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Jul 31 2013

Willy Says: Harrow Town Centre Vacancy Rates – the facts

cllr_william_stoodley_2Cllr Will Stoodley (ILG, Harrow West), the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Urban Regeneration, writes to update us on the vacancy rates in Harrow’s Town Centre.

We are investing in improving the look of the high street:

  • We are creating a town centre the people of Harrow can be proud of.
  • We have put in new paving, new lights and made the area less cluttered.
  • We are completely revamping our local park, just the other side of the Tow Centre, which has a performances space which we can fill with art and culture.
  • We have invested this morning during these tough financial times because we know from the shops that are already here, that they want to trade in an environment that looks good and that people want to come to.

We successfully bid for a large sum on money from the Mayor of London which we have put to good use:

  • Hosted events like markets and festivals and a pop up gallery, to attract people to the town centre and increase footfall.
  • We have helped our traders redesign their shop windows with visual merchandising courses.
  • Increased marketing of the town centre – publicity for events, goodie bag giveaways, promotion of what’s on offer in the town centre and we have created a How to guide with case studies from local businesses to demonstrate how to open a business.

We want to make sure that the work we are doing now is sustainable in the future:

  • We have developed strong relationships with our traders – it’s important to work together
  • We are developing a Business Improvement District which will enable businesses to raise money and spend it as they wish to promote and regenerate their business area.
  • We have a thriving Town Centre Forum to make sure that everyone gets a say on the improvements.

We have had new tenants opening in Harrow Town Centre:

  • H&M and Nandos are two new big brands which have opened recently
  • We have had significant funding to upgrade the Vue Cinema

The facts:

  • Harrow Town Centre’s shop vacancy rates are below the London & National averages (8.9%)
    • London average – 10.1%
    • UK average – 14.6%

Background – Over the past two years we have:

  • Held a series of events in the Town Centre, such as food and dance festivals, European food & antiques markets, music events installed Christmas lights and held a Xmas lights event switch on – each event give residents a reason to shop local and keeps them coming back to Harrow. Our food & dance festival in March drew in crowds of 30,000.
  • We have developed successful relationships with our traders, shopping centres and groups like Harrow In Business. We continue to work in partnership with them to deliver services to help the local business community. Ultimately though we want it to be sustainable and for them to manage their own destiny, which is why we have secured funding to set up the Business Improvement District (BID). A Business Improvement District enables businesses to raise money and spend it as they wish to promote and regenerate their business area. There is the potential for town centre based businesses to raise over £250,000 to spend on activities to increase footfall. These are an important tool in co-coordinating local investment to improve the trading environment.
  • We have been offering a range of support for traders from visual merchandising programmes to help increase footfall, and exploring ways to relax planning regulations.
  • Work will now begin on revamping Lowlands into an urban park and outdoor performance space, after the Council’s Planning Committee gave the green light to the £1.28m plans.
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