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Minutes of Design & Marketing Meeting

Tuesday 21st February 2012

Present: Sheila Friend-Smith (chairman), Simon Pittock, Ray Tinker, Andrew Olley, Peter Hillman, Ted Coney, Terry Overall, John Baker, Angela Moody, Daniel Block, Kevin Evans, Ray Tinker, Frank Readhead, Ian Burton-Palmer, Shirley Overall

1. Apologies

Suzanne Lindsay, Caroline Cawley, Daniel Block, Simon, Peter Hillman, John Yates, Ian Burton-Palmer, John Baker, Angela Moody, Liz Sayers

2. Minutes of the 17th January 2012 meeting

These were agreed.

3. Matters arising

Maltings Cottages and Magistrate's Court:
No progress to report

Daniel will be completing an application to Awards for All to seek funding for the project. Daniel and Simon will pay an informal visit to Thame with the aim of visiting businesses who are involved with the iThame application. Action for Market Towns have said this should fulfil the requirements for match funding and also to include new/additional items in the funding request, where these exist, to fill the gap left in the original costings put forward by the now reduced cost of the visit. Kevin Evans has offered to assist Daniel with drafting documents required for the Awards for All application and Sheila will pursue a copy of the Perspective Group's constitution for this same purpose. Simon reported that he had begun work on the backend systems for the data storage systems for the application and website which will make up the Ely App.

Christmas Market:
Simon reported that he has failed to locate funding for the project, which would need to be in the order of £50,000K to put on a full market. Whilst this would include initial costs such as decorations, stalls etc. the cost would be significantly reduced in following years as it would fall to maintenance and smaller capital investment. It will still be possible according to various entertainment providers and showmen to get an ice rink and possibly carousel, even if it proves impossible to put on a full Christmas market. Simon will look into securing at least these attractions for Ely in 2012.

Simon has submitted costs to Ian Burton-Palmer for the hosting of the Perspective Design & Marketing Group's website, as well as the Ely App website and the backend systems needed to run this. Ian will take the details to the Perspective Group executive meeting for discussion.

4. Retail Occupancy

Two Ticks Watch Services and the adjacent sweet shop (which were part of the same concern) have closed. Millets on the market square has also closed.

5. Discussion of the Portas Review

A copy of the Portas Review may be downloaded here.

Following an invitation extended as a result of a suggestion raised in the last meeting, Andrew Olley from the Ely Trader's Association joined the meeting to bring a perspective from the traders of Ely to the discussion.

Town Teams:
One of the report's main recommendations is to form Town Teams; the aim of these is to manage towns and high streets as a unified, joined-up whole. The report suggested wide ranging powers and scope should be afforded to these teams, including the ability to negotiate council tax relief with landlords and potential tenants. It suggest they should also have the ability to influence or control the type of occupants with the aim of ensuring a better mix of shops and strengthen the high street resultantly.

Shirley Overall reported that talks are underway within the Ely City Council to establish such a team, although as it is early on the exact nature of such a group is as yet unknown.

Andrew Olley stated that the Ely Trader's Association would be hesitant to head up such a team, citing concerns that they could end up in an impossible situation with no real ability to control the factors necessary for such a team to be effective. He suggested a need for more clarity over the role of the District/City Councils in Ely in determining Ely's future.

General issues arising during the free-form discussion:
The issue of parking was raised with a consensus that it would be damaging, at least at the present time, to introduce such measures in Ely. Andrew Olley will be formally taking the results of the petition to the council on the 6th of March.

The ownership of the Waitrose car park was discussed, this being the main park for visiting shoppers to Ely. It was agreed that more clarity was needed on this matter, and future concerns which may arise such as the possible introduction of parking charges by Waitrose. It was noted that Waitrose in Saffron Walden operate a validation scheme whereby a portion of the parking charge is returned upon presentation of a parking receipt at the till.

The group as a whole felt that parking charges fly in the face of logic, and that introducing them at the present time would add yet another burden to Ely at a time when the economy is already weak, and the high street is already under threat. Andrew Olley and others cited the example of Newmarket where a 25% reduction in footfall has been observed by the traders following the introduction of parking charges there. It was felt that this was a relevant and poignant example, given geographical proximity and other parallels between the two locations.

