Chiswick Free Trade Zone Proposed To Revive High Road
Deregulation of largely abandoned section aims to attract investors
A radical proposal to revive a stretch of Chiswick High Road currently blighted by abandoned shops is reportedly being considered by Hounslow Council.
Recent local government acts have given Councils greater discretion in measures to encourage economic regeneration including the ability to cede control of areas deemed to be in chronic decline. They can be designated Free Trade Zones which means that the Council no longer collects rates from the area and ceases to be responsible for regulation. The policy is believed to be a key plank of the government’s strategy to turnaround the beleaguered retail sector which has been blighted by internet based competition and high rates.
The proposed exempt zone in Chiswick would be from 386 – 482 Chiswick High Road which includes the aborted Lend Lease development of Empire House. If the proposal is accepted, the area would no longer be subject to local authority parking restrictions, planning and licensing constraints. A more liberal regime of hygiene inspection could be implemented and gaming licences could be granted on request. Cycling would even be allowed on the pavement as local bye laws would not apply.
We have not yet received a comment on the matter from The Chiswick Shops Task Force which is working hard behind the scenes to improve matters for local businesses. The group was set up last year to fight back against the risk of Chiswick becoming a 'clone town' or a 'ghost town' due to the loss of independent traders and the increase in vacant units.
Legitimate businessman Pirla Aprile, who is understood to be part of a consortium bidding to operate the free trade zone has given us an early look at plans for the regeneration of the area. He says he has previous experience of running the kind of establishment planned having run enterprises in the Soho area of London up until the late eighties. He claims discussions are underway with Lend Lease to repurpose the ‘Opus Collection’ block of apartments into a hotel/casino complex. Exemption from borough planning regulations would allow the hotel to have more floors that the current plan but Mr Aprile said the design would be sensitive to the surrounding areas and would have the total support of some former business partners of his who would be involved in its foundation. He said he was not anticipating any local objections to the scheme.
The ending of licensing restrictions would mean that the area could operate 24/7 and it is hope this would make it a destination area attracting people to Chiswick and making it ‘the village that never sleeps’ in Mr Aprile’s words. The proposal isn’t simply just for bars and a casino in the area as Mr Aprile says the health conscious will be catered for with a number of massage parlours also planned.
One of the attractions of the proposal would be that there would be cost savings for institutions like the police who would no longer be responsible for law enforcement in the area. Associates of Mr Aprile have promised to provide security for businesses in the area and will be offering to extend that protection to retailers outside the zone at a later date.
Self-styled retail alchemist, Avril Amadon, who has worked as a consultant for a wide range of companies including Woolworths, BHS, HMV and Patisserie Valerie is an enthusiastic supporter of the plan. She said, “Blackpool is famous throughout the world for its Golden Mile and now Chiswick has a chance to share in that glamour by having its own ‘Golden Furlong’. Hounslow Council have really been made an offer they can’t refuse so they should not only give it the green light but the amber light and the red light as well.”
Hounslow Council have not commented at this stage.
April 1, 2019