EXCLUSIVE: £30,000 to help Rye Lane businesses during gas works

Katherine Johnston (27 February, 2019) Business

Closed to traffic and open to pedestrians, Rye Lane's shops are still open

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New funding to help businesses while Rye Lane is closed to traffic was announced by Southwark Council this week.

Traders had been left anxious that thirteen months’ of major gas repairs from January 2019 to early next year could harm or even see off their shops and stalls.

On Tuesday, Southwark Council announced £30,000 of funding from its ‘high street challenge’ project, aimed at helping local shopping districts thrive, will be allocated to Rye Lane thanks to a cash injection from gas company SGN.

The funding will pay for a year-long programme of events to help encourage shoppers into the area, with spending decided by a steering group of Peckham businesses and organisations led by drama school Mountview.

Councillor Kieron Williams, cabinet member for jobs, skills and innovation, said: “Rye Lane is one of London’s most vibrant and exciting high streets thanks to its wealth of small and independent businesses.

“They’re the life blood of the town centre so it’s vital they’re supported through this disruption.

“That’s why we’ve put in place this extra support from the council. I’m very pleased SGN have agreed to fund it too. We’ll be keeping a very close eye on how things are going.

SGN’s essential engineering work – costing £1 million – means Rye Lane is shut to traffic but still open to visitors by foot while the mains are replaced.

Those most at risk of losing out during engineering work are traders, including independent shopkeepers, who say they are reliant on people travelling to the area by bus or car for much of their business.

Although some have seen an increase in shoppers enjoying the area with less traffic, others are predicting a downturn.

Business owners had been particularly aghast to learn that although SGN runs a compensation scheme to help traders left out of pocket, claims could only be made once work had been completed.

However, SGN has since backtracked and said affected businesses will be able to submit quarterly claims, after intervention by Southwark Council.

Labour councillor Peter Babudu welcomed their decision and said he and his colleagues would keep working with Southwark Council to make sure visitors know Rye Lane is still open to shoppers, and make sure traders are securing timely compensation payments.

SGN’s general manager, Drew Reynolds, has said the company wanted to make a ‘lasting positive impact’ on Rye Lane.

“Having engaged with the local community, traders and council, we’re totally committed to doing all we can to ensure it’s business as usual and people continue to visit Rye Lane during our work,” he said.

“We’re pleased to be involved and working with the community steering group in creating a programme of exciting events over the coming months.”

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