Speech on 18/01/2021 Full Camden Council meeting- Future of High Streets.

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to speak and share what I and many others think about the future of Kilburn High Road and how the council can help.

A few facts about , Kilburn Town Centre, a major town Centre.

It has 448 none residential units compared to 332 in Camden High Street and more than a thousand residential addresses, compared to 306 in Camden High Street.

It is very well served by public transport with 2 tube stations, 2 overground stations and 9 bus routes. Also around 90000 people live within a 15mins walk.

What does Kilburn High Road offer?

The music mile has turned into the “Bargain Mile”. As Zadie Smith says “All users of Kilburn High Road are striving for a bargain”. This explains that despite the COVID crisis, footfall is still very high, as shoppers with no other alternative still flock to the high road in search of those bargains. However a lot of local residents will go out of their ways to avoid the High Road and use it only when there is no alternative.

Why? It is simple and has very little to do with its retail, leisure or community offering but sadly has to do with the derelict state of the public infrastructure, pollution, general grime and road dangers.

The pavements are not only dirty, narrow and overcrowded but dangerous. Try to navigate the High Road with a push chair! Only 2 benches in a stretch of 1 mile, 7 trees, 10 Cycle hoops. In brief Kilburn High Road is not a welcoming space for pedestrians and cyclists, those very people who spend in commercial premises.

Yet being a bargain mile is not a sustainable future for our high road with its high commercial rents and business rates. Small businesses cannot survive if their customers can only pay bargain prices.

Kilburn has most of the hallmarks of the centre of a 15mins city with its retail, leisure and community offerings. However it lacks in one fundamental, that is a safe, unpolluted, clean, welcoming environment for pedestrians and cyclists and this is where the council can help.

Business grants during Covid are necessary especially for our pubs and restaurants, but what is needed urgently is investment in public realm, to attract the people who actively avoid the high road, back to our high road and make it a place for people. Once a place for people, businesses will come and stay.

Urgent actions.

-enforcement of the highways law that gives the council powers to remove items blocking public pavements and fine business owners

-enforcement of planning laws that require planning permission for shopfront amendments, conversion of commercial premises into residential units. Use of Section 215 notices to force landlords to maintain street facades,

– enforcement of parking regulations

– introduction of2 timed rubbish collections a day, to prevent cluttering by bins. This is the only high road with no timed rubbish collection in Camden

Renew pavements, declutter and widen.

– add bicycle parking spaces not at the expense of pedestrians, add benches and green up the high road.

– restrict permissible loading times to a few hours a day and enforce to facilitate traffic and bus flows

– introduce a 20 miles per hour speed limit

turn under used public spaces like grange way and Palmerston Road into markets for small businesses.

Thank you.

PS: very much doubt that the improvements suggested in the consultation launched today will address any of the requirements above.

Leave a Comment