Mayor puts high streets at the heart of plans for new jobs and growth
Another 155,000 new homes and hundreds of thousands of new jobs could be delivered in and around the capital’s town centres, according to a major new action plan to boost London’s high streets released by the Mayor today (17 July).
Reaffirming his commitment to rejuvenating high streets, the Mayor today confirmed up to £9m further funding for town centre improvements across the capital.
This is on the back of £221m of funding already committed during his Mayoralty to boost high streets facing the stiff challenge of competition with e-commerce and out of town retail.
The ‘Mayor’s Action for High Streets’ plan considers the lessons learnt from several years of working with businesses and describes City Hall’s continued plans to help high streets to thrive.
Up to £9m of new funding will be available from the Autumn and the Mayor’s team want small businesses to begin to take more of a leading role in bidding for grants to boost their local town centres.
Grants can be used to smarten up shop fronts, improve public spaces or to hold mini festivals but the aim will be for small businesses and community groups to be at the heart of that funding. London’s high streets are the heartbeat of the capital’s business community. They are home to 175,000 businesses (47 per cent of businesses outside central London), employ almost 1.5m people and two thirds of Londoners live within five minutes of one. London’s population is forecast to increase to 10 million people by 2030 and 11 million by 2050.
The London Plan – The Mayor’s overall planning strategy for the capital – states that between 2011 and 2036 London needs to plan for 860,000 new jobs.
The Plan indicates that the largest growth sectors are the kinds of things that could be accommodated in and around high streets. They are some of the best connected parts of London and in the Action for High Streets plan, the Mayor’s team make the case for them being an obvious location to accommodate the new homes and jobs required in London. They highlight the huge amount of hidden space for development that can be found whether above the supermarket or health centre, behind the railway station or on top of a car park.
London’s high streets have always evolved to take on new challenges and sensitively managed these locations can reinvent themselves to find ways of accommodating new types of housing, retail and enterprise space in a way that supports their heritage and character.
Altogether there might be potential to deliver another 155,000 new homes and hundreds of thousands of new jobs could be in and around the capital’s town centres.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Our High Streets have been under great pressure from the rapid growth of retail parks and internet shopping. But their great strength is that they offer so much more than simply shopping. They are where Londoners come together to work, relax, meet and play and they buzz with activity from morning to late at night. However they are also key to the London economy and that is why we must make the most of their huge potential. We are delivering a comprehensive plan that will do everything possible to protect and support their incredible vibrancy.”
A second document released today describes how high street projects already funded under the current Mayoralty are making a huge difference in the capital. “Learning from London’s High Streets” celebrates local skills and the knowledge of the many different people, partnerships and organisations working together to improve High Streets. They have collaborated on a vast range of projects in places as diverse as Willesden Green where emerging designers have brought new trade to old shops, to Wood Street where online marketing helped reboot an indoor market.
The High Street renewal programme overseen by funding from the Mayor has already:
• Created and safeguarded over 780 jobs.
• Provided training for 400 young Londoners.
• Formed eight new trade associations, supported 11 existing associations and revived five more.
• Created or improved over 30,000 sq metres of public realm.
• Brought more than 50 empty shops back into life.
On the day he launched his action for high streets plan the Mayor took the opportunity to tour Bromley Town Centre, where funding from the Mayor, Transport for London, the Borough and local businesses is being used for a major overhaul of public space around the market square and town centre.
New paving, shared surfaces, bus stops, new trees and outside seating have all been installed. The Mayor was shown improvements he has helped fund to the shop fronts of several small businesses in Bromley as well as works to transform a street that was previously dominated by parked cars but now boasts shared space designed to encourage a café culture and an army of specially designed HG Wells inspired lamp posts.
Councillor Stephen Carr, Leader of Bromley Council said: “The extensive public realm improvements to Bromley North Village underline our commitment to improving the town centre and ensuring people continue to shop, trade and spend time in Bromley North, where there are important local, independent businesses. We are working closely with these traders at this crucial time and are encouraged to already see increased footfall in the area and more shops being let. This builds on continued investment confidence in Bromley with other developments underway including a landmark £90m mixed use scheme in Bromley South and plans for a hotel in the Old Town Hall and boutique cinema in the Glades Shopping Centre. There is more to be done but we are playing our part to Build a Better Bromley for the future at this exciting time.”