In 2017, Belsize Village was described as being “besieged by burglars” in the Evening Standard. In January, Robert Stephenson-Padron reflected at a Camden Council Meeting on what the Belsize Village Business Association has been able to do to revitalise the Belsize Village area.
The Association was started just over two years ago, a period when Bob had observed numerous businesses closing and footfalls dwindle. Despite the cloud of the Coronavirus pandemic, the past summer was one seeing economic vibrancy return to our Village. He’s particularly pleased that the employment created – estimated at 50+ jobs saved or created – were in part associated with commitments to pay the London Living Wage.
At the council meeting, Bob outlined some of the key steps in the changes seen. The first was raising the profile of the Village through social media. Looking at the Instagram, Twitter, WhatApp, Facebook pages of the Association, there is a lot of activity often centring on photos taken in Belsize Village. We all know the spot is picturesque, the central feature of recent TV ads (remember 2018 Visa advert) but the Association could really highlight the Village’s biggest strength: that all the hospitality, leisure and retail businesses in Belsize Village are independents, benefitting “from the love and passion of the families that run our unique local businesses.”
A second stage of the revitalisation has focused on beautifying Belsize Village so the outdoor spaces could be used. Historically, Belsize Village suffered from litter and fly-tipping. Residents in 2015 took Camden officials on a walk to highlight the state of the village area, and working with Camden Council and with volunteers, this has been improved. Perhaps most recently were the efforts in September as part of the Nationwide Great British September Clean.
That then brings us to the Streatery. With beautiful gardening planters installed, the scene was set for an innovative, new phase for the Village on July 4, 2020, which transformed Belsize Village square into a vibrant hub and led to the economic boom the Association is most proud of. They also see this success as transferable to other communities especially tackling what they view as a largely unrecognised “litter crisis”, which blights our communities but could reset such spaces to become more economically vibrant.
Village Business Association recommendations
At the meeting at Camden Council, Belsize Village Business Association pointed at where the Council might help:
1) Tackle the litter crisis. Use the council’s marketing and enforcement power to make littering and fly-tipping anathema.
2) Have a drive to rid the Borough of graffiti-based vandalism and step up enforcement against other Anti-Social Behaviour.
3) Continue to support the innovative use of public spaces such as pro-actively supporting the Belsize Village Streatery.
4) Designate Belsize Village as a Historic Action Zone to help, for instance, install visually attractive Belsize Village signs.
5) Provide economic incentives to businesses and/or landlords to upgrade the frontages of their buildings because these upgrades benefit an entire community.
6) Pro-actively work on improving community infrastructure, perhaps extending Belsize Village square down Belsize Terrace.
FInd out more at: https://belsizevillage.org.uk/ or social media handle @belsizevillage