generally good Poor Not great but at least convenient Skipped question

7% 23%

18%

52%

These two set of statistics show that at best apathy has set in towards the environment, shops and services on the Harrow Road. At worse, a hugely important road in the north of the borough is falling backwards in terms of its services and environment. Response Review

From the response a number of key concerns on the retail aspects of the Harrow Road become apparent. These also concern the standard of road’s environment.  Many respondents cited the number of betting shops on the Harrow Road as a major concern. This was not just raised in isolation to the socio-economic issues about a large number of betting shops in an area such as the Harrow Road, but in terms of the significant groups of men who congregate outside them. Many female respondents raised these issues in relation to them feeling unsafe in the area, especially and night and during the winter months. “Get rid of the betting shops, they take advantage of poor people and are a hot spot for drinking and violence.” (Respondent)  Fast food outlets are another area where the overwhelming majority of respondents felt the Harrow Road is having major problems with. Again, a large number of young men hang around these shops; littering and ASB become an issue. Many respondents noted the fast food shops do to not dispose of their own waste and rubbish in an effective way, which leads to pavement becoming cluttered and unsightly.

“The number of take away outlets and the litter generated by them” (Respondent) 3|Page

Shops fronts, empty shops and the shopping environment kept being raised again and again by respondents as one of their main issues with the Harrow Road. Many felt the Harrow lacked any real shopping environment in terms of clothing and major brand stores. Many of the shops that are on the Harrow Road look run down, even after the Council’s ‘Shop Fronts Grant Scheme’. The overall sense gained from these responses is that the Harrow Road lacks a commercial buzz, increasingly being seen as an area you get in and out of quickly, rather than staying to enjoy your shopping experience. “I agree that the Harrow Road has limited types of shops. Generally speaking these shops relate to betting, fast food, pound shops. There is nothing on the road that would make me want to actually spend time there.” (Respondent)

“I think a better variety of shops, fewer fast food outlets, fewer betting shops would bring an immediate improvement. There are also too many corner shops all selling similar goods one after the other.” (Respondent)

Prince of Wales Junction and the market is another area that was repeatedly raised by respondents as area that has improved, but where there are still major problems. The market is seen by many respondents as a welcome intervention, but the vast majority do not do any shopping at it and they seem to feel many of the stalls offer nothing of interest to them to buy. Prince of Wales Junction and the market still suffer from problems of drugs and alcohol abuse. This in turn leads to many respondents feeling unsafe at night in the area, demonstrating the need for better lighting and CCTV throughout the Harrow Road.

“Maybe more community/open spaces like the market. More opportunities for community projects/art that are visible, like how the market space is currently used.” (Respondent)

“Litter and cleanliness. Street cleaning is not well done (dog mess left for days). Fast food litter[is] left on walls, then blown down the street. Drinkers/drug users/beggars are back at Prince of Wales Junction recently.” (Respondent)

The overall cleanliness of the Harrow Road and the street environment are key problems for majority of the respondents. Litter, dog fouling and the general poor conditions of the paved areas were repeatedly cited. It is felt by a large majority of respondents that neither the Council nor the shop owners take enough responsibility for keeping the street environment clean and safe. “Pavements are dirty, not swept/hosed enough. Shop rubbish not collected often enough. Fast food containers are left everywhere and not cleared up” (Respondent)

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Recommendations After the push for improvements to the Harrow Road in 2008, stagnation seems to have set in. A real push must be made so the Harrow Road does not decline after all the recent efforts that have been put in. Some of this can be done without huge expense to the local authority. The Harrow Road has to become more than simply a street lined with betting shops, fast food outlets and niche poorly kept stores. The majority of respondents take this matter extremely seriously and this should be matched by local authority efforts. The local authority needs a sound, thoughtful and functional business plan for Harrow Road. It cannot be allowed for another betting shop and fast food chain to open on the Harrow Road for the reasons outlined above. Efforts must be made to reach out to variety of businesses to draw them into high street. This would pay for itself over the medium term/long term.

A community hubbing service is also extremely important for this area. North Westminster faces many acute social problems which could be helped by a main focal point. This could possibly be located at the One Stop Shop on the Harrow Road. With the threat of the closure of the Harrow Road Police Station it makes sense in this time of tightening budgets to share resources. The Harrow Road suffers from ASB, drug and alcohol related crime. Why not bring spaces together in this time of tightening budgets? The local authority could open a space for the public to provide information and maybe access to the internet and link with local police desk; this could improve safety and the civic space as a whole.

Community safety and environment is also key for the Harrow Road going forward. It cannot be acceptable that so many people feel unsafe on and around the Harrow Road at night. Lighting needs serious improvement as does CCTV. Action about the groups of men hanging around the betting and fast food stores needs careful attention. Greater emphasis must be on put on cleaning the Harrow Road, but also on enforcing the law against major litterers, such has the fast food outlets and people who allow their dogs to foul the pavements. Linking the poorest wards in Westminster, the Harrow Road’s importance cannot be underestimated. Creating a safe, vibrate, functioning high street for these committees must be kept as a priority by the local authority.

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