12 months of support to aid town centre recovery

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Wilmslow Town Council has announced that it will provide support to aid the recovery of the town centre following the Covid lockdowns.

At the Council Meeting on February 15th, members agreed to put in place town centre management for a twelve-month period.

The decision followed that taken at the December meeting to allocate £75,000 of funding from 1st April 2021, which includes £25,000 for town centre management and £50,000 to fund town events.

In 2020 the Town Council appointed Groundwork to undertake a Business Improvement District feasibility study, the results of which will be made available over the coming months.

Town Clerk Matthew Jackson said "This work will help determine how a vibrant town centre could be managed in the future and will be aided significantly by a Town Centre Vitality Study which was commissioned by Cheshire East Council and which will deliver its outcomes later in 2021.

"The Town Council however felt that the circumstances did not give Wilmslow Town Centre the time to wait for these reports prior to taking direct action and have agreed to appoint Groundwork to provide town centre management as soon as the businesses reopen in early April.

"The selection of Groundwork recognised the need for continuity, their existing knowledge of all parties already engaged in ongoing work, their potential ongoing work that could run in parallel in developing a future Business Improvement District and their expertise in delivering the town centre management function elsewhere in Cheshire and Lancashire."

Although the funding is only in place for a twelve-month period, the Town Council feels that it is a critical time and are hopeful that the structure put in place will deliver results now.

Martin Watkins, Chairman Wilmslow Town Council said "It is in everybody's interest that our town centre is resilient and fights back from the devastating impact of the last twelve months. The Town Council is funded entirely by the residents most of whom want a town centre that is vibrant and serves our changing needs and our decision to invest in his way recognises that we as residents are partners in delivering and benefitting from a strong town centre.

"In the past the Town Council has worked with the business community in supporting the business group, funding Christmas lights, funding town centre events and working to aid the return of the Rex Cinema. We believe that the business community need our help now as a Council and as individual residents.

"In any successful long-term partnership all parties need to contribute and we hope that as circumstances improve for businesses, a longer-term funding solution can be established which delivers for town centre businesses and residents alike."

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Wilmslow Town Council
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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Keith Chapman
Friday 26th February 2021 at 5:11 pm
We should be careful not to waste money supporting businesses which do not have a future. The move to on-line commerce which was given a massive boost by COVID-19 is not likely to reverse. The future most of the town centre is likely to be a mix of cafes, nail bars, beauty salons, restaurants and residential apartments. We should support service and hospitality which will recover in time. Wilmslow town centre is going to see some of the biggest changes in its history in the next five years. We need to see this as evolution and an opportunity to reshape the town to serve the future and not the past needs of the residents.
Mark Russell
Friday 26th February 2021 at 5:14 pm
£75,000 to help business but £1,000,000 for a cycle path that has been delayed due to bad weather and won’t be used over 6 months of the year? Interesting allocation of funds.
Pete Taylor
Saturday 27th February 2021 at 7:07 am
@Keith Chapman, absolutely correct; there is no point in chucking our money at no-hope start-ups.

@Mark Russell, the £75,000 is from Wilmslow Town Council (I don't happen to agree with this funding). The £1M you mention is £900,000 from central government and is only to be used on walking and cyclin improvements; with a £100,000 contribution from Cheshire East Council (I don't happen to agree with this particular one either, as it happens).

Please, if you feel compelled to bleat about every subject under the sun here, at least aim at the correct targets!
Nick Jones
Saturday 27th February 2021 at 8:06 am
Its a positive step by WTC , (albeit 12 months into this crisis).. It may be too liitle to late for some .. but it is a positive action.
Chris Neill
Saturday 27th February 2021 at 9:35 am
Any contribution to the support of our town is a very positive and welcome step. I,m not an expert on town centre development, as Mr Chapman clearly isn’t , he offers a very negative outlook seeing its future dominated by nail bars and salons, but it this won’t be the case.
Wilmslow town is very special with a fantastic and vibrant mix of businesses, cafes and restaurants. Businesses which include shops which have already adapted to the changing times with on line activity. We have fantastic jewellery shops, clothing shops,a department store, a flower shop ,a fantastic cinema, even a hospital, as well as all the service businesses, solicitors, estate agents, banks, opticians,some great cafes, and Art Deco buildings. These businesses will adapt with a little bit of help, and I agree that we should welcome small residential additions, as is happening already off Water Lane, but we have a great future as a small town because it’s a great place to be.What a successful addition the new bike cafe has been, showing imagination as a bike shop and coffee bar. The town can be made more so with positive improvements to its landscape, verges, and general appearance, which is already planned. Locals, as well as people working within the existing and future shops, cafes and offices, will use its facilities, its a captive basis and footfall for the town centre.Let’s build on what we already have with our unique mixture of businesses and facilities and support them as much as we can when it all opens up again, it’s a great place to be.
Manuel Golding
Thursday 4th March 2021 at 2:36 pm
Chris Neil has clearly forgotten to mention the monthly Artisan Market- thus attracts somewhere between 5000 and 12000 visitors to the town centre every market day. These numbers ass a long wanted and desperate vitality to the area. The visitors, whether they be locals or from out of the area, bring business to a wide variety of in-town businesses, cafes, restaurants, food stores of all types etc.It is uplifting to see a busy & vibrant town.

