A Retailer’s View – Michael Donovan
I love our High Street! As a local resident of over thirty years and an independent retailer I have watched the slow recovery of Lordship Lane and Northcross Rd that has taken us from the sad, desolate, boarded up stores of ‘Hardship Lane’ in the early noughties, to the vibrant, diverse collection of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques that have made us the envy of other communities around the country. This transformation was lead by local people who took a huge risk at the beginning and opened independent businesses in the hope that we could build something to be proud of and negate the need to travel into Central London for dinner, a decent cup of coffee or something beautiful for the home!
Although it has taken over fifteen years, we have succeeded and now enjoy such quality and choice in East Dulwich that these days I rarely travel into W1 unless I am going to the theatre!
But now our beloved High Street is under threat. Across the UK, fourteen stores are closing every day as online shopping, hiked business rates and a vast increase in rents take their toll. East Dulwich is not immune and we have already lost a number of established independent businesses in the last six months. The looming realities of Brexit also cast a long shadow as none us in the business community know if we will be coping with new international customs tariffs and a weaker pound that will make our goods much more expensive.
Southwark Council has chosen this precarious moment to propose the introduction of CPZ (Controlled Parking Zones), something that local people rejected in 2012 and a move that I believe will be catastrophic for the small independents that lie at the heart of our retail community. We do not have the deep pockets of the large chain stores and the inevitable loss in footfall will tip the balance and cause some of our most cherished stores to close their doors for good. The end result would be, at best, a homogenised High St of generic brands that can be found everywhere and, at worst, a return to the bad old days of dozens of empty premises covered in graffiti – just look at the old Londis premises today! I am incredibly proud of our High St and I enjoy all of its many facets every day so cannot bear the thought of losing what so many have worked so hard to achieve and facing a future where choice and experience are diminished.
We serve the community – and I have to say it is a complete pleasure to do so – and local residents are our customers so if Controlled Parking is the wish of the majority then obviously we must honour democracy and face the consequences together. However I believe that this move is actually a dressed-up stealth tax and will not result in the cleaner, greener streets promised. It will seriously impact local businesses as it has in other local areas including Herne Hill where trade at lunchtime has been decimated. I hope that residents respond to the Council’s canvassing and reject the proposal as we cannot succeed without the support of local people. We have something at the heart of our community that cannot be re-created if it is destroyed and I hope that we can work together to protect it.
A Resident’s View – Jon Fitzmaurice (Oglander Road)
Be Careful What You Wish For!
Last time around, in 2012, the Council’s rationale for introducing CPZs was largely as a response to the level of parking by commuters and its impact on local residents. However, it’s now equally about air pollution and health issues. As a result, an increasing number of residents may be tempted to back a CPZ. But do bear in mind that:
* There will be more permits issued than parking spaces available – no one is guaranteed a space
* The arrival of the CPZ will encourage people to apply for “dropped curbs” which will further reduce the amount of street parking in roads and have an adverse environmental impact on the water table as people concrete over their front gardens to make them into parking lots.
* Permits will have to be purchased for use by tradespeople & visitors during periods when the CPZ is in operation and
* Charges are likely to increase from year to year. Whatever the council says, income from permits, parking charges and fines (there will be more of these!) are a welcome revenue stream across the borough, at a time when their income from central government is being cut.
Furthermore, there’s the impact on local shops and businesses to consider, the presence of which makes living here so rewarding for many people. As things stand, businesses will be required to pay £500+ for a permit (four times as much as residents) for vehicles that are essential to their business, but there’s no provision for any employees needing to drive to work. Driving our local traders to the wall mustn’t happen.
Finally, spare a thought for key workers, like teachers and health workers, needing to drive to work. There’s no provision for them, even though they run our local schools and services.
Have Your Say (the consultation period has been extended to end-February)
Drop-in session on Saturday 26 January, 2pm-5pm at Push Studios, 17 Blackwater Street, SE22 8RR.