Hounslow Chamber of Commerce has criticised the council masterplan for Hounslow Town Centre. The criticism may be premature, as the council agrees with much of what is said, and says it plans further consultation.
The London Borough of Hounslow Chamber of Commerce says it has published a document called “Better Vision” as a contrast to the Master Plan and SPD produced by Hounslow Council.
The Chamber of Commerce says the council masterplan is “fundamentally flawed”, and the proposals within it do not address the unique problems faced by Hounslow Town Centre businesses and residents.
They say they have developed an alternative and better view of how the opportunity to regenerate Hounslow Town Centre can be maximised. It has used the expertise of Chamber Members to identify what should be done with this “once in a lifetime opportunity”.
The key flaw, in their view, is that the consultation undertaken was too short, not inclusive enough, and asked the wrong questions. They think this has helped produce a vision too focussed on retail. The Chamber wants to work in Partnership with the Council ensuring that the voice of business is heard.
It has published a “Better Vision Document” along with an open letter calling for all interested parties to join it in a public debate about what is best for Hounslow.
In their document they call for the creation of a Town Centre Community through higher volumes of residential units than proposed in the development, and a greater focus on leisure, in particular the development of an evening and night time economy. They feel there is no need to build a new shopping centre, but more that what already exists needs to be better used.
They say, in their open letter, that they “are now working closely with Hounslow Council, in partnership, the way it should be”, and urge people to “come and join us in our conversation”.
Their criticism, in particular of the consultation, may be premature, as further rounds are planned, and the council masterplan already makes much of plans to expand the housing and leisure elements of a mixed town centre.
Councillor Ruth Cadbury, cabinet member for Regeneration, said: “As with the Chamber’s last public statement on Hounslow town centre, their latest leaflet contains many points on which we agree.
“Improving the heart of Hounslow is a top priority for the council. We are working through a process at the moment which will result in a new local plan and will involve extensive consultation. Obviously the Chamber’s views will be included.
“Both the council and the chamber support a mixed economy in the town centre, including residential and leisure developments to create a stronger community. We both want the town centre to be safer at night. A new cinema, more restaurants and cafes and more homes along with better quality, bigger-name shops are all part of our vision.
“The country is in its longest-running recession ever and we need to take every opportunity to encourage growth in the borough and be ready for when the economy improves; we believe this includes encouraging some of the popular high street chains back into Hounslow to bring back customers who currently shop elsewhere, which will also have a knock-on benefit for the whole town centre.
“We are already looking at some of the points the Chamber makes in its leaflet – for example, improving connections and visibility between the High Street and the Blenheim Centre Phase 2 development, looking again at proposals which would route buses away from the town centre, and improving safety within the pedestrian area.
“We want the heart of the town and our community to be lively, prosperous and, and with our partners and the Chamber, that is what we will achieve.”