Paddington loses out on help for businesses

Business centre planned for north Westminster is relocated to Piccadilly

THE decision to locate a community business centre in Piccadilly after it was earmarked for Paddington has been slammed by traders and councillors.

The Hub Make Lab Westminster was due to be situated in a new residential development in Harbet Road. But Westminster Council has decided the location is not financially viable.

Instead, the opportunity centre for small businesses will open in New Zealand House, Haymarket, in April with the council’s planning and city development committee voting to accept �196,000 from the Harbet Road developers instead of the space.

Harrow Road councillor Ruth Bush voted against the decision.

She said: “We desperately need affordable business space in the north Paddington area, especially at this difficult economic time.

“It’s unbelievable that the council can’t find a building in the whole of north Westminster for this promised business opportunity centre.”

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Council bosses say the centre will benefit at least 1,000 entrepreneurs within two years through offering desk space to small businesses, business support, event hosting and room hire.

Cllr Bush criticised the decision to include the centre in the Harbet Road development application without requiring it to be fitted out for use.

“They got planning permission on the condition that a proportion of the building should be made available for a business opportunity centre should the council decide that was what they wanted to use it for,” she said.

“But the council didn’t think the idea through, as is apparent with the space just being left as an empty shell. It was a bad planning decision.”

The concern is that small businesses in north Westminster won’t be willing to travel down to Haymarket or won’t know about the centre due to its location, she said.

“Of course we will work to help new small businesses from Harrow Road, and elsewhere in north Westminster get some benefit from this. But it was promised for here and it’s needed here,” she said. “We will do all we can to help officers contact businesses so we can give whatever encouragement we can that the centre is for them despite it not being near them.”

Julie Bundy, director of Westminster Artisans Ltd, a social enterprise supporting Westminster businesses and residents, said: “It’s disappointing that it’s not located in north Westminster.

“I still think the hub is an excellent idea because it will provide affordable small business space, which is much needed for businesses in north Westminster.

“There’s an opportunity in the future for the hub to relocate to north Westminster and I hope efforts will be made to do so at a future date.”

Westminster Council’s Rosemarie MacQueen said: “We have explored the potential of alternative sites in Paddington but concluded that none are currently viable or offer good value for money.

“It remains our intention to deliver affordable business space in Paddington and other options are being pursued to achieve this.”