High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis visited a number of shops in Chiswick in a bid to address the needs of local businesses in the area, writes Kuba Shand-Baptiste.           

The minister began the tour with visits to independent businesses along Turnham Green Terrace, ending up at Outsider Tart - a bakery on Chiswick High Street - for a Q&A session with shop owners.

Parking and the business rates retention scheme including Business Improvements Districts (‘BIDs’) were heavily debated during the discussion.

In reference to the Turnham Green Station bus stop opposite her shop Diane Bennett, co-founder of the home retailer Zecca on Turnham Green Terrace and one of the shops visited by Mr. Lewis said: “It’s crazy. We have enough parking problems, there’s enough for three buses to fit there and you don’t ever get three buses there”.

Fiona Wallis, co-owner of the toy shop Snapdragon on Turnham Green Terrace said: “It would be nice if the government recognised that people are putting a lot of work into their businesses.

“It would encourage people to come to places if the issue of parking was addressed. But you’ve still got the issue that the local authority see it as a cash cow”.

Mr. Lewis was recently involved in a consultation on the matter and expressed hopes to push for more “low-priced or free accessible car-parking”.

Another retailer, Sam Harrison - co-owner of Sam’s Brasserie and Bar in Chiswick said: “I pay £44,000 a year in business rates and feel that I get nothing. Absolutely nothing. I don’t even get my street cleaned, and you’re asking me to pay more towards a BID”.

David Lesniak, co-owner of Outsider Tart said: “I don’t support BIDs at all, they’re an additional cost for a very indeterminate benefit.

“Our rates are still going to the council, but the council isn’t holding itself responsible for performing those tasks. Often the goal [with BIDs] is to improve streets, to make them look prettier. Which is all stuff that the council should be doing.

“We’ve had problems here at this end with the trash sitting on the street for three weeks”.

Mr Lewis responded: “The businesses that have a bid, choose what they want to take and what they want to do with it, if they want a bid at all. Huge parts of the country do not have a bid. It’s entirely locally decided”.

When asked about the relationship between independent businesses and local authorities, Mr Lewis added: “I think it could be much better generally with councils and small businesses, relationships with the council are quite poor.

“For those businesses to prosper, they need to make sure that the council is aware of what they need and what their customers are saying."

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