Last night the Town Centre Forum (TCF) had its monthly meeting in the Guildhall.
The forum is made up of Council staff and representatives plus the odd topical stakeholder – plus of course those with business or other interests in the town centre.
The forum is open to all to attend so if you think this might be of interest pop along to the next one in early January.
As usual everyone introduced themselves from the Chairman (Mr Critchley of Eagles Meadow), but this time the added fun people mentioned the streets they ‘represented’ or were just from. It was great to hear so many different places mentioned.
Here are the main topics covered with our notes on the debate, posted in order they were mentioned:
- Public Toilets There has been an ongoing debate in the TCF with the toilets in the town being closed at night. This was highlighted as ‘more of a concern as the night economy gets stronger’. Town centre manager Isobel Garner said ‘short term there is some money to make sure toilets are open at the weekend with added police presence and somewhere for the street pastors to go’.
A range of questions were raised however most were answered by referring to future meetings with lots apparently happening tomorrow in the council – plus one with the town’s ‘Nightsafe’ group.
- Second Outdoor Market – A decision on if this will happen has been deferred to the new year, due to concerns raised previously that the current enthusiasm is based off a ‘quick buck’ on Christmas trade.
This prompted further debate with a question from a TCF member asking ‘who decides? we should have a say!’ The Council responded “its Assets and Economic Development as they are the ones who run it. They have to maximise the opportunities to get rental in themselves as they act as landlord of the space.” Following on from this the TCF were told there is a strategic asset management plan being created which is a review of the three markets and will go to the scrutiny committee.Following this there was confusion over which markets were covered by this review, and the forum did not know if they should be involved, discussing it or having any input to the review. The Council told the TCF they were unsure of when input would or could be sought saying “the reports not been finalised yet so we are not sure”.
One TCF member said “if its an overall strategic view we need to be careful as that is where things may sneak through. As the Chairman will recall, that is where the parking issue came through last time’ Mr Critchley agreed.TCF members revealed that they had tried to move the debate forward themselves with Alex Jones from The Bank Bar said he had been hoping to meet the outdoor market representatives , however he and the council turned up but the market representatives did not despite plenty of notice.
Cllr Alun Jenkins pointed out that scrutiny can have input from anyone if the chair of the committee allows, and they just recommend but not decide issues.
Forum Chair Critchley suggested that a formal group from the Town Centre Forum should attend the scrutiny committee if not speak. Wednesday 9th of January is the scrutiny committee date, and the next town centre forum is the 8th so this issue will be further debated at that TCF meeting. Mr Critchley made it clear “A few will get involved quite strongly in this it seems. We are not council bashing here.”
- Marketing and Promotion Town Centre Manager Isobel Garner had a statement for the Town Centre Forum,leaflets about the ‘Father Christmas Comes To Town Parade’ on Thursday , and the Gingerbread House as Santa comes to town plus further information including details of the Victorian Market (from 12-8pm on Thursday 14th at St Giles!).
Following up a query from last month regarding outsourcing of events Amanda Davies from the Council had given the TCF a statement giving clarity to say they were not outsourced , but gained involvement from local groups. The TCF were told several were talked to, with an advert in the local paper the leader to try and raise interest in people getting involved. Looking forward no decision has been made about involvement for 2013 with these groups but meetings will be held with them after Christmas.A query was raised why only two major events in 2013 were referred to for the Town, despite there being at least the Science Festival and Food Festival. This was coupled with criticism that an event on Thursday was only being flagged up to the TCF two days beforehand.A strong debate was held which boiled down to the Council saying they ‘dont know all the events, or the dates’ and ‘we can only co-ordinate what we are told about’.An overall issue that there was no centralised events collection for the town exist was identified, however some present hinted that the ‘Hello Wrexham’ project could solve this with the TCF being told it ‘will have shoot offs for everything’.
- Chartered Fair – The TCF were told of the town’s fair that had been coming for hundreds of years from a local family known most recently via George Simons. It is in town in the Waterworld car park from 20th Dec to 30th Dec. They were keen to make it known the interesting fact ‘Its been going as long as the market’. They acknowledged ‘The fair has been on a slow decline’ however positively said that since’since we are on the new site there is no anti social behaviour – we want to get families back’. The new site being Waterworld rather than the old Eagles Meadow in its former ASDA flyover glory.
