A Food Cluster for the Low Line?

At the end of 2019 we brought together more than 50 people from local businesses and organisations at the Hop Exchange in Bankside to explore the emergence of a cluster of food-related businesses in and around the railway viaduct of Bankside, London Bridge and Bermondsey.

In rail arches, market stalls, shops and restaurants, lots of people are already invested in the success of this area.

A recent audit of businesses in and around the Low Line shows many of these are working in the production, distribution and retail of food and drink.

Can this apparent ‘food cluster’ be supported to work more effectively – to share resources, create skills and training opportunities for the local community and encourage enterprise? Can this be self-supporting, and what other provision is needed to help it grow?

We want to build on this community of committed people, who can help make this happen.

Here are the top ideas that came out of our exchange:

  • Curate and support a mix of businesses can achieve a unifying food-related identity, and contribute to a standard of quality and choice along the Low Line
  • Use diversity to build week-round footfall, e.g. by trialling new uses of arches which could act as a template for the future
  • A cluster can help attract and retain employees, and share costly training between businesses – from food hygiene to fork-lift truck driving
  • Recognise that wholesale and retail food businesses share some needs but not others, some uses might be incompatible
  • Share the burden of infrastructure and logistics, such as physical facilities for central waste, recycling and composting, or integrating approaches to sustainability and environmental policies
  • Communication is key, to and between those along the Low Line, and could also support a local, and shortened, supply chain through a live forum
  • Low Line Partners, Southwark Council, as well as the Mayor and GLA could be lobbied to offer further support for a cluster, including through the planning process
  • Establish a Low Line Charter that can identify ways to encourage and maximise social value through a strategy setting out values and principles for the Low Line
  • Share resources and engage with agencies and specialists to address wider issues such as homelessness and training.

Building a shared vision

Finding ways to create new places in historic districts is happening around the world, with the High Line in New York probably the most famous.

What all these places have in common is a unifying vision where curation and diversity create interest, and with quality, sustainability and longevity as the heart of their DNA.

What next?

The findings from this workshop will be fed into other parts of the Low Line programme, helping to develop proposals out of which more solid projects will emerge. In the meantime, the Low Line Partners will seek to develop more regular communications with food businesses along the Low Line.

Are you a Friend of the Low Line?

The Low Line concept has developed through a group of partners including Better Bankside, Blue Bermondsey, Team London Bridge, The Arch Company, Southwark Council, and Borough Market who are steering the initial scoping, planning and communication of the project. The input of local communities and businesses is crucial to the evolution of the Low Line. Not already involved?Join the ‘Friends of the Low Line’ mailing list to be updated on the latest news and events, and be invited to events to give your feedback and thoughts.