Keep It Local: help keep shops alive
Sanchez Manning TRADERS have warned that independent shops could disappear from St John s Wood and Maida Vale if they are not given a helping hand soon. A combination of soaring overheads, draconian parking enforcement and a deepening recession has caused
TRADERS have warned that independent shops could disappear from St John's Wood and Maida Vale if they are not given a helping hand soon.
A combination of soaring overheads, draconian parking enforcement and a deepening recession has caused many local small businesses to close.
In St John's Wood High Street alone - normally a bustling and recession-proof upmarket area - there have been a least half a dozen closures since the beginning of the year, and more are expected.
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This week the Wood&Vale launches the Keep It Local campaign to support independent traders during these troubled times.
Recent casualties include La Casalinga restaurant and Harpers womenswear, both of which were open for more than 20 years. Shop owners are now appealing to their landlords and the government to reduce rents and rates or risk growing rows of empty premises.
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Paul Chaudhry, owner of Tempo Dry Cleaners on St John's Wood High Street, said he feared the situation could be reaching crisis point.
"I've been her for 45 years and I've never seen anything like it," he said.
"Landlords have become greedy, the parking is difficult and all the traders are disappearing.
"The landlords are crazy with the rents they are looking for. I've heard of one asking for �80,000 or �90,000 per year. How can the small shops survive this when even the chains are struggling?"
Another long-term trader, Maureen Butterworth, agreed the level of rents and rates, along with the lack of customers, is becoming untenable.
"The landlords want to put up my rents for Tiddlywinks and Ben's by 90 per cent and the rates are astronomical now. That leaves me in a difficult position because where do they think the extra people will come from to buy the goods?"
Gary Vanger, director of Square One designer clothing, added: "These businesses have been the backbone of the high street and they're being driven out. We need local people getting out there and supporting local shops."
Down the road in Maida Vale, traders are faced with similar problems. Kanthan Thanka, who runs Elgin Supermarket in Elgin Avenue, said he had seen scores of shops shut in the area and was now also planning to call it a day.
He said: "The shop sales have gone down by half. Customers are not coming in because they don't have the money. I've had to put the shop on the market because I can't afford to keep going."
The high numbers of parking wardens and the introduction of pay-by-phone parking are also being blamed for killing off high street shopping.
Beverley Vanger, who manages Square One, said: "The problem here has been the parking.
They installed a new parking system and when they first introduced it there were teething problems which customers got angry about. They sent down too many traffic wardens and now we've got the CCTV on top of that. So all these things are against us."
Kevin Goad, Westminster's assistant director of parking, said: "These streets in St John's Wood and Maida Vale are particularly busy and residents have told us they welcome parking enforcement, including the use of CCTV. While local businesses have also said they welcome cameras as they help prevent crime and anti-social behaviour.
"We understand that parking in London can be confusing and are working to improve road users understanding of the rules and provide clearer signs and lines. I would advise any motorist who feels they have been issued a ticket incorrectly to contact us directly. No-one wants to see small businesses suffer and we would be more than happy to meet with local traders to discuss their concerns.