As the minister with responsibility for Local Government, Bob Neill met with the South End Green Traders’ Association, Barnet & Camden Assembly member Brian Coleman, councillors Chris Knight and Don Williams and local campaigners. All were invited to meet with the minister to discuss a number of issues ranging from rent increases and the Localism Act to Mary Portas’ review of British high streets.
Local campaigner, Jessica Learmond-Criqui, highlighted the problems faced by local businesses as a result of Camden Council’s draconian relationship with local traders. High rates and inflexibility are putting a lot of local businesses under strain at a time when local businesses are needed more than ever to help jump start economic recovery.
Camden Council’s high rates and rigidity are also leading to the demise of Hampstead’s High street’s unique beauty. Many independent businesses are now unable to afford to have their stores on the high street causing the rise in big companies. Camden’s high streets are at risk of losing their individuality if the Council does not work with local businesses.
Bob Neill and Brian Coleman visited Pure Fruit on Heath Street, a small local green grocer in business for the past 30 years and one of the many local jewels now under threat from closure due to the Council’s inflated rent increases.
Neill was concerned that local businesses are having to make tough decisions, including letting go of staff, in order to meet such high rates. He stated that while the final decision was down to the council, the Government has made available reliefs so that councils could make the situation better for traders. He continued that Camden Council has the same discretion as other councils around the country and it is sad that they do not use this to relieve local business concerns.
Bob Neill took a tour of Hampstead and South End Green so he could see firsthand the bustling community that is under threat from Camden’s lack of sympathy for local traders’ woes. He visited the Photocraft on Heath Street, House of Mistry pharmacy, Hampstead Antiques Emporium and other local gems.
Also on the agenda was the ongoing 168 bus debacle. The South End Green Trader’s Association voiced their frustrations about the no. 168 bus stand at South End Green which is causing business to decline in the area.
At the end of the productive day, Neill thanked the attendees for their feedback and stated that he would bring up the many issues discussed with the relevant ministers in his department, so that it could be fed into wider policy.