July 8, 2014 by oswestrychamberoftrade
1. Welcome & Apologies
Vice Chair Martin Anderson introduced himself and welcomed members and guests, in particular a number of Oswestry Town Councillors and members of town groups and associations.
Apologies were given from Steve Elson, Howard Ellett, Jools Payne and Eva Hill.
2. The Portas Fund Background
MA outlined the ethos behind the Portas project and its key objectives.
In a nutshell, the Portas project invited applications for grant funding of £100k to be used to regenerate and grow town centres during their recent ‘decline’.
Successful towns were: Bedford, Croydon, Dartford, Greater Bedminster, Liskeard, Margate, Market Rasen, Nelson, Lancashire,Newbiggin-by-the-Sea,Stockport,Stockton-on-Tees,Wolverhampton
John Waine added that many of the £100k ‘winners’ were appointed based on greatest need rather than best proposal.
MA outlined how some of the other towns have utilised their £10k award.
Regional Cycling Scheme, Regeneration of Old Print Works, Town Centre Signage, Pop Up Shop
Funded a Town Team Officer for 12 months at a cost of £10k. This role is to be continued and funded by donations from parish funds.
Money spent on events and use of empty shops £10k
Training and advice for fledgling retail businesses to inject life into the town centre.
Website to promote town and town centre events at Easter and Summer
3. Oswestry’s Application to the Portas Fund
The aim of the Oswestry’s application was to build on Oswestry as a town with great strength and focussed on developing what the town already has to offer rather than trying to rebuild something from a position of weakness.
Parties involved in the original submission were all represented. M Anderson and J Waine from Oswestry Chamber of Commerce, Steve Haworth from Footfall and Oswestry Town Council. In addition 20 other community groups were in favour of and had provided written support of the application submitted.
Some of the original aims for Oswestry based on £100k award are listed below:
Town Team to bring together disparate bodies to look at town centre.
“Showcase Oswestry” – a joined up brand.
Feature film from hand held cameras made to promote all that was going on in Oswestry.
Map spaces, create event, encourage hustle and bustle in the centre of town.
Oswestry was unsuccessful in this application and along with approx.. 400 other towns was awarded a ‘consolation prize’ of £10k.
The decision for best use of these funds (which are currently held by Shropshire Council) is not for any single body to make, hence the discussions taking place.
4. Brainstorm Session
MA started the discussion by inviting ideas from the floor.
These are listed below:
Steve White – has been researching feasibility of a stage for the town to be made accessible to groups. Current hiring costs are £1500. Purchase costs around £10-£15k. He also mentioned an outdoor cinema which has been particularly mentioned by pupils of the Marches School.
Ingrid Knowles suggested match funding of an urban planning company to design a plan for the town which encompasses everything. Expert input rather than amateur speculation. eg Zebra crossings to ease the flow of pedestrians through town from Sainsbury’s to upper Brook street. She also mentioned recycling bins in town.
Sandy Best stated that the Oswestry 20/20 has already done much of this in its neighbourhood plan. Given the amount of money suggest a focus into an existing activity which could be built upon. She commented that Oswestry is a Festival town so perhaps funds could be used to make it ‘look like’ a festival town via bunting or banners.
Valentine Davies suggested information pillars which have been suggested in the past. She would like to see 2 in the town. These would serve to inform locals and visitors as to what is going on in the town.
Craig Marston agreed with IK reference to urban regeneration companies assessing commercial improvements andattractiveness to youngsters. He raised concerns about a lack of good PR for Oswestry and the neglected state of many shop fronts.
Steve Haworth mentioned that the Mile End tourist information office claims that most visitors don’t even realise that Oswestry is on their doorstep. Many visitors to the centre are asking for information about other destinations. He aired concern about the lack of PR and publicity, liked the idea of the stage and also segmented film for use to promote tourism element and festivals. Suggested Oswestry needs to be promoted as a destination. Oswestry being the best kept secret isn’t economically sound.
Peter Lloyd aired concerns about a lack of understanding about the commercial economy of Oswestry. Relative strengths of all businesses. eg Industrial estate vs successfull small businesses. He proposed some kind of survey of the successful businesses to find out what they want and what they need.
Duncan Kerr drew the conversation back to main aims of Portas which are people and town centre. His hope would be to see improved marketing of the town centre via a scheme such as Totally Locallyaimed at encouraging people to use their own town centre. An additional £1 per person per week spent in town would generate £1m pa of turnover for the town.
Jay Moore agreed with the ideas of the stage and pillars. Suggested a way to encourage youngsters to get involved with the process. Perhaps to canvas them for what they want, what they suggest. The young would be the people to guide the process. True engagement with the young people of the town.
Anna Doggart stated there are many different aspects to the town all of which have different needs, wants. She believes the key is communication. Joined up promotion of events. She also mentioned SCC have had money for a walk cycle way along the old railway to connect into the national walk cycle way. These are generally perceived as good for the town as a whole. This needs to be progressed.
Cllr Bill Benyon suggested that ‘Destination Oswestry’ encompassed all of these things but Ian Garland commented that DO had died a death.
John Waine commented that there is no silver bullet. We can’t make people look at pillars, posters etc. He would prefer a strategic view with a specific area of focus.
Jude Robinson – We sometimes focus on what we don’t do well rather than what we do well.
Andrew Tullo commented that Oswestry is a very artistic and musical town. Disagreed with strategic aim. He suggests something more tangible with a lasting input. Eg the Oswestry alphabet projectfor use in textiles, objects, souvenirs. He also suggested that people might be invited to apply for funds.
Sandy Best – picking up on the point made by IK earlier commented that consultants are the only people who will benefit from consultation with regard to urban regeneration. She suggested a focus on some quick wins particularly given that we only have £10k to work with.
Craig Marston refuted half of what Sandy Best said. He used Leeds as an example of a city benefitted from urban regeneration. Confetti approach won’t benefit anyone.
Steve White re enforced that Oswestry is not a dirty name and is a town with a heart. It has much going for it and doesn’t need raising to the ground.
Ian Garland added that this is JUST £10k. Not even enough to use as seed corn. If an urban planner came up with any kind of solution the funds would probably not exist to implement the recommendations. He warned that the £10k might not cover the cost of the pillars but was supportive of the idea of a stage purchase.
Paul Wiseman suggested something visual to upgrade the town centre,in particular the Cross Street . SC has the power to force landlords to bring their buildings up to a respectable standard and PW suggested the Chamber and others should encourage SC to enforce this power.
5. Round Up/Next Steps
MA thanked everyone for their input and circulated forms which invited written suggestions for use of the funds all of which will be fed into the decision making process.
Copies of the minutes will be forwarded to all who registered an email address when signing in and/or can be viewed via the Oswestry Chamber of Commerce website. Copies can be made available by email upon request from Heather Noble, Chair.
Mike Coppock – asked what next steps would be taken with Portas Monies. HN said that suggestions would be discussed at Committee and taken back to original parties involved in the submission of the Portas application. Updates would be forthcoming.
Oswestry Food Festival 12/13th July. Flyers available and full details to be found www.oswestryfoodfestival.co.uk
Food festival. Walford and North Shropshire College have a pop up restaurant with Chef Marcus Bean on 12th July. Funds in aid of Self Help Africa.
Anna Doggart– Suggested the Oswestry Network as a great way of keeping abreast of what is happening around Oswestry. Ingrid Knowles provides this service and anyone interested in being added to the distribution list should send an email to email@example.com.
Neil Jenkins – aired concern to the amount of time spent discussing Portas and suggested a decision should be made by key parties now and the matter closed.
NEXT MEETING – Wed, 6th August 2014.
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