Workshop on the Future of Rayleigh Town Centre

Rayleigh High Street

I have always been passionate about retail and being an entrepreneur and I suppose being born into a family of entrepreneurs it would be inevitable that it would become a passion of mine.

So I recently attended a ‘workshop on the future of Rayleigh Town Centre’ which was organised by the District Council and the regeneration officer, Dan Kudla, who I’m sure if released from his shackles, could be a promising addition to the Councils staff with his bags of energy and enthusiasm.

Various businesses were invited to attend to voice their opinion and concerns. As usual, attendance was bordering on the poor side but those that did attend appeared enthusiastic.

The council asked what challenges retailers felt they faced and it was pretty much the norm of

  • Poor parking
  • Parking Costs
  • Congestion
  • Business rates
  • Rents
  • Competition from e-commerce

All of these are real concerns and our traders are facing tough times but these conditions are not uncommon and is a situation that is happening up and down the country. However, Rayleigh High St, in my opinion, is on the brink if action isn’t taken soon – something has to change.

Where do we go from here?

It’s always my view that ideas are great, but without the resource to implement, that’s all they’ll ever be. So I’ve asked the strategic director to follow up on the Business Investment District that she had previously floated as an idea to help traders. It was pleasing that traders seemed receptive this idea and it is something that will be taken forward.

However, the government needs to act fast to save our High Streets from obliteration. Business rate reform is needed to ease the pressure on traders on the High St, Councils need to act and stop using car parks as a cash cow, parking policy needs change to be more inviting in our town centres with, as already suggested by traders, to offer an element of free parking. Council needs to stop residential development without its own sufficient parking and offering up the town centre car parks as alternatives.

I look forward to the next meeting with traders to see how ideas will be formalised into a strategic direction for the High St. In the meantime though, here is a recent video talking about High Streets and the challenges. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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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.

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