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Stone Town Centre Development Stratergy

The Stone Tourism & Town Promotion Sub-Committee meets this evening at the Stone Town Council meeting.

Committee Chairman, Councillor Ian Fordham will be presenting a paper for the committee to consider with regards to a “Stone Town Centre Development Strategy”

The paper details are:


1 CONTEXT

UK Town Centres face significant challenges as a result of economic uncertainty and changing consumer lifestyles. The latter include the growth of online retailing, the development of ‘one-stop’ destination shopping and increasing expenditure on leisure activities at the expense of more traditional retailing formats.

Town Centre occupancy rates are under pressure as traditional retailing adapts to this changing environment.  Average UK and West Midlands occupancy rates are 85%. Stone Town Centre currently has a higher occupancy rate of 92% and the High Street itself one of 90%.

Although Stone is faring better than most Town Centres on this measure; there is evidence of an increasing business ‘churn’, differing strengths in the day time and night time economies and a reduction in day time visitor numbers that should be addressed.

The purpose of this document is to recommend a set of Strategies and supporting Actions that can be used over time by all Stakeholders to support the development of the Town Centre.

As the local elected body, the primary role of Stone Town Council should be to co-ordinate an overall strategy; encourage improvements in infrastructure; develop and promote Town Centre attractions; encourage the local business community initiatives; help broker agreements between third parties; and offer practical advice and support whenever possible.

2 THE AIM

The overall Aim for Stone Town Centre has already been recorded within the emerging ‘Stone Neighbourhood Plan’ and can be summarised as follows:

“To create a thriving Town Centre with strong day-time and night-time economies and that is widely supported by both residents and visitors.’’

In order to deliver this Aim, it is necessary to determine the Strategies that must be implemented; highlight the Major Stakeholders who can deliver them; and define the roles that each stakeholder should play and how they will interact.

3 STRATEGIES

The Town Centre strategies listed below are the key to achievement of the Aim. Each is designed to help increase visitor numbers and trading by building on strengths whilst removing weaknesses:

  1. Improve Appearance and Environment
  2. Strengthen Events and Attractions
  3. Improve Shop/Business Frontages
  4. Strengthen Business Promotion

Each strategy is discussed in section 5.

 4   MAJOR STAKEHOLDERS

Successful implementation of these strategies will require the building of productive working relationships between Major Stakeholders.

The 2 most obvious Stakeholders in the Town Centre strategy are STC as the elected representatives of the residents of the Town and the Town Centre Business Community around which Town Centre life and trading revolves.

However, success in achieving the Aim will also depend on the continuing goodwill of Stone’s volunteer bodies and the active support of other public bodies, notably SBC and SCC, who have significant resources and statutory powers.

5    KEY STRATEGIES AND ACTIONS

5.1  Improve Appearance and Environment

5.1.1   The Town centre lies within the Stone Conservation Area (SCA) and comprises an   attractive built heritage of mainly Georgian and Victorian buildings, squares and alleyways. This heritage provides the foundation to make the Town Centre an attractive place for residents and visitors to linger in the face of increasing competition for their time.

5.1.2   In common within other Town Centres, Stone requires constant ‘TLC’ to ensure that it is consistently presented at its best. STC should continue to monitor the town centre appearance, facilitating improvements where necessary. This can be achieved by way of close working relationships with SBC, Volunteer Groups and the Business Community.

5.1.3 Specifically, STC should monitor Town Centre street cleansing and refuse removal; ensure street furniture cleaning, repair and improvement; organise the continued use of hanging baskets; check timely use of scaffolding for maintenance works; encourage, in line with published recommendations, the use of A Boards and street displays; and liaise with freeholders and leaseholders to encourage the acceptable appearance of all town centre buildings (occupied or not).

5.1.4 Parts of buildings above shop and business premises could be brought into productive use with 3rd party investment and would help regenerate parts of the town centre. This should be encouraged (following adoption of the Neighbourhood Plan) through introduction of a Neighbourhood Development Order (NDO) permitting conversion of designated premises above town centre business for residential use without the need for detailed planning permission but subject to building regulations.

5.1.5 Unused land and derelict property within the Town Centre could also be brought back into productive use.  This should be encouraged through facilitation of discussions

between freeholders, developers and SBC and SCC – with Crown Wharf providing the obvious example of such an initiative.

5.1.6 In extreme cases, STC should liaise with SBC as the LPA in order to consider the use of statutory powers under the TCCP and Building Acts, including improvement notices and enforcement requiring action on the part of the ultimate owner.

5.2              Strengthen Events and Attractions

5.2.1 STC should continue to organise or encourage the organisation of a range of large and smaller scale events and attractions that will bring visitors to the Town Centre.

5.2.2 It should promote existing businesses by development of a Town Centre map identifying businesses by location and category for use in Town Centre promotional materials.

5.2.3 It should introduce the Town Centre business maps in the several notice boards between the main points of arrival (car parks and canal-side) and the Town Centre and improve signage by working with SBC.

5.2.4 It should aim to promote more widely the popular monthly Farmers Market and encourage an increase in visitor numbers, particularly from outside of the town; aim to strengthen a second specialist monthly market in the middle of each month with a different theme and attracting different stallholders so as not to dilute the success of the Farmers Market; and should support a Traders Christmas Market.

