The Town Centre Forum (TCF) meeting took place from half eight this morning, 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 on Tuesday 5th March at 4.30pm.
Here are the main topics covered with our notes on the debate, posted in order they were mentioned. The usual Chairman Mr Critchley was off sick with flu, so his usual TCF early morning banter was missed!
- A few people questioned the meeting date change last night at the Markets scrutiny committee, and this morning. This was explained as the room being unavailable on the usual dates and thus changes to future meeting dates as well.
- Town Centre Manager Isobel Garner updated the TCF on last nights scrutiny committee meeting regarding the markets and marketing of them. It was also mentioned that the development of the new ‘Hello World’ website is ongoing and the site will be launched in the near future. (You can read a report on the meeting here)
- Further updates to the Council’s marketing of the town centre took place, with details of an Action Plan being ‘pulled together’ which has funding which needs to be spent by April. Physical progress will be seen with new maps going into car parks via new map holders. An action plan will be produced – with the TCF being involved in the process. A query was raised asking if the maps were now bilingual, and if they would be free to use without copyright – the answer was ‘yes’ to both.
- There was positive feedback from people who attended the meeting at Redwither last month (our report here) regarding a report into improving Town Centre Perceptions.
Amanda Davies , the Council’s Marketing and Promotions Manager was at the meeting to give two updates, one regarding a previous suggestion for quarterly markets, and the second about a ‘whats on’ guide for the town.
- The TCF were told that although several thousand people attended the likes of the Victorian Christmas Markets the Council thought that new bespoke markets on a Saturday could struggle. Due to this other options were presented to the TCF.
- Independents Day, on July 4th, is a national idea to focus on independent traders. A list of ideas was presented to the TCF which included people being given lists of independent traders, have street events taking place, give aways and the like. Reading the document it essentially boils down to making a wonderfully positive fuss to get people using the town’s independent shops.
- Wrexham On Sea is the working title for a possible project to bring a beach to the town centre! The aim being to create an attraction for five days in Queens Square to increase footfall and generate positive publicity for the town. The Council said this has been priced up and ought to cost £8500 , however they believe they could do it for less. Town Centre Manager Isobel Garner pointed out that the beach option would have a ‘play day’ which could attract a few thousand people as its building on something that already exists.
- Several TCF members expressed support for the beach idea, with the main feedback being regarding weather – which we believe the Council does not control – and potential cost to parents and attendees. It was said there may be charges for elements of it, for example a deposit on buckets and spades and the like. One TCF member said “Pricing is key in the times we are in and could fall flat if its not priced right”. One further point raised was the Council’s Destination Wrexham plan focused towards more people coming in for longer, so this type of thing was approved of. TCF asked if there was options for stalls and pushing people to other elements of town and the Council agreed this would be kept in mind.
The beach idea is in the planning stages but the Council thanked the TCF saying “This is the type of feedback we want!”.
- An Events Guide has been mooted for several TCF meetings, so the Council said they would come back with proposals. These were presented today , with a quarterly publication suggested. Four editions of a 32 page full colour bilingual publication has been quoted for, with a years (so four editions) cost for 30,000 copies being tendered at £24,424. This does not include direct to door postage. Prices for 10,000 (£17,376) and 20,000 copies (£20,396) were also presented. Costs for design were also given ranging from £2200 to £3600.
The Council have said they are happy to co-ordinate and support such a publication however funding, or part of the funding, needs to come from elsewhere. Some costs could be covered by advertising, however there would need to be a contribution from others. The TCF members will be contacted after the meeting to see if they are open to help fund it, with the Council aiming for an annual commitment rather than just a one off trial publication.
Questions were raised if this publication was marketing to the existing people of Wrexham, rather than marketing the town to new people. Another TCF member said they initially wanted a simple sheet of ‘whats on this month’, and the Council has gone well beyond this. This was not stated as a bad thing, however it was highlighted that this needs to be widely distributed and perhaps a smaller format could be more cost effective. The positivity was summed up with ‘If this type of thing brings people in it creates jobs at the end of the day”.
