Category Archives for News

More Doom & Gloom For Rayleigh High St

Fashion retailer, ‘New Look’ will be shutting up shop on the 13th March 2019. This is another unwelcome blow to Rayleigh’s High St as it appears even the big brands aren’t weathering the retail decline on the High St.

Losing a national brand could hit other smaller retailers if footfall declines, let’s hope that other businesses are resilient to what I hope is just a blip.

Let’s Talk Shop

I recently wrote about ‘How Can We Help The High Street‘ in which I had asked Rayleigh Town Council to invite Rochford District Council’s economic development team along to our Full Council meeting, so they could give us a view of their strategy ideas for Rayleigh’s High Street.

The meeting was attended by three representatives from Rochford District Council, Angela Hutchings (Strategic Director), Daniel Kudla (Economic Regeneration Officer) and the Conservative Portfolio Holder George Ioannou.

I had attempted to attend this meeting with positivity and a degree of optimism which was soon to be crushed by what followed.

The presentation began with the strategic director reeling off a narrative of the copied slides from some seminar that she had previously attended, all of which showed national statistics, all very well I thought, where’s the local statistics? Unfortunately my disappointment was only to continue as I listened to how Bill Grimsey says this, Bill Grimsey say that….. (if you don’t know who Bill Grimsey is, as I suspect many members didn’t, then take a look here) Death by powerpoint isn’t something that I relish and I have to admit my enthusiasm for the meeting by this point had dwindled significantly.

There was no mention of vacancy rates in Rayleigh’s High St or the traffic problems that regularly blight the roads, stopping people visiting the High St. Car parking was mentioned by one member as a problem due to the nature of pay and display it ‘time limits’ peoples shopping experience unlike retail parks and shopping centres like Lakeside, but we were basically told, we don’t want people milling around without buying – this goes against every trader I’ve ever spoken to. Retailers want people browsing, they want a crowd, more people = more interest = more sales

We were told about some of the work going on in Rochford, due to the need as it has lost it’s heart and soul, and it became frustrating, as despite the clear invitation that the Rochford District Council officers had received, there was very little mentioned about the future of Rayleigh’s High St.

The Economic Regeneration Officer spoke very little, which was disappointing and I had to wonder why the Conservative portfolio holder for enterprise had come along as he appeared ‘closed for business’ with nothing to say at all on the matter!

The meeting was concluded with an expression of forming another ‘talking shop’ with ‘key stakeholders’.

My optimism for Rayleigh’s High Street remains but only because I know there are small business owners who’s livelihoods depend on it and they will continue to keep up the fight.

If you want to listen to the meeting the audio recording is available here – 25th February 2019


How Can We Help The High Street

*Update - I've received a 'request' to modify this post from Rochford District Council Strategic Director, I will leave you the reader to draw your own conclusions why I have received this request, but I am pretty certain it's not for the reasons alluded to!

From: "Angela Hutchings" <[email protected]>
Sent: 31 December 2018 14:38
To: "Rayleigh Town" <[email protected]>
Cc: "Daniel Kudla" <[email protected]>, "Shaun Scrutton" <[email protected]>
Subject: Corrections to website post required

Dear Kerry I have today noticed the post (screen shot below) on Cllr Newport’s website which states that colleagues from RDC will be attending a meeting at Rayleigh Town Council to “present their strategy for helping our struggling retailers and their vision of our High Street”. This is not the case. The invitation came from you to RDC (myself and my Econ Dev colleague Dan Kudla will be attending) to discuss concerns which the TC has about its High Street and for us to share some ideas. The text of your email is copied below in red for ease of reference.

Hi Rayleigh Town Council is concerned about businesses in the town centre as a number are up for sale and shops often become cafes and restaurants or remain empty for a while.  It would be good if we work together to try to come up with any ideas or a strategy to preserve our High Street.  We know that this is a nationwide issue and we are more fortunate that some other town centres but we need to help businesses as much as we can as Councils. Would a representative from the Economic Development Team like to come to one of our Full Council meetings to discuss this?  

I shall be grateful if you will please ask Cllr Newport to amend his website as I am concerned that it is setting expectations for members of the public which will not be met on the night. Many thanks, Angela

In Rayleigh, we can be reasonably proud of our High St, but we can not be 'asleep at wheel'. We're in uncertain times for our High St and I don't think we can afford to be complacent of its ongoing success. 

