TV 'Dragon' Theo Paphitis was on the Old Kent Road on Friday (8 November) to help launch a new campaign to rejuvenate local high streets.
The businessman and star of BBC's Dragons' Den joined IT entrepreneur Michael Tobin to present a new plan for growth and regeneration on Southwark's major high streets, put together by Simon Hughes and Liberal Democrat councillors.
It includes offering discounts on business rates to attract new firms to the area and support community shops, an idea which Theo Paphitis said particularly appealed to him given his background in retail.
The plan also includes setting up a new 'Jobs and Enterprise Hub' with desk space and advice for start-ups, creating more apprenticeships across the borough and offering business loans through the council to help boost trade - something which has already been pioneered in other boroughs including Camden.
Theo Paphitis welcomed the policies put forward by local Liberal Democrats, calling the plan "spot on".
After a discussion with local businesses and councillors at the Thomas A Beckett pub, the politicians and business leaders got together for a photo on Old Kent Road where they also chatted to passers-by.
The event launched a new community consultation by Simon Hughes MP on the future of Old Kent Road, Tower Bridge Road and Walworth Road. Simon Hughes said he would now be talking to local residents and businesses about their vision for local high streets, and he hoped it would mark the beginning of a new era for the three famous roads.
Five Point Plan
As part of the event, Simon Hughes and Southwark Liberal Democrats published their five-point local business plan to support local firms and created jobs.
1. Revitalise high streets and markets including a new 'I'm shopping locally' parking scheme and a levy on large supermarkets.
2. Offer business loans through the council to help start-up companies obtain the financial support they need to start trading.
3. Use new powers to reduce business rates to support struggling businesses and encourage regeneration where it is most needed
4. Create 1,000 new apprenticeships in the borough to help to revitalise the local economy and create lasting jobs.
5. Open a new 'Jobs & Enterprise Hub' offering information and support on jobs and training, as well as desk space for start-ups.
Commenting on today's event, Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Simon Hughes said:
"The Old Kent Road, Tower Bridge Road and Walworth Road are three of the most famous roads in London and known by many around the world. It is about time they were given the opportunity to live up to their full potential."
"I am determined that over the next near, central government, local government and City Hall will support a campaign to bring life, success and prosperity to theses three great high streets."
"We will now be putting our ideas and those of Theo Paphitis and Michael Tobin to local residents and businesses to make Old Kent Road, Tower Bridge Road and Walworth Road are once again the vibrant, successful high streets London needs."
Leader of Southwark Council's Liberal Democrat Group Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, who helped write the local business plan, said:
"The purpose of this event was to present our new vision for local high streets and show we are on the side of small businesses in Southwark. Liberal Democrat councillors have been working hard to come up with new ideas to support our business community, so I was really pleased and a little bit relieved to have Theo Paphitis tell us our plan was 'spot on'!"