We live in the shadow of a major UK stadium – but our once-thriving village is becoming a ghost town | The Sun

We live in the shadow of a major UK stadium – but our once-thriving village is becoming a ghost town | The Sun

August 13, 2023

RESIDENTS who live in the shadow of a major sports stadium say their once-thriving village is now more like a ghost town.

Thousands of tennis fans flock to the Wimbledon Championships every year but locals say the area is becoming too expensive for businesses to survive in.

Southfields tube station, in south-west London, is just a five-minute walk from the world-famous ground with the neighbourhood lying between the park and the River Wandle as well as being close to Wandsworth, Putney and Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park.

Wandsworth Council recently implemented a £1.6million scheme to improve the area, putting in wider pavements, new trees, more cycle stands and upgraded street lamps, saying the move would improve the travel options and enhance the “village-style” atmosphere.

Sarah Spencer, 59, who moved to Southfields eight years ago, said she loved living in the area as it was “lovely” and had a “nice vibe”.

She particularly liked the Wimbledon fortnight when the tournament was held because all the shops decorated their windows and the area was buzzing with tourists, visitors as well as famous tennis stars.

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Sarah also liked it had good transport links with a tube station on the District Line, Earlsfield was just a walk away if you needed a mainline train and you could catch the tram going to Croydon.

She also pointed out the local schools had a “very good reputation”.

However, she said the number of empty shops was “awful”.

She told MyLondon: "What’s really sad is, here it’s quite an affluent area and nobody is opening new businesses because they’re stymied by the rent."

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Sarah said that while there were three chemists, three opticians and three supermarkets there wasn’t a bookshop or a dress shop and added it would be nice to have a little tapas bar, a deli and a wine bar.

That sentiment was echoed by Rie Bromley, a manager at the local branch of Oxfam.

While she praised the area’s green spaces and good transport links she bemoaned the lack of small businesses.

Rie said: "There are some empty shops so people need to maybe have more small businesses, restaurants – stuff like that is lacking. We have the coffee shops, they are everywhere, but we need little independent businesses, eateries and things like that."

She added that three banks in Southfields had closed down which hadn’t helped as people now had to go to Wimbledon for their banking.

A 20-year-old woman, who wanted to remain anonymous described the area as “peaceful” and one where everyone got along and it was a “friendly community” which was “family-oriented”.

Paulina Smolarczyk, 32, the manager of the local branch of the Polski Sklep food store said the area was “so nice,” adding it was “peaceful” and everyone was “very nice”.

Speaking about the issue of the empty shops, a spokesperson for Wandsworth Council said: "The council is fully committed to working with local residents and businesses to keep Southfields special and to doing all it can to ensure any shop vacancies are short-lived."

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