Boris places small shops high on the agenda


Boris Johnson to launch a review on how best to support small businesses.

 By Tom Uden and Edd Gent

Boris Johnson reiterated his intentions to help London’s small businesses at Mayor’s Question Time on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson made election pledges to aid small businesses and has ordered a study to identify ways to achieve this.

Merton Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Diana Sterck, is optimistic that Mr Johnson’s commitment to the small businessman will have a positive impact in the area.

Mr Johnson said: “The point of the review on small shops is to make an assessment of the need, and benefits, of small shops and to look at the potential for large retail developers to support small shops.”

Ms Sterck highlighted the difficulties small businesses have in operating in Merton.

“I think that the challenge that Merton town centre has is affordability,” she said.

“Looking at Wimbledon village and Wimbledon town centre there are extremely high rent and rates, so it’s quite prohibitive for small independents to move in or stay.”

Another big concern for Merton is that retail developers favour large units as they are easier to manage, reducing the number of premises for small shops.

One of the Mr Johnson proposals is a requirement for large retailers to provide affordable properties for small businesses.

He said: “We are studying the effectiveness, the potential of idea, of getting a pot of cash from large developers to rejuvenate shops in London.”

Ms Sterck was particularly supportive of this aspect of Mr Johnson’s proposal.

“It would encourage more people to become shop owners again,” she said.

“There are less and less independents and more large chains moving in so if you want to avoid these so called clone towns then local government really has to intervene to do something about it.”

Ian Murray opened I&S Locksmiths in Wimbledon 25 years ago and hopes the plans will bring some diversity back to the high street.

He said: “Wherever you go its kind of the same. You could be in Croydon and it’s the same as Wimbledon, but years ago it was all individual shops.”

Sue Bathia who works at Junction Box on the Broadway, Wimbledon, said: “Small business does need developing, we’ve got Morrisons Sainsburys just 100 yards away and it has been a bit difficult to survive.

“I would definitely say that we need someone to step in and help us.”

Ms Sterck plans to attend a Business Question Time for small businesses held by the Mayor on May 24, in Blackfriars.

“In this borough we would love to see more independents,” she said. “In order to change the shape of our town centres a lot has to be done so this might be a solution.”

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