Alambritis: Wimbledon is fertile ground for investors
Let's create a vision for an even better, more ambitious Wimbledon – that's the challenge being issued ahead of next month's Future Wimbledon Conference.
Stephen Alambritis, the leader of Merton Council, says the conference will demonstrate how the town is a "fertile ground" for investors to achieve their ambitions and to highlight the development opportunities and scope for positive change.
Renowned architect Lord Rogers, Deputy Mayor of London for Business and Enterprise Kit Malthouse and leading entrepreneur Theo Paphitis, famous for his appearances on TV's Dragon's Den, are all speaking at the event on Tuesday, September 17.
But Councillor Alambritis (left) stressed that the private-sector funded event, supported by the London Borough of Merton and Love Wimbledon, was as much about engaging with the business community and investors to generate ideas about how Wimbledon can maximise the benefits of its global brand and adapt as town centres face new challenges to remain competitive.
"Wimbledon town centre is one of the jewels in our crown and has the benefit of having an established iconic name, being known throughout the world for its tennis," said Councillor Alambritis.
"All of the basics are here. People love to live in Wimbledon, SW19 is one of the best-known postcodes in the country, we have a skilled workforce with our schools improving all the time, it's got history as the place where the first parliament met, Wimbledon Theatre which hosts West End productions, we have great diversity and yet we are the third safest London borough, and we have the transport connectivity.
"Wimbledon is the only area in London to have all three modes of transport – tube, tram and rail. That will be joined by Crossrail and that is exciting because developers think long-term.
"What we want is for the people not only to live here but also work here. We want that balance between land for living and land for jobs.
"Future Wimbledon is about raising the stakes in terms of job creation. Wimbledon contains 50 per cent of the borough's jobs, but it mustn't rest on its laurels. If we can make Wimbledon a place where there are more jobs, and people can walk to work, it’s good for the environment and good for quality of life for all.
"The conference is an ideal time for everyone to share experiences and to share ideas. It will give us the opportunity to get even more people excited about Wimbledon – other than recognising it purely for the tennis."
Future Wimbledon is part of a borough-wide initiative to engage with town centres and the council's futureMerton team is also engaging with residents and looking to make sustainable improvements in Mitcham, Morden and Colliers Wood. The conference is the starting point in a conversation about the future of Wimbledon and establishing a long-term vision for the town centre, uniquely, starting with the needs of the business community.
And Councillor Alambritis believes Merton, recently named the UK's best achieving council in 2013 by Municipal Journal, has already demonstrated its commitment to partnership working with the likes of the Love Wimbledon business improvement district, Merton Chamber of Commerce, Wimbledon Village Business Association, the All England Lawn Tennis Club and London government.
He stresses that the borough is open to ideas from residents, businesses and developers who would like to voice their views on Wimbledon's future.
"We are bold, progressive and here to create jobs." he said. "Of course we’re here to address people’s concerns about development, sometimes in terms of how parts of the town centre are preserved and conserved, but we’re also here to make sure that we do create jobs and identify opportunities to develop and manage Wimbledon’s growth potential.
"Our planning department is lauded as an efficient, timely planning authority and we want the best developers and the people with the best ideas to come to Merton and to Wimbledon.
"We don't have a large tract of vacant land like in Stratford, Croydon or Greenwich. But there are huge opportunities to come to Wimbledon. We've just done a sites and policies document, looking at more than 80 sites, looking at current use and what potential uses could be and that is going to the Secretary of State very soon.
"As the London Borough of Merton, we are very open to ideas and this Future Wimbledon Conference is about opening up Wimbledon to people's imagination.
"The reason for the Future Wimbledon Conference is to show the business world that this is fertile ground for them to realise their ambitions and the ambitions of our local residents for a thriving, vibrant town centre.
"Come and plant your seed in Wimbledon and it will grow. As you would expect from the best-achieving council in the country, we will work in partnership with you, reducing unnecessary red tape where we can and where it helps achieve the aspirations of our residents. That's why we have entrepreneurs like Theo Paphitis basing themselves in Wimbledon.
"Future Wimbledon is like a suggestion box. It will be a great day to enjoy Wimbledon as it is today and to imagine it as it could be in the future – better, bigger, more exciting and more of an offer, the council and its futureMerton regeneration team are about inspiring change and promoting growth."
Headline sponsors of the event are Love Wimbledon and the London Borough of Merton, event sponsors are Orion, Willmott Dixon Group and YMCA London South West and it is also being backed by Aztec and Cannizaro House, which is hosting part of the day.
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August 23, 2013