Further ideas from the Fair were suggested, including a street fair much like Northampton and an artificial Beach. On the latter the TCF were told there have been beaches on Llywn Isaf for the last few years. We asked on twitter and this was confirmed – with one (@jamesbwxm) pointing us to this document which refers to a giant sandpit! We love our twitterers !
- Police Business – The monthly briefing was given to the TCF with a month on month and year to date comparison given.
- Victim based crime is 153 crimes year to date
- Overall crime is down to 232 crimes year to date a whopping 21% reduction in recorded crime.
The Forum was told there were ‘small increases’ in some areas of crime but nothing of concern. Details of what areas were not given. (Wrexham.com were passed Octobers details away from the TCF and published them here)
News that town centre policing was now ‘at full strength’ was welcomed, so now there are 7 PCSO’s alongside 2 CPN’s – so seven police community support officers and two regular police officers in non-jargon. With this full quota the police told the TCF they ‘hoped things will go from strength to strength’.
- Operation Santa started on Sunday, which is not as joyful as it sounds as it is to try and stop shoplifting. It was reported that since Sunday there was zero recorded shoplifting. There have been stopping and checking of known shoplifters in the town centre who are now getting a ‘strong message’ and rejected entry from stores. Chair Mr Critchley added his experiance from Eagles Meadow saying ‘we are going away from arresting shoplifters to tell them you are not welcome here , you have been convicted, please leave’ and ‘We cant kid ourselves we are going to stop thieving, but if they go somewhere else then fine’.
- Christmas Lights Switch On Event – An update on this event pricked our ears due to Wrexham.com’s involvement, and we heard how it was ‘notorious for anti social behaviour’ , so we were delighted that there were ‘zero recorded incidents of anti social behaviour’. It was noted that the tremendously bad weather did help lower the crowds though!
- Free Jingle Bells – We skipped back to police matters to be told how between 10am-1pm on Friday PCSO’s will be giving out free jingle bells in the Peoples Market. The aim being to put them on purses to alert if someone is nicking them! Mr Critchley jokingly said “The other thing when someone is ringing them next to your they are really annoying” Isobel Garner stopped jingling them!
- ShopWatch was due to launch at the start of July but it is still going ahead, with the delay being put down to the fact there are 400+ business in the town centre. The overall aim is to enable an internet based system to help security interact. Theory being if someone is caught in one shop they are banned from the lot. The TCF were told it is cost effective compared to other methods.
- Business Rates – Mr Critchley gave a business rates warning to the TCF. Wrexham.com reported on this issue back in October – read the article here – however it was news to him and to many in the forum. The rates have been frozen yet the multiplier is still going up. With his Eagles Meadow hat on Mr Critchley said “If we could get our rateable values down we would be laughing!’, he went on to explain that Eagles Meadow was paying just under 2.25 million pounds in rates but that is set to rise to just under 2.5 million pounds.
- Night Levy – Following on from the information on business rates a TCF member told of proposals to create a ‘late night levy’ which essentially is a tax / rate for pubs, bars and clubs. They said ‘its another added cost that will be passed on to the customer. In the pub trade it could close venues down. To me it might be £1000 a year, £4000+ perhaps to the likes of Liquid. We all already pay rates.’ Further details were given on the breakdown, with 70% proposed to go to the police and 30% to the council. The TCF member said ‘The 70% that goes to the police could be for a dog in Prestatyn or their fuel bill. If I pay that £1000 I want a policeman on my doorstep for £1000 of hours.’
- New Police Commissioner in Liquid – Not partying, but doing a policing launch on Thursday! The police present admitted not fully understanding the point of the role saying the public had a ‘Lack of understanding, and I include myself on that’. When someone mentioned the £75,000,000 cost of the vote a laugh was raised when the police said ‘that wasnt out fault!’.
From this questions were asked on how the new system works, and how the forum could feed back into it. What can only be described as a very informative mini-session was given to the TCF!
- Destination Management – Joe Bickerton briefly gave a heads up on ‘DM’ work, asking that everyone ‘gets behind Hello World’ and it would ‘really take off’
- Dragon Roundabout – A TCF member offered congratulations on the new ‘Tesco Roundabout’ dragon, complementing the good work to get it up (or should that be chained down!?).
