The government backed plan devised by Mary Portas, retail entrepreneur and broadcaster, to reinvigorate Britain’s high street has been enthusiastically taken up by creative, energetic entrepreneurs and local communities.
Local ingenuity and government grants have supported efforts to transform the high street economy in towns all over the country.
However progress on this front has been frustratingly slow and ineffectual in the Lewisham borough. Although the Portas scheme has offered the opportunity to try new ideas on the high streets of Forest Hill, Sydenham, and Kirkdale, Lewisham council have not capitalized on the opportunities to promote a broad and sustainable foundation for high street businesses.
Local people and campaigners are becoming increasingly frustrated with Lewisham Council’s alarming lack of vision and ambition. Tony Bays, one local campaigner, believes the local economy and communities have been let down by the Lewisham Council’s ‘over-dependent approach on pop-up shops and short-term property use.’ He is thoroughly concerned by the apparent failure to attract a ‘wide range of businesses capable of bringing about a sustainable recovery in Sydenham and Forest Hill.’
Meanwhile, the startling inefficiencies of the planning process regarding new shop fronts and the redevelopment of the Greyhound Pub continue to bewilder local entrepreneurs and campaigners. Lewisham Conservatives urge effective implementation of planning policy that supports local business, and warn against Councillor Chris Best’s policy which threatens to destabilise the momentum of a sustainable recovery.