The Portsmouth Report and Wrexham

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  • #99957
    Alunh
    Alunh
    Participant

    There are now a number of Reports which have been undertaken (or are in process) concerning aspects of Wrexham’s town centre. There are also initiatives underway concerning the same. These include:-
    • Destination Wrexham
    • The Wrexham Local Government Plan 2013-2028
    • Manchester Metropolitan University’s (MMU) High Street UK 2020 project
    • Quarterbridge Report on Wrexham Markets
    • The Healthy High Street initiative

    Each of these Reports/Initiatives have adopted different approaches to the future of the town, some of the recommendations seemingly at total odds with other Reports and Initiatives

    As an example, the aims of the Destination Management Plan are:
    • To deliver a strategic and visitor focused approach to the development and management of the visitor product/ experience in Wrexham County Borough
    • To achieve clear, coordinated and prioritised actions which will significantly improve the visitor experience and levels of visitor satisfaction
    • To enthuse and involve tourism businesses and other agencies in productive partnership working which relates to their interests and makes the very best use of available goodwill, budgets and manpower
    • To drive up tourism business performance year on year
    • To grow the economic, environmental and social contribution of the visitor economy in a way which is responsible and considerate of the needs of residents as well as visitors
    • To contribute significantly to regional and national economic and cultural aspirations.

    Oddly enough, if you read through these objectives, you will be hopelessly confused if you read the Portsmouth Report below. I will pick out some of the key phrases to focus on……..

    Destination Wrexham, for example, talks of working to a “VISITOR FOCUSED APPROACH” and working in a way that is “CONSIDERATE OF THE NEEDS OF RESIDENTS AS WELL AS VISITORS”. The Wrexham Local Government Plan makes it quite clear that it is concerned about the rather fractured nature of Wrexham and the need to try and lock Eagles Meadow into the wider town centre by adopting suitable strategies in Yorke Street, Chester Street, High Streeet and Henblas Street to bind the town back together. Each of these initiatives admittedly expresses an interest in revitalising the town and to stimulate the overall health of the same. Unfortunately, whilst Reports like the Quarterbridge Report have been produced in a spirit of goodwill, they do not necessarily offer an optimal way forward for the holistic development of Wrexham as
    A Retail town
    A Tourist town
    A Market town
    An Arts and Cultural centre
    A Wonderful place to live
    A Wonderful place to work
    A Wonderful place to conduct a Business

    Those of you who are pessimistic about Wrexham probably think it is not possible to achieve the above. I am not one of them

    The Portsmouth Report, however, offers a considerable amount of hope to a small town like Wrexham…….if the logic of what it says is taken on board and run with. That said, the current proposals being put forward by Wrexham Council would suggest that the Portsmouth Report will be ignored. For those of you who have not read this fairly straightforward piece of work……here goes

    The Portsmouth report….in a nutshell: “British market towns that have retained their traditional markets are more healthy, more socially active, provide better food security and promote sustainability, according to new research. The research provides the strongest evidence to date of the ‘market effect’ increasing a town’s vitality and viability, including by increasing footfall between 15 and 27 per cent compared to towns without markets. There are nearly 400 market towns in Britain.
    The research, by Professor Alan Hallsworth, based at the University of Portsmouth, and colleagues was commissioned and is published by the National Association of British Market Authorities (Nabma).
    Professor Hallsworth, visiting research fellow at Portsmouth Business School, said: “We can unequivocally say markets contribute to the economic, social and political health of towns and cities.
    “Footfall is a key indicator of town and city centre performance, representing activity, usage and relevance. Towns and cities with markets are attractive and welcoming to all, not just those with money to spend. We argue that a busy town is a healthy town.”
    The research also found there is potential for markets to contribute further to an area’s vitality by leading the way in helping more ‘fixed’ forms of retailing adapt to the changing expectations people have of their towns and cities.
    The researchers examined all the published evidence on the ‘market effect’ going back several years, and carried out additional new research based on commercially-collected footfall data.
    They found that markets contribute to every one of the top 25 key priorities identified in the High Street UK 2020 project to improve town centre vitality and viability, including:
    • Markets are worth an estimated £10.5bn to the UK economy;
    • Markets and their related businesses and activities are a significant employer of local people;
    • Markets act as incubators to small and micro businesses, offering diversity of goods and encouraging new business start-ups;
    • Income from markets supports wider local authority services;
    • Markets are inter-generational, employing extended family members, and offer entry-level employment for the low skilled;
    • Through markets, small businesses have direct access to individuals and local businesses, to whom they can become suppliers, encouraging diversity of goods and a strong sense of social cohesion;
    • Farmers can make significantly better profits selling direct to consumers at specialist markets than via supermarkets, contributing to the sustainability of farming, the traceability of food and a vital link between urban and rural life;
    • The atmosphere of markets attracts tourists and provides a town with a distinct identity;
    • Because they are used by all age groups and sections of society, markets promote strong social interaction;
    • Because it is relatively easy to become a trader, markets have historically provided newcomers to the UK or to an area with a way of becoming part of society.
    The research was carried out at the request of the National Association of British Market Authorities and has been incorporated into the wider work of the High Street UK 2020 project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council”.

