TOWN CENTRE REVITALISATION

WORKGROUP MEETING 22/2/2006

Whitchurch Association – Town Action Plan Projects

 

This was the 2nd gathering of Retailers (the first was 12th January). The purpose was to Review Christmas in Whitchurch (CIW 2005) and agree the priorities and focus for 2006/07.

 

Attendance at both meetings was lower than hoped (Winter colds and flu had resulted in several apologies) but it was nevertheless clear from attendees and various emails received that there is much enthusiasm to continue.

 

CIW 2005

 

J Helped raise the profile of the Town – good publicity/PR including positive coverage in local media for all involved

J Good support and presence (Mayor/Town Council) – reception/switch on/shield etc)

J Residents perceived the event as making the town brighter, more festive and that the activities were well orchestrated, leaflets professional

J Competitions helped get 300+ additional footfall into Town centre

J Positive comments from shoppers ‘ brightest the town has looked for a long time’ including visitors to the town

J Duration and Saturday focus worked (versus late night)

J Good response to the Window and Odd One Out competitions (around 100)

L Not everyone seemed to know about the competitions

L No responses to Photo competition – issue may have been cost/difficulty to print digital pictures (next time offer email of .jpeg onto the website, where displayed and people can vote for best one

L Unfortunately was too late to involve WADs/obtain period costumes.

K Funds raised for MND a positive, but not fully exploited/promoted

K Unclear as to how much CIW brought in more business versus general economic/trading conditions.

 

It was agreed that, overall, CIW 2005 was a success, staged in a remarkably short period of time with minimal budget. There is unanimous support for a bigger, brighter, better CIW in 2006!

 

CIW 2006

 

·         Similar duration – lights switch on potentially Saturday 2nd or 9th December; Market or Fair/street closure etc potentially 16th; Carols/singing on Saturday 23rd Dec

·         Go for approval for brackets (Christmas Trees and Hanging baskets <NB but needs to include solution for fixing and then watering!)

·         Market must not compete with local stores

·         Funfair must also be traditional in style

·         Victorian Theme (to map to Silk Mill Plans)

·         WADs to be enlisted for costumes and period mini play performance(s)

·         Street Closure – favoured with most practical potentially Bell Street (or London St – divert via Test Road <HGVs via Lynch Hill Park>

·         Singers and Dancers (Clog) both desirable

·         Retailers might contribute some cost

 

What should be the main WTCR Focus in 2006/07

Tony C commenced the discussions by presenting the main results from the University of Southampton designed (and TESCO sponsored) research into the impact of a Tesco Express store on a rural town. (Whitchurch was one of four Hampshire Towns surveyed last year)

 

The 2nd set of information provided by Tony C was in the form of status information related to possible sources of external funding. These included HCC, BDBC and SEEDA but it was emphasised that each grant scheme had very specific criteria that would have to be met in any application. Most of the money is earmarked for spend in 2007/08. It was stressed the town has to make a strong case and the amounts awarded could range from a few thousand pounds to in excess of £150k depending upon what is asked for.

 

Tony C also referenced the Association of Market Towns (AMT) and their views on what makes for a vibrant rural or market town:

 

 

Finally, Tony C mentioned the existence (established early 2005) of the Business Link Wessex (BLWx) local 1 to 1 one-hour free clinics (Town Hall Tuesdays) and the bi-monthly (1st Wed, 6pm) Testbourne Business Club. A number of attendees were not aware of this and it was agreed the facility should be featured more prominently on www.thewhitchurchweb.org. Meantime to book or for further information call BLWx advice line on 08454 58 85 58)

 

WTCR Aims and Objectives

 

These were agreed as being:

 

 

WA representatives emphasised that this could be achieved but through ‘self help’ supported by the WA and was needed ’52 weeks per year’. Close ties were also needed related to the complimentary on-going activities forming part of the WA Tourism, Heritage and Communication project initiatives.

 

Challenges to Overcome

 

  1. Getting visitors beyond the Silk Mill and into the Town Centre – needs cooperation/involvement of the Silk Mill, amenity (retail and food offer leaflets) and direction signs
  2. Town Centre Drabness and Untidiness – engage residents and businesses in a ‘pride in Whitchurch’ campaign. Encourage landlords to improve/refresh buildings (including active enforcement via BDBC Conservation officers if required)
  3. Footfall – dependent upon raised profile (advertising/media/tourism push) and a more attractive Town Centre
  4. Empty Units – enlist Brockenhurst support/insight to help tidying and marketing of empty shop units
  5. Road Closure – needed for any major Town centre events (e.g. Christmas Fair/Market). Need to plan/agree and apply six months in advance (Bell Street most favoured/least problematic option)
  6. Collective Voice – opportunity to form a Whitchurch Retailers Association with links to local Business Club and WA
  7. Event Optimisation – attempt to tie individual local events more tangibly to the needs and aspirations of businesses and the Town Centre Revitalisation Project

 

Focus for WTCR project 2006/07

 

1.      Overcoming the challenges – see above

2.      Focus – initially ‘pride in Whitchurch’ campaign initially focusing upon a more tidy Town Centre (on the back of the recent BDBC street spring-clean)

3.      Pro-active Promotion – including retailer/local business support of the Whitchurch Web (on-line and quarterly magazine). An insert listing shops, eating places, accommodation will cost as little as circa £20-£25 per entry if most businesses support it. In addition those supporting will get FREE web listing.

4.      Events Programme – incorporating activities at the Millennium Meadow (Play, Picnic, Barbecue etc) and a JAZZ FESTIVAL (waiting on White Hart for details); BEER/HAMPSHIRE FOOD FESTIVAL; CIW 2006 and POTATO DAYS (Jan 07 – opportunity to ‘package’ a town tour to include ‘potato’ based food at local pubs/restaurants, accommodation opportunities etc)

5.      TOURISM – ‘spend a day in Whitchurch’ featuring the Silk Mill but also highlighting the other attractions in Whitchurch (Heritage Trail, Circular Walks, Feed the Ducks, Plaque, Links to ‘Test Way’) and specifically the shopping and eating ‘offer’

6.      SHOP LOCALLY – continue to push this message that underpinned the Christmas in Whitchurch activities.