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Bankside footfall ‘about half’ of normal level says BID boss

Footfall in the Bankside area between Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge has returned to about half of its normal level for this time of year, a Southwark Council scrutiny commission heard this week.

Nicole Gordon, chief executive of the Better Bankside business improvement district (BID) has been co-opted onto Southwark Council's Education and Local Economy Scrutiny Commission.

She gave an update on the situation in the BID area at this week's meeting of the commission:

"In Bankside the footfall dropped to about 10 per cent of its normal pre-COVID level at its worst back in April-time," she said.

"Currently the footfall is about half what it would normally be for this time of the year.

We have been seeing a steady increase in people returning to the area. It's a mixed community of businesses, residents and visitors, but it does rely heavily on office workers.

"We were seeing a steady return back to some sense of normality, and then the announcement was made back in late September around working from home for an extended six months and we saw a real sharp decline for the next two weeks, and then a bit of a stabilisation.

"We had the figures in today [Monday], which show that there's again been an impact from the announcement of Southwark going into tier 2 and footfall had dipped again last week."

Ms Gordon said that hotels in the Bankside area were reporting occupancy of around 25 per cent, compared to an expected 90 per cent occupancy at this time of year.

She said that anecdotally her team was hearing about firms making redundancies and downsizing their premises, especially in the hospitality sector.

"I think what's really important for Bankside and other areas of Southwark ... is that the local workforce are so needed by the businesses in the hospitality sector.

"What's happened has been a real upset of the delicate Balance in the ecosystem.

"Not having the local workforce in the area is really causing concern amongst our hospitality businesses."

Ms Gordon said the current situation is just the "tip of the iceberg" with more trouble ahead as financial support schemes come to an end.

She called for the council to work with landowners and developers to think creatively about opportunities to ensure that Southwark's high streets remain lively despite the many challenges.

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