Like many small retailers, the shops on Askew Road have had it tough recently. Their troubles started well before the global recession. There’s the ever-present competition from the major players, draconian parking measures drove customers away and high business rates are just a few of the problems they suffered.
During the last three years Askew ward’s (see pic) Councillors Gill Dickenson (Lab), Lisa Homan (Lab) and Rory Vaughan (Lab) have campaigned for a change in H&F Council’s approach. They forced the Council to carry out a consultation on Askew Road’s shopping area. The result of this is that H&F Council has now agreed to reductions in the tariff on the five pay and display bays to 20p for 30 minutes to encourage people to ‘stop and shop’. My colleagues also managed to persuade the Council to introduce a range of streetscape improvements such as raised entry treatments in Cobbold, Gayford and Hadyn Park Roads - with work set be carried out at the end of May. They are continuing to campaign for more.
Regular readers will recall that an all-party Parliamentary group published High Street Britain - alarmingly concluding that small retailers may “vanish from Britain’s high streets by 2015” as featured here. It was therefore a positive step that on the 19th September 2007 all Hammersmith and Fulham’s councillors of both parties voted in favour of the Administration’s motion to the Council that read:
“This Council notes the publication of an independent Commission on Retail Conservation set up by Kensington & Chelsea Council and the recent submission to the Council by the Fulham Society of "Renaissance in Fulham". As a result of increasing concern at the disappearance of independent retailers, this Council resolves to study these two reports and further consider ways in which to support shops and the local economy in Hammersmith & Fulham.”
At the time, my Labour colleagues and I raised concerns that the Tories’ motion was more than a little short on action points and also voted for H&F Conservatives to follow Kensington and Chelsea Council’s lead in supporting its small retailers. Our Conservatives Councillors argued that was unnecessary and said we should judge their Administration by their subsequent actions. Nineteen months have passed since then and, unlike other London councils of all political colours, H&F Council still does not have a borough wide strategy for supporting our small retailers. There was no mention of how the Administration will “support shops and the local economy” in their last budget – which will be effective until April 2010. Time is running out and things have got worse, with BBC News recently choosing the Fulham Road as the site that best summed up their recent exposé on the failing small retail sector.
I urge greater urgency. There are things that can be done now to make the plight of our small retailers easier. I hope the Administration acts soon and gets on with doing precisely that.