Video highlights West Hampstead’s first class transport links

The West Hampstead Business Association (of which West Hampstead Life is a member) has been busy in the past couple of months. It’s worked with local filmmakers Krishna Govender and Tom Jones to produce a video extolling the virtues of West Hampstead’s transport connections.

The idea is to show prospective businesses that West Hampstead is a good place to do business (though no doubt estate agents will be using it freely to show why it’s also a great place to live). This is intended to be part of a series of short videos that focus on different aspects of what makes West Hampstead great.

Alongside the video, the WHBA is also responsible for the lovely hanging baskets that now adorn West End Lane and Mill Lane. Hanging baskets It also hosted a summer party at the Cricket Club with a discussion on rent and rate reviews courtesy of Jeremy Manuel and Philip Waldman, and a sprinkling of celebrity glamour from Imelda Staunton.

WHBA Summer BBQ - Imelda Staunton

Imelda Staunto captures the WHBA’s attention. Photo courtesy of David Jacobs @ Colour Division

Business Assocation finds new momentum

Tomorrow evening, the West Hampstead Business Association holds its reLaunch event. An early disclaimer: West Hampstead Life is involved in the WHBA and has been helping the existing committee think through this revamp.

Why now? ¦ Launch event ¦ Aims ¦ Should I join? ¦ Cost ¦ More info

The WHBA was set up in 2011 with support from Cllr Gillian Risso-Gill, and was involved in bringing the farmers’ market to the neighbourhood and in the initial negotiations to relocate the post office into the Sherriff Centre in St James’ Church. But momentum had waned.

Why reLaunch now?
It won’t have escaped your notice that West Hampstead is going through some major changes in terms of residential developments, with more on the horizon.

The WHBA wants to harness the drive and enthusiasm of local businesses to ensure that the local economy captures these benefits, while ensuring we have a mixed, vibrant business environment. It is not pro-independent shops and anti-chains, nor is it fixated on West End Lane.

These are tough times for all businesses, and the WHBA will also seek to help local businesses by sharing ideas, looking at ways to lower costs, and finding innovative solutions in order to keep them competitive.

There are a wide range of issues that concern businesses – some local: rents, parking, dirty streets; some larger in scale: the threat from online shopping, business rates, getting to grips with new payment technologies and social media… there are many more.

With all these factors in play, the WHBA decided to revamp and relaunch in order to get the drive and enthusiasm back. The committee is:

  • André Millodot from The Wet Fish Café
  • David Matthews from Dutch & Dutch
  • Reuben Miller from Alexanders
  • Jennie Vincent from The Kitchen Table
Launch event – take two
Boris Johnson turning up a couple of weeks ago was a surprise – he had been invited to the launch event, but more in hope than expectation. With just three days’ notice of his sudden visit, it wasn’t possible to bring the whole launch event forward, so a mail went out to the original WHBA mailing list and a good crowd turned out to hear the Mayor talk about what City Hall could do to support West Hampstead businesses.

The proper reLaunch event is Wednesday December 11th. If you’re a local business and you didn’t get an invite, then please mail , or just turn up.

It starts at 6pm downstairs at The Gallery on Broadhurst Gardens (I believe there’s mulled wine available). At around 6.45pm we have a guest speaker. Leo Hollis, author of Cities Are Good For You, will speak for 15 minutes about the link between high streets and communities. Leo’s a local too, so he’ll be able to bring a West Hampstead angle to his talk. The WHBA committee will also explain in a bit more detail what the association hopes to achieve and the benefits of joining up.

What will the WHBA actually do?
At the heart of the revamp is the idea that the WHBA shouldn’t become a talking shop, but should deliver tangible results. Campaigns will therefore be limited but specific, and combine some short-term easy wins, and some longer term issues. The committee is extremely open to (i.e., “wants”) ideas and contributions from members.

First up, there’s a push to raise the profile of West Hampstead as a place to do business – and there are several strands to this, such as making a promotional video, getting a better Wikipedia entry for West Hampstead, and boosting the PR activity. In the longer term, Camden is consulting on parking issues a lot at the moment, and this is a challenge given that residents and businesses have very different needs.

To debate all these issues and to collect the thoughts of the whole business community, the WHBA is going online with a forum and a monthly e-mail newsletter, both for paid members only. The forum is the place to raise concerns, share ideas, solve problems and build consensus. The newsletter will capture each month’s hot topics, bring a round-up of local business news, and share wider trends. I’ll be writing the newsletter, and I can honestly say I think it’s worth the membership fee alone!

Should I join?
If you’re a business based in, or operating in West Hampstead, then yes. The WHBA will welcome freelancers to supermarkets, mechanics to property developers. If improving the business environment matters to you, then you should join in. It will help locals share ideas about how to run their businesses more efficiently and competitively, as well as making more visible changes to the area. So even if you don’t have customer-facing premises, the WHBA can offer significant benefits. Come to the reLaunch event and find out more!

The committee believes that professionalisation of the WHBA is vital, which does incur some admin cost. However, most of the subscription fees will be ploughed into campaigns. There may be specific initiatives where the WHBA needs to raise more money – for example beautifying the street or getting better Christmas trees for next year! It will, of course, extract money from other sources where possible, but we all know how tight public sector funding is.