5.2.5 It should develop and promote the Stone Heritage Walk on notice boards and in promotional materials.

5.2.6 It should liaise with other Event Organisers such as the well established Festivals, to facilitate availability of the Town Centre to support their activities wherever practical.

5.2.7 It should use a Calendar of Stone Town Events in the notice boards to promote further visits.

5.2.8 It should work with other Stakeholders to try to develop attractive branding that can be used to promote Town Centre attractions and events with a consistent look and style irrespective of Organising Body.

5.3              Improve Shop/Business Frontages

5.3.1 Shops and businesses can play their part in improving the attractiveness and safety of the Town Centre to visitors by adhering to the SCC recommendations on use of ABoards and any exterior displays and by ensuring that the shop fronts are clean and in a state of good repair.

5.3.2 Freeholders/leaseholders should maintain building frontages in a good state of repair and should be open to use of currently empty premises for ‘pop-up’ shopping and window displays.

5.4              Strengthen Business Promotion

5.4.1 There are several initiatives that shops and other businesses can use to increase footfall in the Town Centre and to directly encourage increases in trade. These should be initiated by a TCP Steering Committee (See Section 6) which should consider a wide range of options.

5.4.2 It might introduce a Stone Town Centre website introducing the Town Centre and its attractions, highlighting a Calendar of Town Centre Events, mapping the various businesses alphabetically and by business sector, providing each member business with its own page containing details such as contact details, opening hours, product ranges and promotional offers.

5.4.3 It might liaise with members to run and advertise seasonal and special promotions within each of its various business sectors and work with SBC and STC to try to support these with ‘free parking’ offers where appropriate.

5.4.5 It might liaise with members to offer attractions such as ‘late night opening’ nights especially in advance of key gift giving events such as Christmas, etc.

5.4.6 It might work with STC to on the development of a common Town Centre branding that can be used on all promotional materials to link events and attractions by logo, style, font and colour irrespective of Organising Body.

6 DELIVERING THE STRATEGIES

Achievement of the Aim will depend on successful implementation of the Key Strategies.

Implementation of the first 2 strategies (‘Improve Appearance and Environment’ and Strengthen Events and Attractions’) should be led by STC working in liaison with SBC, SCC, volunteer bodies and when necessary local businesses.

STC ‘Town and Tourism’ Committee should set up small informal Working Group(s) charged with delivering efficiently on the several actions within each strategy.

Implementation of the 3rd and 4th strategies (‘Improve Business/Shop Frontages’ and ‘Strengthen Retail Promotions’) should be the responsibility of a newly created’ Town Centre Partnership’ (TCP) comprising the Town Centre Business community acting through their appointed representatives.

There are examples of TCP’s emerging across the UK and it is therefore possible to adopt best practice which suggests that the TCP should be an incorporated body with clear aims and that membership should be open to all Town Centre businesses and confer clear benefits.

The TCP will need the support of the Town Centre business community to be a success. This implies support from across the 140+ Town Centre businesses including independent retail, chain retail, hospitality and professional services. It would be desirable for most to become members of the TCP for it to be democratically legitimate.

The principle aims of the TCP might be:

Raise awareness of Stone Town Centre and its shops and businesses;

Develop strong promotional activity for designated shops/sectors  Boost footfall and trade;  Provide Town Centre businesses with a collective voice;  Access heritage related improvement grants; Enable productive dialogue between the businesses and local public bodies.

Other TCP’s communicate via: regular e-newsletters outlining progress and describing ideas and initiatives, ‘stop press’ e-announcements, an e-‘discussion forum’, and a public website explaining its aims, providing a Town Centre business map and access details, describing forthcoming events and attractions, listing each member business and providing each business with its own listing page detailing offers, promotions, etc.

The TCP will need to consider an annual membership fee that would be used to support its activities as is usual with other TCP’s.

Best practice again suggests that member businesses elect a small number of representatives to sit on a TCP Steering Committee charged with delivering the necessary actions. These representatives should be voting members and represent the views and interests of the business community reporting back to those businesses as appropriate.

The TCP Steering Committee could in turn set up small Working Groups to deliver quickly and efficiently on its actions and report back to it and via it, to member businesses.

It will be for the TCP to consider how best to organise itself, however, best practice suggests that elected public bodies should be represented on the Steering Committee as non-voting members to ensure a productive ongoing dialogue and improve communication and mutual understanding.

7 POSSIBLE NEXT STEPS

7.1 Approve the Strategies and Actions.

7.2 Approve the STC Role.

7.3 Set up T and T Working Groups.

7.4 Approve Working with the TCP.

7.5 Agree to Approach Town Centre Businesses.

 

Ian Fordham

Chair  – Town and Tourism Committee

10th July 2017

 

 

One comment

  1. This makes interesting reading. I hope the Town Council can work quickly and cooperatively to adopt and develop this strategy. Urgent action is required at this level to improve the appearance of the town and its retail landscape. Bigger thinking is also required to secure a long term strategy for Stone’s retail environment.

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