The well organised Artisan Market,run by Denise Valenti and her team revitelises Wilmslow town centre on those days; we need to thank her for all the effort to ensure such a monthly event for our mutual benefit and to support the traders/stall holders for their wide and varied range of offers.

Finally, I would suggest that WTC ask serious questions of the Groundwork team's track records elsewhere (if any) before "jumping into bed" with them.What other town centres has it revitelised and at what cost, are they ongoing & if not, why?
Alan Brough
Thursday 4th March 2021 at 8:07 pm
@ Manuel Golding,

It’s a very good point.

Some might say that the Artisan Market days are (were) the one day of the month when it was interesting to visit the Town Centre.

There can be little doubt that the market draws people in and hopefully, if they can brave the soulless, chewing-gum strewn void of Grove Street, they might happen upon some of the other retail units that the town has to offer.
Jonathan Follows
Saturday 6th March 2021 at 5:49 am
Now, wouldn't it be a good idea to move the Artisan Market to Grove Street, to solve the apparent problem of it being soulless etc.?
Pete Taylor
Saturday 6th March 2021 at 8:33 am
@ Jonathan Follows, presumably you were not around when the market was held in Grove St? A few shop holders objected to having the market outside their front doors and WTC shut the market down! It was a somewhat tortuous procedure to get the market on a Saturday in the service road and I would be surprised if anyone would support the idea of moving it back to Grove Street.


https://www.wilmslow.co.uk/news/article/8842/retailers-call-for-artisan-market-to-switch-to-sundays
Jonathan Follows
Saturday 6th March 2021 at 10:12 am
No, I am completely aware that the Artisan Market used to be held in Grove Street, which was ideal, until it was moved to its more recent location because shop owners couldn't cope with potential customers walking past their front doors, amongst other reasons. So my comment was a little ironic, I accept that it's unlikely to move back although I considered Grove Street to be a significantly better location than the service road.
Mark Russell
Saturday 6th March 2021 at 5:18 pm
Grove street needs to be opened up to traffic again. Make it one way with one hour free parking. Would be a massive boost to the town.
Vince Chadwick
Saturday 6th March 2021 at 7:54 pm
I remember Grove St when it was a one-way road with alternate-side parking. The pavements were narrow to allow for the cars and those parked nose to tail down one side. I recall trying to push my then-infant children in a buggy along those narrow pavements, fellow pedestrians having to step into shop doorways to give space.

The footpaths were crowded with not that many pedestrians; it just seemed like an absolute hoard so compressed were we into the narrow footpath space with the majority of the available width given to the cars.

Cars dominated the scene. A slow moving continuous stream of them belched fumes into the space between the tall buildings, drivers' and passengers' eyes sweeping the line of parked cars hoping for signs of one that might be about to depart thus liberating a treasured parking space. The cavalcade would halt while the parked car was packed with shopping, boarded, and departed. The lucky space-claimer then did a Reginald Molehusband (who remembers that?} parking sequence before the cavalcade could move slowly on, round the block, to re-enter Grove Street yet again, circuit after circuit, like suitcases piled onto the wrong airport carousel with no passengers to claim them.

And all of this was when cars were smaller than they are today - there were few behemoth 4x4s back then which today comprise much of Wilmslow's traffic. Grove Street probably isn't wide enough to accommodate today's through traffic, parked cars, and footpaths either side.

One might equate the decline of local shops with the pedestrianisation of Grove Street. But perhaps that might have been caused by Wilmlowites abandoning their local High Street when enterprising retailers opened the Handforth Dean shopping centre with its expansive free car parks, and partially funded the dual carriageway feeder road from Wilmslow straight those car parks (AKA the Wilmslow Bypass). Since then we have had the massive impact on-line shopping to bang yet more nails into the coffin of the traditional High Street.

I prefer Grove Street today, given over to people rather than dominated by the internal combustion engine. Yes, it would lovely to have all those interesting shops back, but beware rose coloured spectacles when looking to the past. The reality is, we don't really want to abandon the convenience of on-line and out-of-town shopping which would allow the return of those shops.

Otherwise.... we would.
Stuart Redgard
Sunday 7th March 2021 at 4:24 pm
@Peter Taylor

WTC did not shut the market down. It did not and still does not have the statutory powers to do so.
Alan Brough
Sunday 7th March 2021 at 5:34 pm
@ Vince,

I accept all that you say about some of the impracticalities of ye olde Grove Street, but I do think that, as a thoroughfare it gave ‘life’ to the centre of town.

The pedestrianisation was brutal and unimaginative and brought with it a kind of ‘precinct’ feeling.