I've recently spoken to many local small business owners in Rayleigh, who are equally as worried about the future of the High Street, after all, this is their livelihoods. With many businesses 'quietly' up for sale and empty retail units we have to do something before it's too late. Drawing on these informal discussions I've put forward to Rayleigh Town Council, that an invite should be extended to Rochford District Councils economic development team (which they've accepted) to present to the Town Council their strategy* ideas for helping our struggling retailers and their vision of our High Street. 

This doesn't just fall to one council or another, this needs community involvement. The retailers want you to shop in our town, but they too need to provide the services and products you want - so it's an all round effort that's required. 

I'm looking for members of the local community to get in touch with me and put forward their ideas and questions so I can ask Rochford District Council on their behalf and hopefully together we can boost our local trade. 

The meeting will be held on 25th February at 7.30pm at the Town Council offices.

Like him or loathe him Mike Ashley talks about the future of the High Street

What Have I Been Doing Lately?

Although my blog posts have been slightly infrequent, I’ve been still been busy dealing with local politics. As a Rayleigh Town Councillor for the Victoria Ward, I still maintain an interest in both Town and District matters. You might have seen our Liberal Democrat Blog ‘onlinefocus‘ which I regularly contribute to.

At the Town Council, I’m a member of the Policy & Finance Committee, which I actively participate in. Helping to reduce the Councils expenditure on some of its core costs such as telephony, postage and IT systems by making recommendations to move to use local suppliers who were able to offer competitive rates over national companies. Costs have been significantly reduced.

I’m currently on a working party to look at the Business Continuity Planning of the Town Council, after it was recognised that the District Council had handled their recent and protracted IT disasters very poorly.

Although last year I retired from the planning committee, I still follow the work of the planning committee closely and have made recommendations, which have been adopted by the Council to reduce the work of the planning committee and also to hold the District Council (who are responsible for planning) to account on matters such as travellers.

I have proactively been trying to publicise the work of the Town Council and made recommendations (which have now been implemented) to add additional notice boards around the wards.

If there are any local issues that you would like to see the Town Council tackle please feel free to get in touch with me

 

 

Question Time

Watching 'Question Time' this week, it was a surprise to see not just one, but two of my friends from school in the audience! Here they both are. The first one is one of my hand waving, best friends for over 30 years - whatever he does you can always feel the passion, a true Welshman!

Sweyne Park Play Area

There is a long running question over what exactly is happening with Sweyne Park play area. It seems to spend more time closed or partially closed than it does open. Residents have taken to social media in the past to ask what it going on and even when they have contacted the council directly, it appears they never get the answer.
Parks are undoubtedly an important facility for socialising, mental health and a good place to spend some family time.
I’ve been trying to chase down the answers for residents and have now got the following information to share.
“They have removed a lot of equipment as they plan to obtain a grant to replace it.  The gym type equipment failed a ROSPA check.  They have applied for £55,000 from Enovert Community Trust (was Cory) and the decision will be made at its meeting on 26th September 2018. The application includes new gym equipment, swings and play equipment to fill the areas they have removed equipment from. I mentioned that the public had been asking for shade in this play area and the RDC Officer is against any type of shading due to vandalism which is regular in this park.  He says that the new scheme includes planting of trees that would provide shade.”
I then asked about the inclusion of a water drinking fountain and have had the following response
“I would have concerns over hygiene and the risk of legionella in an unmanned park.”
Personally I find the response very frustrating but this is very indicative of the type of administration that is in power at Rochford District Council. It’s an uphill struggle!

Free Hospital Parking…..for Wales

Unfortunately I’ve recently had to visit hospitals in Essex and Kent for various reasons. Whilst travelling to local hospitals might be feasible by public transport, travelling to Kent by public transport isn’t the easiest, so inevitably we’ve traveled by car. Hit by expensive car parking charges, sometimes I wish we were more like Wales (except from the rain) – free prescriptions & now free parking at ALL their hospitals.

More on this here

All NHS hospital car parking charges scrapped in Wales http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-45347166

The Future of our High St

Running a business is no mean feat, whether that’s a one man band or an international company – I’ve had experience of them all! I’m actively involved in the day to day running of several SME’s and the time and energy commitment it HUGE!

I’ve been passionate about our High St’s for as long as I can remember. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been involved in business. When I see changes proposed for own High St in Rayleigh, sometimes good, sometime bad, it unnerves me a little. I speak to some of the retailers and they express their concerns and I really wish the Council was a more actively engaged with them, but from where I sit, I don’t see any real development of our High St.

This week our main website onlineFOCUS reports the most recent planning applications for several units in our High St. If successful, would ‘wipe out’ 3 retail spaces and potentially remove another existing business from our High St.

If you want to see our High St thrive, I urge you to head over and have a read. Please remember to comment on the councils website too!

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