Concern was also raised over the pending plans to build a new out-of-town site, which would include a new Tesco development. Such a site would draw shoppers away from the city centre by its very nature; without the potential to draw customers to it, such a development simply would not be under consideration as it would not be a profitable exercise. As such, in addition to the loss in trade which would inevitably be felt in the city centre, concern was raised again with respect to the parking charges issue in the city centre. The group expressed considerable concern that when faced with free parking in an out-of-town development, shoppers would opt to go there rather than to come to the city centre where they would have to pay to park.

It was suggested that of the 10 proposals made by Mary Portas at the end of her report (possible actions/projects to undertake), 6 would potentially be viable projects to attach to the Magistrate's Court.

Andrew Olley mentioned that the Chamber of Trade was holding an event in April. He suggested that in his opinion, the concensus from the Ely Trader's Association would be there more things on in Ely the better. He reported from personal experience that the Apple Day event in particular was fantastic for business and offered a predictable boost to trade and footfall each year. His opinion was that building on this with ever more events and activities for Ely would be highly beneficial.

Ted Coney reported that having spoken to new business owners, something he frequently does on behalf of the Perspective Group, a frequent issue raised is that there is no communication from anyone (the council, ETA etc.) He felt that much more could be done to welcome new traders to the area, to strengthen cohesion amongst the business community and help to build a more joined up body of Ely traders. He also reported that traders frequently expressed surprise at the free leaflet stand at the station.

The topic of pedestrianisation of the city centre was raised. Frequently cars are parking on the High Street beyond the 10am cut-off point on a Saturday, after which the road is closed to traffic. The police are supposed to enforce the parking restrictions here, by way of PCSOs. The failure to do this is making the street unfriendly and potentially hazardous to shoppers on a busy shopping day for Ely. Angela Moody suggested that Ely might consider a fully pedestrianised and car-free zone within the city centre. Andrey Olley suggested that the costs of such measures might be better put towards averting the introduction of car parking charges at this time.

Towards the end of the discussion, the group summarised the discussion by boiling it down to the following points:

Town Manager:
It was felt this was an excellent idea which should be pursued, with that caveat that such a role would need adequate funding and any such position would have sufficient power and clout and accountability to the District and City Councils.

Environmental Impact Report:
It was suggested that these should be made regularly, focussing on the city centre. Mark Mahaffey should be contacted regarding this.

Better use of Ely's existing facilities:
The group agreed that it would be beneficial to Ely as a destination to make more use of the older buildings, for example the Bishop's Palace. Ely needs more things to do and this would help to build a broader range of facilities and activities for tourists and visitors. Where these facilities do exist, they should be better publicised.

Ely Passport:
The group like the idea of a 'passport' for Ely, which could cover admittance to all of Ely's attractions. This could also offer discounts at local food establishments, hotels/B&Bs and could be available in 1 or 2 day varieties. In addition to making purchasers aware of the various facilities and attractions, the group felt that it could encourage visitors to make Ely a longer-stay destination.

The Ely App: The discussion led to the conclusion once again that the Ely App is one of the most important contributions the Perspective Group can make at the moment, and would go some way towards addressing many of the issues discussed in the Portas Review.

It was reported that the council and tourist office are not allowed to accept leaflets from local businesses, something which the group felt could be beneficial. Clarification on this matter should be sought.

10. Any other business

•   ADeC’s Live events are well supported with excellent ticket sales. The recent children’s painting competition has been most successful.
•   The level crossing will be closed from the 23rd to the 26th February
•   Request that the rubbish be cleared from the embankment
•   This year’s Christmas lights had been superb
•   To widen the tourist appeal of the city it was suggested that the King’s School could be approached to offer greater access to its historic buildings.
•   ECDC are planning an East Cambridgeshire festival for the summer of 2013. As a start to the funding there will be an opera in the Hayward Theatre on the 14th July 2012.

Date of the next meeting

6.30pm Tuesday 20th March 2012 at St Peter’s House, Broad Street, Ely