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Agenda item

Update on the Wiltshire Towns Programme

Report of the Chief Executive

 

Minutes:

Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Climate Change, MCI, Economic Development, Heritage, Arts, Tourism and Health & Wellbeing presented a report which provided an update on the activity that has taken place under the Wiltshire Towns Programme, and proposals for delegated authority to enable the development of the Programme and related Levelling Up bids.

 

The Leader reported that due to a number of reasons, including historical challenges, an increase in online shopping and more recently the challenges associated with Covid-19, the Council has allocated £1m a year between 2021-2025 to support activity on the high street, providing meaningful and transformational support to grow businesses, support employment and transform Wiltshire’s high streets to meet the needs of the local community.

 

Cllr Graham Wright, Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, on behalf of Cllr Jerry Kunkler, Chairman and Cllr Bob Jones, MBE, Vice-Chairman of the Environment Select Committee, confirmed that the Environment Select Committee had received a comprehensive presentation at its meeting on 14 June 2022. The Committee welcomed confirmation that the Town Forum would be re-established, and endorsed the approach being taken by the Council to support town centres. The Select Committee asked for an update in 12 months.  

 

Cllr Ian Thorn thanked officers for their input and support for the town centres in Wiltshire and encouraged all Councillors to support the Programme. Cllr Thorn commented on the level of direct liaison with retailers, in addition to discussions with city and town councils; opportunities for capacity building; the barriers to businesses; the impact of car parking charges and the differing needs of retailers in relation to events in town centres. In response, the Leader and officers commented on discussions with retailers, the capacity for retailers to engage with city and town councils, the expectation of support from the business community for the Programme, the cost of parking charges did not appear to discourage the public visiting city and town centres and that retailers may benefit from events in city and town centres.

 

In response to a question from Cllr Jo Trigg about timelines, officers provided an overview of these for the delivery of the Programme.

 

Cllr Gavin Grant thanked officers for their input and confirmed that Malmesbury had received support in relation to their action plan. In addition, Cllr Grant commented on vacant high street units, in particular vacant sites occupied by banks; the possibility of exploring the Town Teams model for other towns in Wiltshire; requested reassurances about the functionality of the My Wiltshire app; town councils managing outdoor markets; the development of specific food and drink festivals; promotion of tourism and historic events amongst neighbouring towns; and the need to increase electric charging points in public car parks. In response the Leader and officers highlighted that the Levelling Up agenda may provide the Council with the ability to auction empty retail sites, encouraging other retailers into city and town centres; it would be more appropriate for town councils to operate outdoor markets due to their diverse nature; encourage town councils to work with tourist information centres to promote tourism and historic events in neighbouring towns;

 

Cllr Dominic  Muns – commented on a recent exhibition held at a local Wiltshire museum which generated a significant income for the local area from 12,500 visitors.

 

Resolved:

 

·       Note the contents of this report and the progress on the Wiltshire Towns Fund to date

 

·       Delegate authority to the Corporate Director for Place, and Head of Economy and Regeneration, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Economic Development, to implement the activities described.

 

·       Delegate authority to the Corporate Director for Place, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Economic Development, to develop and submit potential business cases to the Levelling Up capital programme.

 

Reason for decision:

 

To provide an update on activities undertaken through the Wiltshire Towns Programme and confirm planned future activities necessary to support town centres to recover and respond to ongoing economic challenges.

 

 

Supporting documents:

 

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