The future of The Roman and ‘the high street’ generally

Sew amazing, established 1947. Still closed.

Figures from Barclays Bank’s card transactions show that three weeks after ‘non-essential’ shops were allowed to re-open, they’re only selling half what they were this compared to this time last year. Big name brands have gone bust. The administrators have sold off their stock at a heavy discount along with their brand names. The stores, of course, found no buyers. This stock will be sold online. The brands may or may not resurface, and are unlikely to have many physical outlets. Barclays also separate out data for pubs and restaurants. They found that over last weekend sales (on average) were only 7% higher than the previous weekend – when they could only offer takeaways! Not good.

Roman Road shops still closed after coronavirus lockdown.
Roman Road shops still closed after coronavirus lockdown.
Roman Road Market Tues 7th July 2020
Roman Road Market Tues 7th July 2020

On Tuesday there was a token version of the street market out on the Roman. At best I’d say only a quarter of the stalls were out. Some of the shops, which would normally be open are still closed. It looks like they’ve gone for good. Costa Coffee said that 1,100 of its 2,700 branches would re-open at the end of June for takeaway and delivery customers. We’re now in July.

Costa Coffee still closed after the coronavirus lockdown.
Costa Coffee still closed after the coronavirus lockdown.

When we moved here in 1985 there was a free car park in-between what is now the Idea Store and the Green Goose. It had 120 spaces. There were no parking restrictions on the residential streets. What is now called Hewison Street was still a bomb site with minimal housing. Car parking spaces covered what had been the back gardens. Saturdays were a chaotic, but the market was busy, vibrant and full of life. Sons and daughters who’d moved further out of town used come back to Bow on Saturdays to visit their parents or grandparents. We thought it was great fun.

Bit by bit the council reduced the parking, and bit by bit the spend on the Roman Road diminished. The council were getting rid of outside money coming into the area. Still they refuse to learn. The Liveable Streets proposals will kill off more trade on the Roman Road. More shops will be forced to close.

Greggs finally re-opened
Greggs finally re-opened. Their 2,500 shops are expected to make a £58 million loss this year.

The lockdown has nudged more people into making changes to how they shop. People are getting more confident about buying online and are developing relationships with companies like Ocado. There’s much more choice. The Roman Road is great for top-ups, and is better for fresh fruit and veg. But overall, less money will be spent locally. Especially if Liveable Streets makes it more much more difficult for people outside the area to visit, and spend money here.

A comment below from Matt reminds me not to forget the little triangular car park by St Stephen’s Road. It currently has 21 parking spaces. The Liveable Streets documentation says: ‘The new layout reduces the total capacity by 7 spaces. An assessment of use, shows even at the busiest times only 49% of the car park spaces are used’. The answer why it’s underused is in my photo below – it’s too expensive during the week, and it’s time limited to 2 hours. There used to be 100s of free parking spaces near to the Roman Road Market.

St Stephens Car Park charges Bow London E3

Alan Tucker


  1. Reading this yes that parking bit on corner of roman road is dam expensive then they wonder why empty but then they squeal we don’t need to provide anymore as that isn’t full!

    See the price if diesel yet it’s ironic my friends 04 Audi A4 2.7 TDI 100 thou on clock took it for MOT thought mmm emissions and guy doing is laughing said come and read this! He had just done something like a Reno Clio size 1.2 ish petrol 1st MOT.Hes AUDI on NOX was cleaner than the petrol noddy car!
    So we are being BS’d Petrols round town are very polluting as you get lots of unburnt fuel when take foot of pedal but also each time pull away in traffic you get a squirt of extra fuel.

    My 2.0 HDI citroen is doing 60 plus MPG and that’s around town much higher if doing A roads steady 40 can get into 80’s try getting that on any petrol and mine is loaded up with things

  2. Worth saying that parking will remain in the car park on the corner of Roman Road and St Stephen’s Road, so the picture bring painted in the final paragraph of only people who walk being able to shop on Roman Road is not accurate. And it’s important to be extremely careful about accuracy at the moment so that the public consultation can be based on facts.

    As the author writes, the last few years have seen a big increase in purchasing both groceries and other goods online, as well as the opening of mega-shopping malls. Roman Road is not alone in having to deal with these trends. A market that operated near me when I was a boy is no longer in business, with parking levels unaltered. Merely plotting the reduction in parking near the Roman in the last few years alongside a reduction in takings may demonstrate correlation, but not causation.

    1. Thanks for your comment Matt. There are currently 21 spaces in the little triangle car park. I’ll add it to the article shortly. My point is that there used to be 100’s of free parking spaces near the Roman Road Market, and they weren’t time limited. You used to be able to park on both sides of Cardigan Road, for example. People driving here could buy and take home much more stuff than they would if they were cycling or on public transport. Families used to come here on Saturdays and make a day of it. If they were parked behind Presto, later Safeway, then Morrisons – they could do the weeks shopping here. It’s this doubling or trebling of shoppers putting money through the area on Saturdays which would keep many shops afloat. Remove the incomers and the whole place goes downhill.

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