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London Mayor outlines plans to support small shops

London Mayor Boris Johnson has outlined measures to ensure affordable small shops are provided for in new retail developments.

London Mayor Boris Johnson's new measures will mean that developers will enter into legally binding agreements to provide an agreed number of affordable small shop units when major retail schemes are proposed.

The measures are part of the Mayor's "Planning for a Better London", which he outlined last month and which included a commitment to supporting a diverse and dynamic retail sector across the capital.

The Mayor's office said that work had already begun on developing the details of the small shops initiative. They new measures are expected to be brought in within the next eight months.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "During the election I promised to champion all sectors of London's business community and especially look out for the concerns of small businesses. Our small shops add real character and diversity to the capital's high streets but they are finding themselves squeezed out by competition from supermarkets and rising unsustainable rents."

He added: "My proposals aim to held reverse this trend, offering small retailers the opportunity to make a success of their enterprise both by making more suitable premises available and taking steps to level the playing field by securing affordable rents."

However the British Retail Consortium has called for London Mayor Boris Johnson to answer "key questions" before introducing any obligation for "affordable" shops to be built as part of new retail developments.

The BRC said it was not yet clear whether Johnson's proposals would help smaller retailers and not undermine existing retailers of all sizes.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "We support small shops too, they are essential to the richness and diversity of London retailing, but the Mayor needs to think through all the implications of forcing any new obligation on developers."

Robertson added: "How do you define small indepdendent retailers? Who meets the cost of subsidised rents? Will larger retailers on the site have to pay more adding to their costs, driving up other rents in the area and ultimately pushing up prices for customers? What will the competitive impact on existing retailers nearby who are not receiving rent subsidies?"

"With businesses already facing some of the toughest conditions in decades, an obligation to provide units at below-market rents could further undermine retail investment by making some developments unviable."

"Where small shops are struggling it's down to a string of factors including restrictive leases, upward-only rent reviews, parking charges and availability, energy costs, rates, regulations and crime."

"The Mayor could help more retailers by turning his business summit words into action and tackling accessibility, transport and disorder while encouraging the Government to offer mroe effective business rates reductions to smaller retailers, without imposing extra burdens on the rest."

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