CWC Council Debate: Revitalising our Town and City Centres

CGF 2009pw

Through my work as a Chartered Surveyor, I have visited many town and city centres and it is through that experience I have seen what works and what doesn’t.

Our Borough, along with the rest of the country has seen a change in our Centres over the past 5 years, most obviously with the recession but that compounded a fundamental shift that was already occurring. Many people simply put this down to the rise of the Internet however this is a symptom of a wider concept which we have to take into account, the concept of “convenience”.

Making shopping as easy as possible is the reason Internet shopping appeals and why out of town shopping and supermarkets do so well, you can get what you want, when you want it and it is easy to park, outside the store, for free.

With the changes in demographics with the “baby boomers” reaching retirement, it will be increasingly important to ensure our centres continue to be accessible, especially for those who mobility isn’t once what it was. Our Council is proactively looking at these issues through the Corporate Disability Access Forum, which I helped establish and now Chair.

In my experience access to free car parking is vital to the long term future of any shopping area. For a town like Northwich, free car parking is essential, for Cities like Chester with a much larger central business district where space is at a premium the “Free after 3” policy is very commendable.

Secondly, as Cllr Hennesy mentioned Centres need a range of services to ensure they can continue to attract people in, the experience of the High Street can be underestimated but we need to give people a reason to come in.

I was delighted to see the monthly Artisan Market in Northwich has been extended to Christmas by this Council. I went in September and was pleased to see so many stalls and so many people, hopefully a vision of things to come with Barons’ Quay but we need to ensure we make more use of the Riverside frontage which makes Northwich different.

We should celebrate our Markets more to encourage trade especially fresh food, that is the real difference in comparison to Europe. So as well as initiatives such as the Artisan Market how about simply adding the Market Days on our “Welcome” signs for our towns?

I would also advocate Business Improvement Districts in our Town and City Centres, so local businesses can be more responsive to change and help to improve their areas.

One final element to revitalising our centres is by encouraging more people to live and work in them. The renaissance of city centres such as Liverpool and Manchester have included residential and modern business developments.

Due to housing costs, residential use of ancillary and upper floors and conversion of redundant commercial properties has always been the case in central London however we need to continue actively promoting this in our Borough, with such initiatives as the Conversion Grant which is available for redundant commercial property.

By encouraging more people to live in our Town and City Centres, they will be more likely to shop, eat and work there. This also has the advantage of helping us to get more residential accommodation in our borough and of course being far more environmentally friendly through less travel.

In conclusion, to continue the revitalisation of our town and city centres we need 3 things:

Firstly convenient access and parking, secondly making centres more appealing through promoting vibrant markets and heritage features such as the Rivers in Northwich and finally by encouraging more people to live and work there.

(17 October 2013)

UPDATE:

Council established a cross party Working Group into Town & City Centres, which I chaired and it reported back to Executive on 22 October 2014, Item 58 Town & City Centres.

Full Town and City Centre Member’s Working Group. Final Report

Appendices:

Main Body: Town and City Centre – Appendix 1

Council Motion: Town and Centre – Appendix 2

DCLG on A2 use: Town and Centre – Appendix 3

 

 

Speak Your Mind