Retailers to rally together in bid to boost town centre trade

From left, Saffron Walden town clerk Simon Lloyd, UDC's economic development officer, Simon Jackson,

From left, Saffron Walden town clerk Simon Lloyd, UDC's economic development officer, Simon Jackson, UDC cabinet member with responsibility for community engagement, Cllr Howard Rolfe, and Mark Ross, from the Association of Town Centre Management. - Credit: Archant

BUSINESSES have agreed to work together during tough economic times in a bid to attract more shoppers and boost town centre vitality.

More than 70 people turned out for a meeting billed as “the most important of recent times for businesses” organised by Uttlesford District Council’s economic development officer, Simon Jackson, and Saffron Walden Town Council in the town hall last night (Wednesday).

Mr Jackson addressed the town’s business community and said the aim of the meeting was to establish whether businesses “wanted to work together to improve the vitality of the town centre”.

He also spoke of the desire to create a town team in a bid to boost town centre footfall and customer service – a move which has been adopted by neighbouring towns and cities such as Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds – but said businesses had to buy into the call for action.

“If you leave it up to me it is not going to happen. I’m a part of it but it has got to be a team effort. We have got to have a plan so that people can see what we are trying to achieve – we need a town team,” Mr Jackson told the packed hall.

“There are a lot of issues around at the moment and we can’t solve them now. But by working together we can overcome some and take advantage of the opportunities out there.”

Guest speaker Mark Ross, east of England town team adviser from the Association of Town Centre Management, said there were 32 towns in the region starting to organise themselves – a move engineered by business owners and not councils.

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“They are your competition. It is your time, your business and you have got to start working together,” he said. “The first thing to do is run a survey to give real evidence of what the town thinks and what businesse thinks and then develop a plan.”

It was agreed that the first step would be to launch a survey to find out what people think are the strengths and weaknesses of Saffron Walden, available in shops, online and by asking shoppers in the street.

Information from the questionnaire will then be analysed and presented at a meeting with the business community at 6pm on Monday, March 11 in the town hall. This will be used to create a strategic plan of action with the backing of town centre businesses.

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