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Challenges for London Bridge businesses 2012 and beyond

Businesses in the London Bridge area heard about the challenges ahead in the next decade at a City Hall event last week.

The future of London Bridge: the Shard, the Gem an
The future of London Bridge: the Shard, the Gem and Southwark Cathedral
Tooley Street entrance to a rebuilt London Bridge
Tooley Street entrance to a rebuilt London Bridge station

Greater London Authority chief executive Anthony Meyer, standing in for the Mayor, spoke of his "personal and corporate wish to be a good neighbour" and to join in efforts to "further improve the look and feel of this area".

Meyer spoke of the London Bridge area as a "highly successful" southern extension of the City. He added that there was a need to continue efforts to push

On Potters Fields, Meyer endorsed the site as a "world-class recreational park and some first class housing".

He joked that if nothing else London Bridge would soon have a "world-class bus station" as part of Renzo Piano's scheme for New London Bridge House (the Gem).

"There's all to play for in the next 20 years," he concluded.

Ian Lindsay of Network Rail introduced plans to rebuild London Bridge Station to boost capacity by 50 per cent as part of the Thameslink scheme which won planning permission and legal powers earlier this month.

He explained that the company hopes to select a development partner during 2007 but – as at Waterloo – the station works would happen post-2012.

Lindsay told the audience that the company has a "real ambition that our development delivers a real sense of place".

London Bridge BID Company director Linda Houston underlined the importance of the railway station; it occupies one third of the area of the Business Improvement District and supports 60 businesses and 1,000 jobs.

She spoke about the work that the London Bridge BID Company is doing to make short-term improvements for businesses, residents and visitors before and during the major developments.

The 2012 Olympics will be a key dividing line; Shangri-La hotels hope to be operating in the Shard of Glass in time to accommodate visitors to the games, whilst the Thameslink-related rebuilding of London Bridge Station would take place in the years after 2012.

"The future is terrific ... but it does need management" says Linda Houston, who has seen immense change in the area during 10 years leading the Pool of London Partnership.

The London Bridge BID Company will set up a Construction Mitigation Group to help ensure that existing businesses aren't squeezed out during the decade of upheaval ahead.

The Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Colin Slee, asked whether housing was being included in the largely commercial developments planned for the London Bridge area.

He said that the "great achievement is that there is a mixed community" in the area and it shouldn't "just become the candyfloss along the river edge".

A debate about use of the Thames for passenger and freight transport ensued, with Network Rail representatives holding out the prospect of construction materials for Thameslink being delivered by river to Blackfriars.

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