The Chiswick Shops Task Force publishes major report on Chiswick’s retail economy

The Chiswick Shops Task Force, led by councillors from both councils that incorporate Chiswick, has published its first report: Ensuring a thriving retail economy in Chiswick.

Nearly 18 months in the preparation, this detailed report highlights the threats to Chiswick’s unusually varied retail districts but also identifies opportunities to improve them further.

Besides the obvious issues of rents and rates, both of which are looked at in detail, the report identifies a number of other key problems facing traders today:

  • the thoughtless imposition of policies that affect Chiswick’s retail economy;
  • a failure to listen to traders leading to a poor relationship with Hounslow council;
  • the absence of effective policies that encourage walking and cycling without damaging retail;
  • a lack of parking near shops and threats to remove what is available;
  • a fundamental misunderstanding about how the retail sector works.

The opportunities suggested in the report include:

  • changing the culture around rents and leases to retain successful businesses and attract more;
  • using the opportunity of the review of business rates to get rid of them;
  • changes to policies for street furniture, recycling and waste collections, lighting and policing to maintain and improve Chiswick’s local environment;
  • 32 ideas to celebrate and promote aspects of Chiswick from art and literature to crafts and the Battle of Turnham Green as well as significantly improving the Christmas shopping experience;
  • councils adopting a listening culture based on working together for the benefit of traders, residents and, by encouraging a successful retail economy, themselves.

Lead author of the report and Leader of the Conservative group on Hounslow Council Cllr Joanna Biddolph (Turnham Green) said:

“We have spent 18 months listening to local traders, seeking to understand what affects their businesses, for the better and for the worse, and their needs when building and maintaining successful businesses, and working with them to protect and improve our wonderfully diverse shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants.

“COVID-19 has highlighted just how fragile much of our retail and hospitality sector is.  I’m so grateful to the Chancellor for all his support measures but now we need long-term changes in policy and practice to put our traders on a surer footing so they can see and plan for a successful future.

“Some of our proposals may be controversial and not everyone will agree with all of them but we are committed to discussing these ideas – and others that people in the community want to share – at a public meeting as soon as we are able to hold one.  We have so much that is good in Chiswick to protect and be proud of – and our shop owners work so hard and invest so much in our lovely neighbourhood – but there are so many ways in which we can make it better for them.  And we must do so.”

Cllr Gabriella Giles (Chiswick Riverside) said:

“One of the challenges is to keep Chiswick’s shopping streets attractive and relevant for new generations growing up with an online shopping habit.  That’s why we need the backing of Hounslow Council to make sure we defend what we’ve got and don’t undermine it with ill-thought out, centrally imposed policies such as the recent traffic and parking changes which fail to recognise how and where Chiswick residents shop.”

Cllr Anthony Young (Ealing Council) who founded Young Veterinary Partnership which continues, after his retirement, at Bedford Corner, added:

“We’ve been inspired by the energy and commitment to Chiswick of our local traders and by the good will we have seen during the lockdown.  There’s a great spirit in our community that can be harnessed and, with COVID-19 changing many people’s shopping habits, there are opportunities as well as threats for local traders.  We must build on those opportunities and remove the threats.”

Cllr Patrick Barr (Chiswick Homefields) concluded:

“Preparing this report has been a journey of discovery for us all.  The end result is a serious report that we intend to share with ministers and policy-makers nationally as well as with the two councils responsible for Chiswick. While we have focused on Chiswick’s unique environment, there is much that we have learned that can be shared for the greater good of retail. From a personal perspective, it’s been wonderful meeting and getting to know local traders who want the very best for Chiswick”.