Independent businesses based in the railway arches at London Bridge Station face an uncertain future as Network Rail prepares to submit a planning application for the redevelopment of the interchange.
In April Network Rail published its latest plans for the redevelopment of the station with a new ground-level concourse which will see the current railway arches between Weston Street and Stainer Street demolished and both streets closed to traffic.
The development also has implications for the current occupiers of some of the adjacent arches.
On Monday a meeting of local businesses, Network Rail and politicians was hosted at City Hall by Caroline Pidgeon AM, leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly group and Chair of the London Assembly transport committee.
At the meeting Network Rail met representatives of local businesses including Team London Bridge, Arch 897, Southwark Playhouse, Platform Restaurant & Bar and Arch Climbing Wall, as well as planning officers from Southwark Council and local Riverside ward councillor Anood Al-Samerai, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Southwark Council.
"Everyone accepts that changes will need to take place to ensure that London Bridge Station is improved and that it can handle far more commuters in the future," says Caroline Pidgeon AM.
"However the businesses that operate under the arches must not be overlooked. They have a right to know where they stand so they can plan for the future.
Network Rail is expected to submit a planning application to Southwark Council this summer.
Cllr Anood Al-Samerai (Lib Dem, Riverside ward) added: "This was a useful meeting, but Network Rail needs to be held to account over the assurances they have now provided to local businesses in the area. Network Rail might have to also go further and help find alternative premises for any businesses that regrettably have to move away.
"The businesses that operate under London Bridge are independent businesses which add greatly to the local community. We very much want them to stay in the area, but if that is ultimately not possible Network Rail must help them make the difficult transition of finding new premises so that they can at least remain in business."
Last month representatives of Network Rail presented their plans for London Bridge to a meeting of London TravelWatch.
New details that emerged during the session included the admission that Network Rail hopes to retain the footbridge across Tooley Street to the Cottons Centre, but health and safety considerations mean that there may be insufficient headroom under the new railway viaduct.
Work on the station rebuilding will be carried out in three sections, starting at the St Thomas Street end. If the project proceeds on time, the new-look terminating platforms on the southern side of the station could be complete by 2014/15.
Early plans for alterations to rail services were also shown to the London TravelWatch meeting. Tentative proposals include the diversion of up to five Southern trains an hour from London Bridge to Victoria.
Fewer Southern trains may be able to call at Clapham Junction during the works to enable the lines into Victoria to accommodate the extra trains.
Some Southeastern services that currently run via London Bridge could be diverted to St Pancras using the High Speed 1 line during the building works.
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