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Kensington High Street set for improvements after £5m investment

Businesses in and around Kensington High Street voted on 11 February to establish the area’s first business improvement district (BID), ‘Opportunity Kensington’.

A BID is a business-led and business-funded body formed to improve a defined commercial area.

BIDs can improve footfall and staff retention, while also reducing business costs and allowing the companies involved to decide and direct what they would like in the area they operate in.

88% of businesses that voted in a ballot held on 10 February supported the BID, representing 98% of the rateable value of voting businesses.

It is the third to be voted through in Kensington and Chelsea in the last six months, following Brompton Road in September and King’s Road in November 2021.

Catherine Faulks, councillor for Kensington and Chelsea, felt the businesses in the High Street desperately needed support after a difficult two years since the start of the pandemic.

She said: “We realised that our high streets were being really impacted by covid – high streets within London actually experienced a tougher time than those outside of London.

“And so we realised a huge amount of investment will be needed to support businesses to come out of these two difficult years. 

“With the Kensington high street BID, the council has actually invested £75,000 itself in order to get off the ground and and that will actually result in £5m invested, which is a really amazing return.”

Combined, the BIDs will generate £15m in the next five years for the borough’s high streets.

The introduction of the BID is part of other activities supported by the Council to improve local high streets and boost the local economy across the borough.

To Faulks’ delight, the announcement of the news has been met positively by both residents and businesses alike.

She said: “The reception has been really positive. One of the frequent complaints I get is ‘What’s happened to Kensington High Street? It’s so dull and dreary, it needs to return to its former glory’.

“From a residents’ perspective they want to see a thriving high street that’s an attractive and pleasant place to go and visit, for shopping, or eating.”

The focus for the immediate future is on bringing attention to the borough and promoting the high street.

Faulks said: “Over the coming 100 days, a programme promoting Kensington as a great place to come will begin.

“Kensington high street in its hayday used to be one of the coolest days in London to go shopping, and I think working together, the businesses have a really good opportunity to get back to those days.”

While job creation is hard to quantify, Faulks is optimistic as every single unit on the High Street now has a lease, and with companies like Warner Music backing the BID, the future for the area is looking bright.

The council also has plans to work with businesses to promote more environmentally friendly practices that not only benefit them, but the wider community within Kensington and Chelsea.

She said: “Long term projects may include things like small greening, air quality improvements, more benches – generally more public realm things that they can do to improve the look of the high street.

“This is something that is coming from the council – we’re working on an environmental business charter, in which we think we can give businesses pointers to things they can do themselves to help the environment.

“Be that from the small stuff like not leaving your doors open and letting all the heating pour out in the winter, to not leaving all your lights on all the time, and using green vans and vehicles for deliveries.

“We have the highest ratio of charging points against number of electric vehicles, and have more charging points than just about anywhere else in the country per capita, as all residents are within 200 metres of a charging point and over 70% now within 100 metres.”

She hopes the BID will greatly benefit businesses currently in the area, and those that will eventually join in the future – with ideas already to continue improving the borough for the entire community.

Faulks said: “We’re thinking about doing a CID, a community improvement district, on Portobello Road and there isn’t one in the world which exists yet.

“We’re also looking at the Earl’s Court Road area to see if it would be feasible to do a business improvement district there as well.”

The new Opportunity Kensington BID will launch in April 2022.

Image credits – Mickey Lee/Mediamixer

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