When I wrote about London’s declining number of launderettes last January, the National Association of the Launderette Industry thought the capital was down to roughly its last 450. That number seemed in danger of falling more quickly due to the government deciding they would be covered by new “permitted development rights”, freeing their owners to convert them for other, perhaps more profitable, uses without requiring planning permission.
Those rights are due to come into effect at the beginning of October. They are subject to the approval of local authorities, but the London Assembly Green Party group has discovered that few London boroughs intend to use that power to protect their local launderettes. Just three of the 27 that responded to the Greens’ inquiries say they will do so: Labour-run Hackney and Camden and Conservative Royal Kensington and Chelsea.
Launderette closures may seem a minor matter. Yet to some Londoners the loss of these neighbourhood amenities will be a large one. Citing Office for National Statistics figures, Green AM Siân Berry says that a surprising one in 30 London homes doesn’t have a washing machine of its own. She argues that “everyone in London needs a launderette at some point, and many rely on them completely”.
It will be interesting to see how many London launderettes keep going for how long and where. In my previous piece I reported that there were two in my local high street, Lower Clapton Road, E5. The nearest to my home (pictured top) predated my moving to the area in 1992, but had started to look rather quiet. Today, a sign on the front says it is closed for refurbishment. It’s been there for a while.
However, the street’s second launderette (pictured above), which had long been the busier, has recently had a makeover. It now announces itself as principally a dry cleaner, and seemed to be trading healthily when I took a look at it yesterday. So maybe there is hope for launderettes yet. And writing about them at least gives me an excuse to once again run the trailer for the most famous movie about launderettes ever. It is, of course, set in London.
Read more about My Beautiful Laundrette here.