Geoff Hill of Redbridge Chamber blogs to urge Council to make business space a priority as well as housing

Geoff Hill
It’s small business week 31 August – 6th September. Thanks to Geoff Hill, Chambers chair, for sharing his thoughts
Another year and another small business week!. I hope that the last year has been good for all local SMEs. Redbridge is something of an engine for the development of new small businesses in London.
Research commissioned by the Redbridge Chamber of Commerce on behalf of Redbridge Council has highlighted that the Borough has more new small businesses being created than anywhere else in the Capital. The research also showed that there was a need for much better signposting to the support that is available for new start ups and this has now started to happen.
  1. There is a new enterprise hub to be based in Central Ilford and run by Vision, a stand alone part of the Council;
  2. Sophia Hubs provides creative help for community and third sector businesses
  3. Redbridge Chamber has a special free membership offer for all new businesses that wish to join.
Redbridge is a good place to start a business, it is well connected in the main, although small business advice weekthere are some parts of the road network that demand attention and are the subject of joint planning between Redbridge and Newham and there are good train, tube and bus links. Locally we are also well placed to develop business within the greater London and Essex areas or to develop in one of the many local town centres across the Borough. Areas like Gants Hill, Barkingside, Ilford Centre and Wanstead are pretty dynamic places and there is a good deal of entrepreneurial spirit in the way these places are making themselves attractive to increasing customer activity and ensuring that the local business experience is positive and profitable.
Local people like to have a vibrant local economy! The Chamber and other organisations have long lobbied Redbridge Council to support local shops, for instance, by having customer friendly parking regulation and this is now beginning to happen, making it easier for people to use local businesses without the constant fear of a parking ticket if they overstay by a minute or two.
Like most of the country, Redbridge as a whole is under threat from development that does not necessarily fit with the needs of local Business and the local community. Redbridge Council has its own development plan and housing action areas to try to ensure that new development is beneficial to all aspects of the local community. The plans for Redbridge therefore need to take into account that new developments should to be business friendly. While affordable housing is a national and local priority, business space must be a priority also. It is not enough to provide new shop fronts; local businesses need affordable office space and a range of units into which growing businesses might expand. If such spaces are not available in Redbridge, then businesses will move out. Local business has to be able to grasp the raft of opportunities that regeneration, like Crossrail, is likely to bring. It would be good for the Borough if the benefits could stay in Redbridge: Crossrail could easily take businesses out of the area unless there is space for business locally.
However, small businesses do have a good home in Redbridge at the moment and there is much to encourage anyone who wants to do business here to set up their operation. Regeneration through large scale schemes may be largely in the gift of the Council, but businesses should not be afraid of lobbying their local councillors to make their views known, or use the Chamber, and local regeneration can be influenced through local and Borough wide trade associations and the Chamber.
Being in business is hard work and what we all need is for a reasonably beneficial  local climate in which to set out our stalls and to feel that we are able to grow and prosper. Small businesses are the mainstay of the economy, nationally and locally, so it is very important that small business owners are supported. Let us hope that we can make the most of what the future offers in Redbridge!
Geoff Hill
Chair, Redbridge Chamber of Commerce.

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