Over these past four months, we’ve undertaken herculean efforts to safeguard our residents including the most vulnerable residents who were supported during lockdown through our #HelpNewham local hub. This included some 60,000 food and supplies delivered and 200 tonnes of food provided to voluntary sector organisations as part of the borough-wide response.
As we now enter this new phase of living with Covid-19, ensuring that we do everything that we can to mitigate the risk of a second wave in Newham; I wanted to write to you in light of a series of concerns that you and other business owners in Green Street have raised with local ward Councillors over the past couple of weeks concerning measures that we have put in place to support safe social distancing for our residents and overall business support including the issues of business grants and trading licences. These had initially been passed onto Cllr James Asser, the cabinet member for Environment and Sustainable Transport, who in turn has discussed with me because of aspects of the concerns you raise pertain to my portfolio.
To help arrive at a better understanding of the position and actions of the Council, which have been driven by Covid-19 mitigation requirements placed on us as a local authority (as with all authorities in London and elsewhere) to prevent the Covid-19 transmission and deaths; I have had discussions with Cllr Asser and we agree that there would be real value in arranging a meeting with you and other members of the Green Street Traders Association to discuss.
I am particularly concerned at the misrepresentations that have recently been circulated to our local business community by a local campaign group who are making a series of erroneous claims about what the Council is doing – and why – which are wholly inaccurate. For instance, creating more space to enable residents to shop at a safe social distance is part of a series of requirements placed on us by national government in order to prevent local Covid-19 outbreaks and is driven by our collective public health imperative to prevent the transmission of the virus and more deaths.
It is deeply worrying that such misrepresentations about the Council’s actions are being promoted as this is causing our local business community in Green Street, and elsewhere, great anxiety during what has been a very challenging lockdown time for us all.
As previously stated to you in conversations we’ve had over the past year, I am enthused by the partnership that the Council and the Green Street Traders Association has been building since 2019 to drive forward the ambitious investment plans for Green Street and Queens Market over the coming years. As you now the vision for Green Street is to collaboratively work with our communities to transform the area so that it becomes a thriving place for local residents, businesses and visitors coming to Newham. We know that Green Street, as like most local high streets across the London, are grappling with changes to consumer habits and the impact that online shopping has had.
Moreover, it is imperative that we work together develop approaches and actions that can be implemented in the short term to support businesses during this very challenging time. You’ll have noted reports over the past couple of weeks about the significant contraction of the UK economy because of Covid-19 lockdown, and the economic impact on Newham will be great. Already, the financial impact on the Council has been in the region of £60 million, and despite the measures announced by the Chancellor on Wednesday this will simply not be enough to offset the impact in our borough as we continue to put in place measures to stop the increase in infections and save lives.
The Council will always need to balance the needs of businesses, with the needs of residents and the public health imperative to help build confidence and encourage people to shop in Green Street. In your email sent on the 22nd June, you stated the following:
‘As to the concerns of traders, we have been approached by several of our members about the loss of key on street car parking spaces to so called temporary pavement widening. We wish it to be put on record that there has been no consultation with Traders about these measures and it seems these works started during the lockdown period whilst most Traders businesses were closed. As an Association we have already proven there is a serious lack of parking spaces in the area and we strongly object to these works and want them stopped and reversed immediately. Our understanding is that the council used emergency powers to implement these measures on health and safety grounds but this directly contradicts and contravenes both the government’s and TFLs advice and recommendations that the public try and avoid public transport and travel by car if possible to stop the spread of covid 19. It also needs to be pointed out that the people who will suffer the most from the removal of these on street car parking spaces will be the elderly and disabled who will no longer be able to access the shopping centre without difficulty. Another effect of these measures will be to force drivers to park on side roads thereby inconveniencing local [residents].
With respect, I disagree with your assertions as these are simply not true, and I am happy to elaborate further when we meet. I will ask officers to be in touch with you and other members of the Green Street Traders Association, alongside other business owners who have raised concerns, for a meeting next week, and will aim to organise a meeting for next week if it can be convened with our respective diaries.
In the meantime, please note attached, some initial responses to the range of questions that you raised in your email sent to ward councillors on the 22nd June.
I look forward to discussing all these and associated matters further next week.
Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz OBE