CHRAG met with Rachel Victor-Sampson, Chiswick Town Centre Manager. Rachel explained that she covers Brentford and Isleworth as well as Chiswick. Her team at the Council is principally involved with Regeneration and Inward Investment, headed up by Ian Rae.
We had a wide-ranging agenda which included:
- Supporting small businesses and traders on CHR (& adjoining streets)
- Maintaining the character & context of Chiswick, in line with the Local Plan, Character & Context study, new conservation area status, etc
- Carrying out a comprehensive appraisal of CHR. Can we bid for money to fund CHRAG or a consortium of local interested to commission/prepare such an appraisal?
- What we can do to ensure highest-possible quality of any new building or refurbishment of existing buildings.
- Our concerns about over-dense/over-high new developments (eg. Empire House).
- Improve short-term parking for shoppers and encourage LBH/TfL to consider introduction of shuttle bus services, cycle lanes, etc to encourage local shopping and support of local businesses/traders.
- In line with LBH commitment to community engagement, improve dissemination of information about planning applications and developments by using all means of communication, including IT-based but also notices at Town Hall, Library, Post Office, street notice boards.
- Telephone boxes (we have supported a planning application to turn a couple of boxes into coffee kiosks)
After some discussion about the Manager’s realistic ability to deal with many of our concerns, the following emerged :
1. Public realm
Defending the public realm. We made clear that we were concerned about infringements on the public realm. For instance, we explained our concerns about a possible offer from developers to re-imagine the market stalls (in front of Sainsburys), as part of their S106 payment. Not only should substantial S106 supply amenities such as schools and doctors’ surgeries, but also we did not want to encourage any risk that public realm could become privatised.
2. Design surgeries
We felt that more discussion about developments in Chiswick before planning applications would be useful.
3. Transport issues
One of our members had in the past drawn up a list of possible parking areas that could be effectively used by the public on the weekend (eg. behind the Town Hall, ex-BSI building, etc. Rachel would look into the matter.
The noticeboard at the Town Hall was neglected, and could be used to better effect.
5. Chiswick Market
There was discussion about the possibility of creating a Saturday Chiswick Market in the car park outside the police station, which used to be the site of the old Chiswick Market. It was felt this could provide a central point for Chiswick, which was felt to be lacking, eg. for a Christmas tree. CHRAG would explore further.
6. Destination Chiswick / ShopChiswick
Destination Chiswick, with the support of MP Mary Macleod and Rachel, is aiming to raise money via Spacehive to create a Chiswick website and maps. ShopChiswick links small businesses in the area.