High Road Leyton

The transformation of High Road Leyton through collaboration with its business community set a new precedent for the high street and for town centres across London.

Our work in Leyton began in 2009, when Waltham Forest Council recognised the need to support the high street as a key civic asset. Many of the buildings and pavements were in poor repair, while businesses were struggling and many premises vacant. Together with East Architecture, JKA started by compiling the High Street Life Strategy, which set out fundamental principles to sustain the environment and economy of local centres. Together with a pilot programme of shop front improvements, this strategy has gone on to inform the renewal of high streets across the borough.

Our approach balanced the need to establish a coherent local identity with the expression of individuals within a diverse business community. From the outset, we sought to communicate the importance of cohesive, transformative change to the High Road to shopkeepers and business owners, even as we worked carefully with each on a package of refurbishment works tailored to their property.

We balanced restoration of the High Road’s Victorian shopping parades with suitably flamboyant touches in a process we call ‘creative repair.’ Throughout, we used a palette of durable, widely understood materials that can be re-finished or adapted by local trades as businesses develop and shops change hands.

The transformation of High Road Leyton mobilised both private and public investment, created new community and business spaces and supported existing businesses with specialised retail advice. The resurgent High Road has become a source of local pride, and was celebrated internationally as the first phase completed just in time for the 2012 Olympic Torch relay to pass through. Our collaborative approach, rooted in dialogue with the people who live, work and shop on the high street, gave Waltham Forest the confidence to invest in many of its other town centres, and has inspired local authorities and traders’ associations across London.

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