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Tower Bridge Road businesses pull together to seek improvements

Businesses in Tower Bridge Road have got together to submit an application to Southwark's £1 million community restoration fund as a growing consensus emerges that the street needs improvement.

Suhel Ahmed, whose family have run Tower Tandoori for more than three decades, says: "Tower Bridge Road remains a secondary parade even though it's one of the most important roads in London."

"Over the years it's seen a lot of decline – not because of neglect by the council but by landlords and people who own shops.

He adds: "Footfall now is as low as I've seen it in the last five or six years."

Mr Ahmed is confident that by working together, local businesses can boost the fortunes of what was once a thriving shopping street lined with market stalls.

"It's not an overnight thing, but I hope we can get the same kind of vibrancy and neighbourly spirit they have just down the road in Bermondsey Street," he says.

The restaurateur has gathered support for the application to Southwark Council from a range of local traders, from long-established local firms to relatively new additions to Tower Bridge Road.

"If everyone's together, we can achieve something," he told the London SE1 website last week.

The community restoration fund was set up by Southwark Council in response to last summer's riots. Although most of the 1 million fund is likely to be spent in the worst affected areas such as Peckham and Walworth, business groups across the borough were invited to put forward ideas for improving local high streets and restoring community pride.

Local Labour councillor Claire Hickson, whose Chaucer ward covers the western half of the street south of Abbey Street, has also been instrumental in bringing people together to support the nascent business association.

"Tower Bridge Road, particularly the lower part near Bricklayers Arms, has suffered in recent years as other areas – such as Bermondsey Street – have gone from strength and strength," she says.

"Some businesses are doing well and new businesses have set up shop, but others are struggling and there are a few empty shops.

"Politicians at all levels are talking about how to support our high streets but it is difficult for businesses to apply for funding, such as the Mary Portas pilots, or to campaign for improvements in the street unless they can come together as a group. That's why we have been focusing on setting up a business association.

"Suhel at Tower Tandoori has done a brilliant job, developing the plan, talking to his neighbours and getting their support. The success of the business association will depend on that kind of commitment and the work he has done is a great start.

"I am also very grateful to my fellow councillors in Chaucer and Grange for signing a letter of support as cross-party backing is very important."

• Anyone interested in getting involved with the new business association should contact Suhel Ahmed at Tower Tandoori.

• A separate new initiative, the Tower Bridge Road Action Group, launched this week with an initial meeting at Woolfson & Tay attended by Simon Hughes MP. Follow @towerbridgeroad on Twitter for updates.

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