Agenda item



Lorraine McQuillan, LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager provided an update on Town Centres and Business Support.


Members were advised that since the last meeting, the Local Authority had been successful in its bid, and awarded £295k from the ‘Welcome Back Fund’. This was for use in welcoming customers back to the high streets – ideas for activities and installations were currently being worked through and some elements would be implemented the following month. It was noted that the outcome of a ‘High Streets for All’ funding bid was also imminent. The Chairman asked for the thoughts of the BID Managers regarding the use of the ‘Welcome Back Fund’. Zoe Carr, Beckenham Together BID Company & Penge SE20 BID Company said that a few ideas had been discussed with the LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager at a recent meeting. Zoe Griffiths, Your Bromley BID Company advised that ideas were being progressed with the LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager and a ‘wish list’ had been submitted. Sharon Baldwin, Orpington 1st BID Company noted that this fund provided the opportunity to make the town centres more interesting and welcoming for customers. The ‘High Street for All’ funding would be the most significant in terms of the projects put forward in Orpington, as the team were working to gain a greater understanding of meanwhile space whilst major transformation was taking place. Connections had been made with a community group, owners and landlords and the Local Authority to look at a blended offer and trialling it before creating the units and premises – five premises were currently being worked on, including a bike shop.


With regards to the ‘Welcome Back Fund’, Mike Humphries, Handelsbanken suggested that in order to bring people back onto the high streets the Local Authority could consider utilising part of the fund to allow free parking over certain weekends, particularly as people were still reticent about using public transport. The Chairman said that this had previously been discussed, and it was considered that the car parking prices were reasonable – it was not the cost of parking that deterred people from coming into the town centre, but it may be the quality of the parking and this was something they were looking to address in the redevelopment of The Hill Car Park.


The LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager informed Members that the ‘Start-Up Bromley’ programme had been launched, providing support to start-up businesses and entrepreneurs. As part of this scheme, business lounge facilities were available in Bromley Central Library and Orpington Library – this was a dedicated business space which could be used to work and hold meetings. In response to a question from the Chairman, the LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager said that the business lounge in Bromley featured a large space for up to six entrepreneurs – there were individual desk spaces; a shared area in the middle; meeting rooms; and a workshop space. A similar offer was also available in Orpington. The business lounge in Bromley Central Library was launched on 24th June 2021 – a press release was currently awaited, which could be circulated to Members for them to distribute to their wider networks.

(ACTION: LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager / Clerk)

The business lounge in Orpington Library would be launched on 21st July 2021. In response to a further question from Councillor Vanessa Allen, the LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager confirmed that there were connections available in the lounges, people could bring in their own laptops but there were also computers available as well. There was Wi-Fi available and additional facilities in the meeting rooms, such as interactive whiteboards.


Lee Thomas, Fairlight Group stressed the need for the borough to promote itself as being a great place in which to work and highlight the good transport connections. Mike Lewis, Michael Rogers LLP advised that they were about to undertake a major promotion to encourage businesses to come to Bromley. With the Bromley Park Group, they would be promoting a development of just under 100,000 sq. ft. in Elmfield Road. This was on a pre-let basis, which was never easy, but Bromley was an excellent location in terms of access from central London and being close to the motorway. A brochure, videos and fly throughs would be produced, aimed at commercial agents based in central London, and a targeted campaign for major companies in the UK would also be created.


Work had also been undertaken with the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) on the ‘Business Boost’ grant scheme. This was aimed at helping small independent businesses located in BID areas and would be launched by 1st August 2021.


With regards to the digital infrastructure work plan, the LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager advised that a Memorandum of Understanding had been signed with BT Openreach for the roll out of full fibre broadband across the borough, which would be completed by 2024. In response to a question from the Chairman, Councillor Hannah Gray, Executive Assistant for Renewal, Recreation and Housing/Small Business Champion advised that BT Openreach would be providing quarterly updates on their progress. A map had also been requested for use on social media, allowing the Local Authority to show residents where the fast fibre broadband would be installed. This installation had started in Orpington and, from different exchanges, would be rolled out across the whole borough. It was noted that the first report was expected shortly and could be circulated to Members of the Partnership.

(ACTION: LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager / Clerk)


A digital toolkit charter had also been established, and published on the Council’s website, which set out the processes for boosting mobile network capacity. The first installations in the borough were anticipated before the end of the year. In response to a question from Christopher Evans, Community Links Bromley, the LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager said that other projects were run alongside the digital infrastructure project and, through the Community and Learning Shops in Mottingham and Cotmandene Crescent, IT courses were held to upskill local residents. Elena Diaconescu, Bromley Adult Education College advised that the London Recovery Programme mission was high on the government’s agenda and there were a number of courses available to improve digital skills. The College ran some employability programmes, such as ‘How to Start Your Own Business’, and it was recognised that these needed to have as many digital skills elements included in them as possible. The College’s offer from September 2021 was now live on their website and further information could be provided following the meeting.

  (ACTION: Elena Diaconescu / Clerk)


All of the Business Grant schemes that the team had been co-ordinating had now closed, and they were now completing the final processes and payments. As mentioned at the last meeting, if the team had successfully distributed the initial ARG allocation by end of July 2021 a further £2.6m would be awarded by the government. The LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager advised that they were on track to do so, and therefore further funding to support businesses was anticipated. Consideration had been given as to how this additional sum could be spent – some discussions had already taken place with Members of the Partnership, but any further thoughts and suggestions would be welcomed.


The LBB Place Shaping and Local Economy Manager informed Members that a new Enterprise Hub would be launched in the autumn, offering online support for business and acting as a vehicle to attract inward investment into the borough.


RESOLVED that the Town Centres and Business Support update be noted.