Burnt Oak Town Centre
Making change in one of London’s most diverse high streets
We Made That led a multi-disciplinary team to develop a town centre strategy for Burnt Oak, which sits across the boroughs of Barnet, Brent and Harrow. A series of ‘Hot Spot’ high street improvement interventions were delivered as the first on-the-ground actions from the strategy.
The Burnt Oak Town Centre Strategy co-ordinates public realm improvements and business support proposals, and provides a foundation for future cross-borough and business partnership working in the area with a particular focus on maximising social value.
The main aims of the Burnt Oak Town Centre project were to establish a distinct identity for Burnt Oak which celebrated its unique character and heritage assets, and to form a business action plan to strengthen existing enterprises whilst also diversifying the town centre’s economic base. The strategy also set out how potential development sites could be intensified and encourage growth for the area.
The 2018 High Streets for All study found that for many people, improving the physical environment of the high street is key to supporting socio-economic value in Burnt Oak, as it is closely linked with civic pride, lower crime rates and increased sense of security, particularly for women.
A series of core projects emerged from the strategy to deliver improvements to the area, which are intended to be implemented over short, medium and long-term timescales. Critical to these improvements was to transform the streetscape of the town centre, making it a pleasant place to visit and dwell for both residents and businesses.
The first delivered interventions include a distinctive news kiosk, upgrades to the Burnt Oak Library entrance, and a suite of coordinated improvements to pockets of public realm combined with building frontage improvements.
Burnt Oak is an area rooted in the history of inter-war housing and transport expansion in London. Today, although this legacy can be seen in Burnt Oak’s busy shopping parades along the Broadway and Watling Avenue, and high-quality residential buildings, much of the high street is characterised by neglected landmarks and deteriorating shop-fronts.
By prioritising distinctive and clear graphic communication and robust, characterful materials - such as charred timber - the proposals ensure that historic decline is reversed, and that Burnt Oak is well positioned to benefit from nearby growth in the Burnt Oak and Colindale Opportunity Area.
The team worked with traders and community groups, such as Love Burnt Oak, to host a series of events to support a revitalised high street and deliver meaningful change through a number of projects within the strategy framework.
The population of Burnt Oak has experienced a substantial increase in diversity over the past decade, which is reflected in how its users value the high street.
In recent times Burnt Oak has had a transitory population consisting of diverse migrant groups. The businesses in the town centre tend to respond to demographic changes by adapting their produce to suit; thus the high street is lined with shops as various as halal fast food restaurants, Nigerian beauty salons and Irish pubs.
The project was supported by the Greater London Authority High Street Fund. It demonstrates how small targeted changes can have a huge impact on the local area and was recognised in the RIBA MacEwen Awards 2019.
- London Borough of Barnet
MacEwen Awards 2019 (Longlisted)
We Made That, Retail Revival, Maddison Graphic, Momentum