Waltham Forest must improve its high streets, develop an attractive night-time economy and establish a unique ‘brand’ in order to boost the economy, according to an independent report.
The Waltham Forest Growth Commission last night published its findings on the borough's strengths and weaknesses and made recommendations about how to grow the economy.
Waltham Forest currently has the fourth smallest economy in London.
Chaired by Professor Tony Travers from the London School of Economics, the council-commissioned report calls on the council to lead in taking advantage of assets which other areas in London would see as crucial to economic growth, such as good transport links, a high quality public realm and green space, and good housing.
“The commission believes Waltham Forest is in an excellent position to encourage inward investment, support business and strengthen skills to lift economic output in ways that improve the lives of its people,” Professor Travers said.
“Economic growth is fundamental to meeting the needs and aspirations of the residents and businesses of Waltham Forest.”
He said the borough has weathered recent economic difficulties, particularly in securing funding for several flagship projects, and now has significant potential for economic development.
After canvassing thousands of residents and businesses over the last six months, primarily through an online survey, it was deemed that Waltham Forest and its assets were well-known locally, but little-known outside the borough and raising its profile was central to an improved economy.
It was also said that the state of the high streets was a driving factor behind pessimism about economic prospects.
The commission concluded that the borough needs a clear identity to explain why the area is a good place to live and work, building on the industrial and civic history in the borough and a growing creative and artistic sector.
The William Morris Gallery’s recent refurbishment and widespread recognition was noted as a prime example of such a marketing strategy.
“The borough should develop a coherent identity which reflects its current assets, cultural history and four distinct centres [Chingford, Leyton, Leytonstone, and Walthamstow],” the report said.
It was suggested that a bespoke governance structure for each of the area’s main hubs should be considered.
Establishing a designated chamber of commerce was also recommended.
Council leader Chris Robbins said: “We need to continue to work to ensure that we deliver the maximum possible economic and social benefits for our residents and businesses and ensure that they enjoy their fair share of London’s growth and prosperity.”