What More Can Be Done To Protect Small Shops?

London Assembly launches review of measures designed to protect local businesses

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With closures accelerating as the economic downturn bites, empty local shops have become an all too familiar sight. Now the London Assembly Planning Committee is asking how could current planning legislation be wielded more effectively to stem the loss of the capital’s small retailers?

A review of measures designed to protect London’s local shops has been launched looking at what progress has been made on implementing planning policies to support them and what more needs to be done through the London Plan.

The review will focus on how the planning system protects small retailers in neighbourhood centres that provide local people with everyday goods and services, assessing the benefits they bring to local communities and the scale of the threats they face. Small retailers account for almost 90 per cent of all retailers in London, employing more than 100,000 people.

The Mayor has made a commitment to protect neighbourhood centres by securing affordable retail units and toughening up the London Plan. Local authorities have also implemented a range of measures, and a number of studies and reports have put forward recommendations - but how effective have any of these been on the street?

Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee, Jenny Jones AM, said, “Empty high streets detract from the vibrancy and character of an area, and every closed shutter is several lost jobs.

“People need local shops. In fact, some people are completely reliant on being a short walk away from shops that supply their everyday needs.

“The planning system is critical in keeping high streets thriving, and we want to make sure local authorities and the Mayor are using it effectively to support small retailers.”

As part of the review, the Committee is asking Londoners, and small business owners and employees, to send in their views on how their business or local neighbourhood has changed or struggled, and what support is needed to keep high streets thriving and diverse. Please email smallshops@london.gov.uk

The Committee will publish a report of its findings early next year. They will also feed into the London Plan review process from now until the Examination in Public in the summer of 2010.

October 16, 2009