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

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About the author 

James Newport

Essex County Councillor for Rayleigh North, Rochford District Councillor for Downhall & Rawreth and Rayleigh Town Councillor for Sweyne.

  • Why are we always the poor relation? Rayleigh is thriving compared to Rochford, try visiting on market day! Yes it has its faults, & we have too many of some things & not enough of others, but my maxim is, what I can’t get in Rayleigh I will probably go without. I never go to Southend, Basildon or Lakeside. Use it or lose it! The same applies to our local individual traders on the Grange Parade. I was horrified recently to hear that RDC are looking into re-use of council venues. What a waste of money. Although I can see that turning some empty offices into housing units would help the waiting list. I’ve lived, worked, & am now enjoying a happy retirement, in the area for 38 years. It’s about time Rayleigh was afforded the recognition it deserves. Keep up the good work Councillors!

    • Hi Janet. Of course we are told there is a chronic shortage of housing, but perhaps it’s time we seriously looked at social housing with a lot of younger residents unable to move out of home due to extortionate rents. Rayleigh High St is a great asset to the town but if we take one eye off the ball it could soon be a very different picture. Thanks for your kind comments we’ll keep at ‘it’ on behalf of all residents.

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