The TCF requested access to existing marketing databases and therefore input and improve them. Using Google Calendar and iCal was suggested as well as an access method to information.
The Council list of current events for the forthcoming quarter was handed out to TCF members, this itself highlighted the problem that the TCF identified as the list was limited in terms of content.
The meeting then returned to its normal agenda items:
- A query was made about the status of the ‘Shoppa Hoppa’ bus which is up for review, and if the review had been complete. The answer was no, the review is ongoing.
- A TCF member queried ‘the law on cars in the town centre’. The Council said there has been no change, and its deliveries and disabled access as usual pointing out its a policing matter with details given on how to follow any issue up.
- A Policing Update did occur despite no police present. The TCF were told Town centre crime stats keep ‘going in the right direction’ with the update being that:
- Shoplifting is down 27% with 164 less offences recorded.
- Criminal damage is down 26% with 23 less offences
- Drugs related crime is down 50% with 34 less offences
These stats are year on year comparisons.
- The Town Centre Manager said there was a report yesterday that someone had their ‘handbag wrestled from them’ in town, but it was an anecdotal claim, and CCTV has been reviewed and no evidence has been found. This was not reported to the police, so people are reminded to report things as they cannot act unless they know about things!
- There was an agenda item for a discussion on Business Rates however due to limited time it was left until the next meeting.
- A quick further update to last night’s Markets meeting took place. Cllr Rodgers described it as ‘very positive’ and ‘it was one of the best reports I have read on the prosperity of the town centre’. Criticism of the report in the Leader was mentioned again (you can read our report on last nights criticism here) regarding the negative comments ‘affecting peoples business’, with direct comment to Garth Ap Thomas, a reporter from the Leader, telling him to ‘speak to Lois’, the author of the report, for more information. A TCF member stated “The Leader illogically focused on the negatives” with another saying “I was very disappointed as a business person with the angle that was taken”, another added “The positivity was dismissed by the Leader”.
- Details of events in Wrexham were highlighted with Friday 1st March seeing the St Davids Day Parade through town, starting 1.30pm from Lambpit St.
Saturday the 2nd of March sees a Welsh Market in Queens Square 10am to 4pm.
- Neal Thompson from Focus Wales presented information on the festival that will be taking place in the town centre.
- St Giles told the TCF that from 19-21st of April Chamber music, including Cambrian Chamber Orchestra will be performing. High teas, canapés and the like will be avalible! Pricing is £8 per concert or £25 for the full weekend ticket.
- It was noted there wont be a St Giles flower festival this year.
- Kevin Forbes told the TCF that £53,000+ was raised for the Poppy Appeal, slightly down but last year was 90th anniversary so was a blip. He thanked everyone for their hard work.
- The TCF agreed with a member who said ‘the Street Scene guys did a great job keeping the town centre open during the snowy period’ .
- The TCF were told of the launch of the National Forum Of High Streets this morning. A question was asked if there was other forums in the town as things seem fragmented in terms of pulling thinking together. The Council replied there is the ‘Thriving High Street’ scheme recently launched, and that the overall Council Plan has this as a key aim. Several partners, boards and forums were mentioned on a local and regional level.
- A question was asked about the quality of Wrexham Town Centre, with a TCF member saying he travels to Chester a lot with comparisons being made. Cllr Rogers made a general point of ‘stop talking Wrexham down’ after pointing out how ‘Wrexham’ he was in terms of his and his family’s life.
- The TCF was told that Freedom Of Borough is proposed for the Royal Electrical Engineers Regiment based in Wrexham Hightown Barracks – you can read more about that here.
The next Town Centre Forum meeting is in the afternoon rather than an early morning start, 4.30pm Tuesday 5th March at the Guildhall and all are welcome!