After months of empty pavements and shuttered shops Northcote Road is buzzing again, and since being pedestrianised on weekends, it is busier than ever.

Last Saturday (July 11), Wandsworth council gave the greenlight for restaurants, cafes and bars to move their tables onto the street at weekends.

Businesses are responsible for setting their tables at a two-metre distance, in keeping with social distancing guidelines.

The ‘al-fresco’ style of eating and drinking has been met with enthusiasm from the hospitality industry, which has faced a significant blow over lockdown.

Attila Kovacs, who works at Café Tamra, welcomed the new pedestrianisation scheme.

“I only have good things to say. The vibe was really cool, and it was great for the business, especially after the hard times we’ve found ourselves in.”

The initiative was the brainchild of BID, the Business Improvement District, and Wandsworth council. The plans were devised two months ago, but only received the go-ahead from the council last minute.

One of the ward’s three Conservative councillors, Louise Calland, said: “It’s been a real joint partnership. It couldn't have been done without the two.”

She hopes the traffic closure will encourage other community benefits, such as sustainable travel and shopping locally. Eventually, she says the boom in business could allow for staff who were furloughed over lockdown to be re-hired.

The closure mirrors similar initiatives across the City, such as in Soho and Covent Garden, which has been likened to a ‘continental’ dining district.

However, there has been concern, especially on social media, that flocking to streets could cause a spike in the R-number.

Wandsworth Times:

Crowds gather on Northcote road due to the new outdoor scheme

Cllr Calland insists that extra measures have been implemented to protect the public.

“On the first weekend there were extra officers from the council, also some additional security on the Northcote to make sure that nothing got too busy, and that people were respecting social distancing as much as possible,” she said.

Likewise, the standard 11pm licensing laws are still in place, to help disperse street-dwellers at night.

Residents also raised concerns about the disruption and aftermath from the weekend.

One described the volume of litter as “horrendous” and suggested there should be on-the-spot fines, and greater pressure from vendors to make their customers dispose of take-away packaging.

However, following last weekend’s success, the gatherings are not likely to die down anytime soon.

Currently, there is no end date for the scheme, but the possibility of extending the closure to weekdays, or making it permanent, has not been ruled out.

Discussions are in place with TFL, to assess the consequences for bus routes and traffic around the Northcote road.