CamdenNewJournal

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Town Hall urged to do more to help the boarded up high streets

Camden can't solve pandemic alone, says regeneration chief

20 November, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Danny Beales said that Camden cannot solve the pandemic crisis alone

HIGH street shops are shutting down at an alarming rate as the virus crisis continues, and the council needs to be able to do more to help.

This was the warning from opposition councillors this week who said Camden was not charting which ones had gone out of business.

The issue of shops staying closed permanently once the current Covid lockdown ends was raised at a scrutiny meeting on Tuesday with Finchley Road and Bloomsbury cited as badly-hit areas.

Both are to lose their branches of Habitat as the famous furniture business founded by the late Sir Terence Conran, now owned by Sainsbury’s, changes its retail strategy.

But backbench councillors warned many more shops were being permanently boarded up. Council officers said they had no way of telling which ones had closed, apart from searching tax records or Companies House.

Cllr Oliver Cooper

Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper said Companies House was for companies, not individual shop units, and added that officials only needed to walk around to see the problem.

“Anyone who has walked along Finchley Road or gone to Swiss Cottage will have seen shop after shop closed and there are four or five opposite Finchley Road station – there is a complete decimation of shops there,” he said, adding Camden has been “unresponsive” when asked by commercial tenants for help with the rent.

Lib Dem leader Councillor Luisa Porritt also asked why data on closures was not being collected.

Labour councillor Rishi Madlani said of Bloomsbury: “Every walk we go on, every evening, I see a new business or new shop boarded up.”

But Camden’s regeneration chief Councillor Danny Beales told the meeting: “Camden alone cannot solve the huge economic fallout of a global pandemic” and national investment was needed.

He told the meeting that the “majority of jobs being lost are not on the high street,” adding: “It’s self-employed people, people in office, in shared workspaces… so I think going around counting shopfronts that may or not be closed is probably not the best use of our slim resources. What we need to be doing is administering grants as quickly as possible.”

Love chat in Habitat

IT may not seem like the most obvious place for romance: even if the lighting department is beautifully lit, you may still spot a couple disagreeing on how comfortable a futon really is.

But as he reflected on news that upscale furniture retailers Habitat is to close down its flagship store in Tottenham Court Road, Labour ward councilor Rishi Madlani shared an extra reason for his lament. “It feels very sad at the moment seeing Habitat close,” he told a scrutiny committee on Tuesday. “As someone who has been on many dates as a young gay man around Habitat at the weekend, it’s very sad to see that go.”

Cllr Rishi Madlani

Online, he said he had bought bed sheets which were “really good quality” from the store in Bloomsbury and the “odd picture frame”.

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