The cost
The cost to join is based on the size of your business, and if you join before December 31st, then you get a whopping 50% discount.

Membership is valid for 12 months.

  • Freelancer £25 (£50 from Jan 1st)
  • Single shopfront £75 (£150 from Jan 1st)
  • Double shopfront £125 (£250 from Jan 1st)
  • Multiple £200 (£400 from Jan 1st)

As well as your money, what the association really needs is your commitment. Not every issue the WHBA tackles will benefit every business equally, but a collective effort to support the local business community will undoubtedly be for the good of the local economy.

Where can I find out more?
If you can’t make it to the reLaunch event, then do contact the WHBA and someone will get back to you. It’s also on Twitter @WhampBiz, or just go to the website, where you can also sign up.In the meantime, download the flyer that’s been handed out, or read it below. If you’d like to join, then fill it in and hand it in to any of the committee or scan and e-mail back. Someone will then contact you regarding payment.

Naturally, as one of the people behind this revamp, I’m excited by the possibilities it offers. From simple stuff like better Christmas trees on West End Lane, to thornier issues like retaining a good mix of job types, I believe that a healthy local economy and a healthy community go hand-in-hand. Don’t grouch from the sidelines, West Hampstead is changing and the WHBA is changing with it. Be part of it.

Boris talks to West Hampstead businesses

Boris Johnson is either an ambitious and gifted politician or an incompetent buffoon. Whichever side of the divide you sit on, he is, indisputably, the Mayor of London and the blondest man you’re likely to see this side of Scandinavia.

This Thursday he made a relatively low-key and very short notice visit to West Hampstead to take part in a roundtable discussion with local business owners, under the banner of the relaunching West Hampstead Business Association (WHBA).

It stands for “White-haired Boris ambushed”

Local Conservative Party candidate Simon Marcus had managed to persuade his BoJo-ness to come along (lets remember this is by far London’s most marginal seat), so The Wet Fish Café was half-full of local businesses and half of local Tory supporters and hangers on. And me.

I was tasked with chairing the debate, which in reality meant trying to keep some control of Boris. To his credit, he did actually try and answer almost all the questions that I and other local business people put to him. And to their credit, the local Conservatives didn’t interrupt or whoop or make a nuisance of themselves. The result was a meeting that although predictably light on meaningful dialogue, was both entertaining and engaging.

We opened by asking the Mayor what City Hall could do to help small businesses. Boris of course takes the extreme laissez-faire approach to economics, putting him to the right of many in his party (by contrast, he’s socially relatively liberal). So the answer to the question – if you read between the lines – was really that local businesses needed to help themselves.

That of course is exactly what forming a business association is all about. He also suggested the WHBA looks at forming a BID (Business Improvement District), although West Hampstead would be quite small for a BID, and the scheme has come under some criticism for ultimately driving rents up. But it’s something no doubt the WHBA will look into.

There were questions of course about the extent of development in the area – and the type of development. With such a heavy focus on small one- and two-bed flats being built, it’s hard to see how the area’s weekday daytime economy will benefit as the occupants of these flats will be off to work. Boris countered that there was a mandatory quotient of three-bed properties in any new development and that Camden must be delivering this. Of course, one only needs to look at West Hampstead Square or the Mill Lane Apartments to see that the 3-bed properties are more “luxury penthouses” than “family homes”.

Boris also returned to a theme he’d addressed in his controversial speech the night before. He suggested that there was too much paranoia about foreign investors buying London property and that the money coming in was helping fund major schemes such as those around the Olympic village, Battersea, and Brent Cross. None of which particularly helps businesses in West Hampstead of course.

It’s not helpful to be over-parochial about such things, but high streets generally need support so they’re well placed to rise as the economy recovers. One of the mayor’s more practical thoughts was that some high streets – and he clarified this didn’t apply to West End Lane – were simply too long. If, he said, councils sought to concentrate long strung-out high streets using planing and zoning laws, then it would be easier to keep them vibrant. This strikes me as generally being a good idea – it might even help make a tiny dent in the housing shortfall if property on the fringes of these high streets could be converted into residential. Kilburn High Road is probably about as long a high street as is viable without splitting into separate sections, but it’s possible to think of others in the wider area that lack any defined central point – Harrow Road, for example.

Lorraine from Mamacita asked Boris what City Hall could do in terms of reducing red tape for smaller businesses. This turned into a bit of a convoluted conversation, but ultimately the mayor said he was in favour of loosening employment restrictions for businesses that had five staff or fewer. He struggled to understand why any business owner would have any problem firing anyone though. “I fire people all the time”, he said with gusto.

And with that, he trotted off with his entourage down West End Lane, first calling into West End Lane Books, where he (reluctantly, apparently) bought a copy of Zadie Smith’s NW. He was heading for St James’ Church where he met with Father Andrew Cain who explained how the post office was going to fit into the buidling. He then detoured to café Wired and Rock Men’s Salon on Broadhurst Gardens, where despite owner John’s best efforts, Boris couldn’t be persuaded into a chair for a trim of his white locks.

Photos by Andre Millodot and David Matthews