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 3 months ago by Alunh Alunh.
    #99959

    99DylanJones
    Participant

    Alun Thanks for summarising what is a very complex — can I suggest that you offer to do the summary report to the Council before they decide to employ a consultant again to summarise all of the plans. It is time that action was taken not fiddle whole Rome burns!
    With the Council now consulting on their budget a key question to ask them is how much (if anything) to put staff and management into the delivery of any of the ideas.
    They may not be showing cuts to the town at the moment but look closely at the £8 million staff savings – this equates to about 1200 staff — how many of them are engaged with the town centre?

    #99971
    Rob
    Rob
    Keymaster

    One minor note in terms of Council staff and the town centre – the cuts will have an impact on some local business, as many do use local outlets before / lunch / after work etc.

    (Wrexham.com'er - email us on news@wrexham.com)

    #99976

    BenjaminM
    Participant

    An excellent virtually verbatim reproduction of the article produced by the University of Portsmouth as published in their newsletter.
    However, the report is generic in its content and states a series of factual statements from the viewpoint of the author, that are neither specific to any one place, nor does it offer any recommendations or advice as to how it’s idealistic vision is achievable.
    If one were to be cynical (as is often the case on this forum), it could reasonably be argued that the Commissioners of the report got exactly what they wanted it to say.
    The ills afflicting Wrexham town are far more serious and troubling than revitalising its markets is likely to solve.
    An interesting piece of light reading nonetheless.

    #99982
    Rob
    Rob
    Keymaster

    In terms of reports I FOI’ed a copy of Quaterbridge as follows:

    Is it possible to request a copy (digital or otherwise) of the so called ‘Quarterbridge Report’. The formal report name is unknown, but this request is for the document that is the result of the work undertaken by Quarterbridge Project Management Limited to look at the long term future of the town centre markets. They are believed to have been commissioned sometime in 2013-14.

    Previously it has been stated publicly that the report contains content that cannot be shared for data protection and copyright reasons.

    I would request the release redact the information that is believed to cause data protection issues. For the copyright issue I am advised that such information is permitted for disclosure under FOI legislation, however the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act still stands on its further use or publication after disclosure. Therefore is it possible to indicate which sections WCBC believes are copyrighted in the release?

    The FOI was refused.

    The information you have requested was provided to the Council in confidence and, having consulted with the company who provided it, the Council has been advised that they believe its disclosure could severely impact their own commercial interests as the information includes their working methodology which could be copied by rival businesses.

    The Council is satisfied that the information is covered by the law of confidence, as it was given on the understanding of confidentiality, it has the necessary quality of confidence and there does appear to be a real likelihood that the company who provided it could suffer a detriment if the information was disclosed.

    and further

    The Council considered that there is significant public interest in transparency and accountability and that there would be a great amount of local interest in the future of the town centre markets. On the other side of the balance, however, the Council was of the view that the potential commercial detriment on the authors of the report could not be understated and that there was also a public interest in free and open competition. Having weighed these factors, the Council came to the conclusion that disclosure would not be in the public interest and accordingly, the Council is unable to provide you with a copy of the information.

    No decision on internal reviews or restructuring the request has been made, but to me it is a shame that a document that is being leaned on to make wider decisions about the town is not something that members of the public can see.

    (Wrexham.com'er - email us on news@wrexham.com)

    #99992
    Alunh
    Alunh
    Participant

    An excellent virtually verbatim reproduction of the article produced by the University of Portsmouth as published in their newsletter.
    However, the report is generic in its content and states a series of factual statements from the viewpoint of the author, that are neither specific to any one place, nor does it offer any recommendations or advice as to how it’s idealistic vision is achievable.
    If one were to be cynical (as is often the case on this forum), it could reasonably be argued that the Commissioners of the report got exactly what they wanted it to say.
    The ills afflicting Wrexham town are far more serious and troubling than revitalising its markets is likely to solve.
    An interesting piece of light reading nonetheless.

    I suspect that you missed the quotes in the piece above. This is a straight lift. The author is one of the foremost analysts of Clone town theory and he does not have to advocate anything…..his observation is based upon the comparable between towns with and towns without markets. I suspect the implication is watch what you wish for when you piddle around with what you have.

    That said, whilst I don’t quite get the generic point, I do take your point about the commissioning of a Report like this by a group with an end conclusion which suits. However, if you are, like me, an individual who thinks that towns which will prosper will ultimately offer something unique and local, then I take the Report as a positive.

    On the wider issue, I don’t think Wrexham has huge issues to attend to (though it would seem like that to some). There are already plenty of positives in play in terms of the numbers game and Wrexham has relatively less empty units unlet than many comparable towns. There is good coverage in all shop types, several major developments, many Independent shops and a fairly full house of Supermarkets. If re-rating comes, the very heart of Wrexham should gradually fill up again

    #100018
    Alunh
    Alunh
    Participant

    It is brilliant that you have undertaken this FOI request Rob. It really does sicken me that a Consultant can be employed, do work on behalf of the Council, yet those people who actually underpin the Council by paying Rates (or taxes) are unable to be privy to the detail of the Report which I presume will be used to reshape the future direction that the town will take. Whilst this is not exactly Star Chamber stuff, it is anger inducing.

    Do you actually know who is privy to the full report and who is not?

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