If you consider King Street (Bottom Street) in Knutsford, it has all of the narrow pavement / parked cars problems that Grove Stree had, but it offers a much more interesting and enjoyable commercial experience.
Mark Russell
Sunday 7th March 2021 at 5:40 pm
So what would you do Vince? We can’t all bury our head in the sand like our councillors do. A barrier system would stop the merry go round you talk about. £1 to get thru the barrier and park for an hour say. Put the bays at angles. There’s lots of ways around the issues you describe. The status quo will guarantee the death of the town centre. That is for certain.
Mark Russell
Sunday 7th March 2021 at 5:41 pm
@stuart. There we go again. “It’s not this councils fault it’s the other one”. Why can’t anybody get anything done?
Stuart Redgard
Sunday 7th March 2021 at 10:36 pm
@Mark

Did I say it was “the councils fault”? No.

You ask; “Why can’t anybody get anything done?”

May I ask: What exactly is it that you want doing? And why?
Jon Armstrong
Monday 8th March 2021 at 9:58 am
The thing that has been most successful on Grove Street over the last few years is the increasing pavement cafe culture with the coffee shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes having tables and chairs outside. Putting traffic back down the street will kill this dead. Who is going to want to have a coffee and sandwich with a car belching fumes in your face?

It is hard to see pedestrianisation is the problem when the shopping streets in Wilmslow that do allow traffic aren't faring much better.
Stuart Redgard
Monday 8th March 2021 at 5:00 pm
@Mark

Apologies. Having looked back at the thread of comments, I see that you have already provided the answers to my questions.

i.e "Grove street needs to be opened up to traffic again. Make it one way with one hour free parking. Would be a massive boost to the town."

Whilst you may well be right, this wasn't a proposal that made it into the Neighbourhood Plan.

http://shorturl.at/pxNUV


The plan was: ‘shaped by considerable input and feedback from the local community through an extensive consultation process.’

One of the objectives of the plan is:

"To maximise the visual quality of the Town Core, improving and encouraging access by sustainable modes, reducing the dominance of vehicles and the creation of an attractive and accessible destination space."

Your proposal appears to be in direct conflict with this objective.

You ask: ‘Why can’t anybody get anything done?”.

From experience I can say that it takes over 3 years of hard and unpaid work by 20+ volunteers on a budget of circa ₤50,000 to get something done. That is, the production of a Neighbourhood Plan, that withstood scrutiny from an independent inspection and on a turnout of 17.59% of the electorate, received 89% of voters support.

I applaud your passion, but in this instance I think you are “flogging a dead horse”.
Mark Russell
Monday 8th March 2021 at 5:02 pm
Pedestrian areas are widely acknowledged to be failing towns. I see plenty of people sat out side places like the old slug and lettuce and smoke et al. That’s a really busy street much busier than grove st would be. If you charged for access only shoppers would drive down there.

See this link for how people are rejecting pedestrian areas........

https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/hull-east-yorkshire-news/howden-town-centre-pedestrianisation-plans-5030862.amp

Grove street has died, not gone busier over the last few years. Perhaps the owners of the shops should be canvassed to see what they think as after all they pay the big rates to the council. I can name 10 shops that have shut down there in three years.
Stuart Redgard
Monday 8th March 2021 at 5:21 pm
Ah! Howden. A town I used to be driven through quite regularly as a child whilst I was growing up in Thorne.
Vince Chadwick
Monday 8th March 2021 at 6:07 pm
The novelist and aeronautical engineer Nevil Shute Norway lived in Howden while he was a member of the team that created the R100 airship in the 1920s. His first novel 'Marazan' was probably written there.

According to his 1954 autobiography 'Slide Rule' (a great read by the way), Shute was not very impressed by Howden, or at least not by its younger inhabitants. He wrote:

"The lads were what one would expect, straight from the plough, but the girls were an eye-opener. They were brutish and uncouth, filthy in appearance and in habits. Things may have changed since then – I hope they have. Perhaps the girls in very isolated districts such as that had less opportunity than their brothers for getting into the market and making contact with civilisation; I can only record the fact that these girls straight off the farms were the lowest types that I have ever seen in England, and incredibly foul-mouthed."
Keith Chapman
Monday 8th March 2021 at 6:25 pm
The comments in this thread are well meaning, but turning back the clock to Wilmslow in the 1990’s is not the solution. The Neighbourhood plan, which as Stuart correctly points out has democratic validity, envisaged further pedestrianisation not less. If the citizens of Wilmslow really want physical shopping to return they need to stop buying on line to the degree that they are. Failing that we should accept that shops which sell goods should be concentrated in Grove street, and the rest of the town should be turned over to restaurants, cafes, coffee bars, hairdressers, nail bars and apartments. This is not a negative trend as it is reflecting the current needs of the town, and not its historic requirements. You can’t turn back the clock.
Mark Russell
Monday 8th March 2021 at 7:11 pm
I like that idea Keith. Encourage all the shops down the ped area and have the cafes and bars on the roads outside this zone.

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