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Alessia, show me a pretty street? ‘Village ambassador’ to roam Hampstead

BID hires helper to aid lost tourists and flag up problems in NW3

31 July, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Alessia de Angelis: how can she help you today?

HAMPSTEAD visitors can look forward to their own “ambassador’s reception” as part of a trial organised by business chiefs to provide a more welcoming High Street.

The £8,000 pilot scheme will see guide Alessia de Angelis operate as a “village ambassador”, who will roam the streets helping lost people and flagging up problems such as cracks in the pavement and broken street lights.

The post has been funded by the Hampstead Village Business Improvement District (BID) which takes an annual fee from businesses and uses it to improve the area.

The levy was recently at the centre of a legal fight by a pub landlord Jimmy McGrath who has refused to pay and questioned how businesses were benefiting from the charge.

The ambassador role is similar to tourism projects in Covent Garden and the West End.

Sebastian Wocker, who runs the Hampstead Village Voice and is a vocal critic of the levy, said: “This is another needless expense from the BID, an organisation that forces money out of local businesses, charities, schools and NHS surgeries. Hampstead did fine for a thousand years without a BID.”

But neighbourhood campaigner Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who runs a Hampstead Facebook page and newsletter, said the ambassador was an “interesting development”.

She added: “When the last shop review was done by Mary Portas, she advocated a high street tzar on every high street. Having someone whose job is specifically to address these issues is a good development and I look forward to a cleaner and better functioning high street.”

The Hampstead BID was introduced in 2016 after a ballot of businesses in NW3, but has since faced questions about what traders get back. Mr McGrath, at the King William IV pub in Hampstead High Street, has appealed against a court decision forcing him to pay.

There will not be another ballot on whether the BID should continue until 2021. Hampstead BID’s contractor is Welcome People, a company that stations similar helpers in Covent Garden and other city centres across the country.

Marcos Gold, Hampstead Village BID Manager, said: “Alessia will be there to direct guests to where they need to go, be a conduit to help visitors and tourists explore more of our beautiful village, and report on environmental concerns.”

The village ambassador will operate during the hours of 10am-6pm, Thursday to Sunday as part of the three-month trial.

A statement from Welcome People said: “For nearly eight years The Welcome People have been making a difference to the communities we serve. We’re delighted to be in Hampstead Village and look forward to working with the BID and its members across the summer.”

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