- The Chirk Dragon – Questions were asked to find more information on the ‘Chirk Dragon’ that was due to be created close to the A483. The project appears stalled and questions were asked on what financial commitments the Council have made and has any land been sold or leased to the project.
- Wrexham Supporters Trust Town Centre Stall – Comments were made highlighting questions online giving bad press for the Council on how they have handled the Wrexham Supporters Trust town centre stall that has been stopped from running. A TCF member said ‘Please can the Council bend over backwards and help these people who have saved the football club for the people of the town’. The Forum were told by the Town Centre Manager ‘The WST were offered a free stall in the market, they didnt want it, they didnt like it so they turned it down’. The Council went on to say the WST ‘just need a peddlers licence which costs £20.’ The debate continued with the Council saying ‘all we have asked is they go and get a peddlers licence and they haven’t yet’. When asked for clarity ‘So they turned you down?’ the Town Centre Manager said ‘Yes they have, the offer is on the table if they want to take it up we will do what we can to help them.’
In response to being asked to be flexible the TCF were told ‘We cant restrict others if we do that for one’.
- Town Centre Peddlers - Following on from the above the TCF were given examples of ‘pedlars’ who were ‘parked up with a car outside Burtons as they should not, they are being treated different from the WST’ however this apparently different as ‘they are not selling goods’. Photographic evidence of rule breaking parking was provided, however retrospective tickets or action was not possible.
- Christmas Window Display Competition – The details of this competition has been circulated to shops in some areas of the town centre. The Council said they had only 7 responses so they had gone around shops today to drum up support. They wanted it known that anyone else who wants to enter can do. Wrexham.com cant find details of this, however last year the setup was a public vote took place and a voter would win a hamper and the winning window would win a meal out.
- The Disgrace That Is The Old Burtons Window - Alex Jones from The Bank said of the old Burtons Window “Please please please ring Arcadia or someone to get the pound sign down and wellies away from the window display. It looks horrendous. Imagine a visitor to Wrexham, they take a picture of the church and see that bloody state”.
- Yorke Street Drains – An issue about the drains in Yorke St was raised by a TCF member, who said that five properties were affected this week. They told the forum that Welsh Water attended however did not have plans to the sewers so he requested the TCF and/or Council endeavored to discover the plans. One oddity to emerge is that the flushing vehicle was used in the town centre, however then had to travel to Mold to refill due to a contract rather somewhere more local! Another was Mr Critchley telling the story that he was above a culvert that cost one million pounds near Eagles Meadow with Welsh Water and was told ‘nah mate this does not exist’ on their plans.
- Orange Paint – A TCF member mentioned that the ‘orange paint on the new off licence looks terrible’. No formal reply was made however we heard a murmur saying ‘planning has no authority on the colour of the paint’.
- Nightingale House - Their representative thanked the forum for help this year , and from the forum and people associated with it. They told how 6000 different people helped in the Wrexham area this year.
Interestingly they gave an extra angle on new people visiting the town saying they have a vested interest to get new people in as that means they are not asking the same people for donations again and again.
- Wrexhams 10k Event – Nightingale House revealed an extra event in 2013, being a 10k run based off the Manchester 10k event. It will start and finish in Queensway and the route is being worked on – although it will go through the town centre. We are already looking forward to this!!
- Christmas Lights Feedback – The TCF were told that the lights look ‘nice when they work’. However, several rows including 2.5 rows on High Street are off with some on all day and all night.
- A Boards Are Not A Ok – A TCF member raised the problem of A Board’s which are often used for advertisements around town – but are now verging on ‘war’, and ‘scatter in high wind’. Alun Jenkins claimed he had passed over 78 boards around town and called them ‘a danger and an eyesore’ saying ‘the council has failed to establish a policy on them’ despite his emails over the years. One TCF member offered a differing view saying ‘I like them. They bring a certain vibrancy to the town’ pointing out how they are cheap advertising in tough economic times.
One other interesting joke was regarding something Wrexham.com has been hearing as a ‘top secret rumour’ for a few months now – that Marks and Spencer Food are ‘definitely’ going into the old TJ Hughes shop. As the Chairman Mr Critchley said “I heard it was M&S but I told them it was John Lewis and they believe that one as well”. Its not happening it seems!
If the above is of interest and you care about and/or involved in the Town Centre Forum then its worth popping along to the next one - 8.30 a.m., Tuesday 8th January, The Guildhall.