Focus Groups Summary
In March and April 2005 a BAF member with experience in this field ran a number of focus groups in the Archway area. These covered residents in social housing along with privately rented and owned accommodation, plus office workers and traders.
The results were remarkably similar in all groups, summarised as follows:
The Big Picture
The disadvantages of total redevelopment (massively more building on the site and years of disruption) were felt to outweigh any possible – but not guaranteed – advantages.
There was significant concern about the length of time total demolition and rebuilding might take, about the amount of new buildings which might be fitted on to the site, and about the effect on local traders, especially if the tube station had to shut for a long time.
Some people pointed out that if there are going to be tall buildings on the site we might just as well keep the one we have. It could be reclad, and the spaces underneath blocked to get rid of wind blight.
Design and Layout
When it comes to any new building the vote was for lower or mixed height development.
The main area people wanted to see changed was at ground level where they particularly wanted an attractive public space, suitable for markets and public events, but also upmarket cafes and eating places.
The preferred choice was for combining office and residential on the site because the office workers offer valuable business to local traders and keep the place busy during the day. New housing was seen as a good idea because it brings money into the area and keeps it lively in the evenings.
A mix of housing was popular, including luxury flats and housing for low income groups and key workers. Luxury flats are seen as a good idea because they could improve the status of the area, and are would help make the redevelopment economically viable.
The Feel of Archway
Everyone liked the area’s small scale character, the small shops and businesses. They also liked the existing community facilities – the swimming pool and the library. They thought it was vital to preserve all of that, and if the pool or library had to be demolished, they insisted they should be rebuilt, perhaps putting the library in a more attractive area.
The things people didn’t like were the derelict Mall, the area around Archway Tower, the high crime rate, and the traffic and parking problems. They wanted to make sure that any redevelopment either reduced or got rid of all of those problems.
Everyone agreed that the area needs more, properly maintained, green space. There was a lot of enthusiasm for a public open space such as a piazza as a focus for the area, with seating, cafes and good restaurants where people could relax. They was also a lot of support for the idea of using any suitable open space for markets of different kinds.
Contrary to early reports from the Council, which indicated that support for a new supermarket might be split 50:50, one thing that the majority agreed on was that an extra supermarket would be bad for the area because it would destroy the small shops. By contrast they wanted more independent small shops selling items not already available in the area.
There was a clear call for better security in the area, with a local police presence sought, especially in the open space areas.
There was also real concern about the impact on parking of any sizeable redevelopment, especially for the suggested supermarket, but also for the proposed housing.
Areas where opinion was more divided were whether it was a good idea to include a private health/leisure centre, an NHS clinic, a hotel, or a cinema.
Almost everyone agreed that it would be good to include some kind of arts facility, but suggestions ranged from a full scale arts centre to draw visitors to the area, to providing some kind of outdoor space for the occasional performance.
Other ideas included a community centre and provision for young people, a skateboarding park, a development trust to run a community business, a sports hall, and making Archway a gateway to the many historic areas and parks nearby.