Cirencester Futures is up and running
Release date: 30 January 2019
Cirencester Futures – a joint initiative to encourage the future viability of Cirencester- was launched at a conference held at the Royal Agricultural University on Tuesday 29 January.
Leading representatives from local retailers and entrepreneurs, media, Cirencester Chamber of Commerce, Gfirst Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Cirencester Town Council and Cotswold District Council came together to chart a positive way forward for the town centre. An informative briefing from keynote speaker Matthew Hopkinson, of Didobi and co-author of the Grimsey Reviews, was followed by a review of the key challenges faced by Cirencester’s traditional high street and then discussions about potential opportunities to encourage future prosperity.
Conference attendees also noted the results of a ‘health check’ undertaken by District Council planners during November 2018. The check - based on preliminary discussions with local retailers and businesses - indicated that the town centre is generally still making the grade as a prosperous market town when compared with neighbouring centres. However, there is no room for complacency and there are already warning signs about the immediate future, especially in view of the marked and rapidly increasing trend towards modern forms of consumerism such as online shopping and ‘experience based’ shopping offers.
Looking ahead, the conference considered new concepts for the high street, including the work of influencers like Mary Portas and Bill Grimsey who recommend a more mixed-use approach that encompasses residential, leisure services and businesses alongside a more Internet-savvy retail sector.
Following group discussions the conference attendees achieved a broad degree of consensus on the future challenges faced by the town centre. At this stage, this comprises a general understanding of the main concerns and these issues will now be investigated in more depth through the development of specific planning blueprints – the Cirencester Master Plan Supplementary Planning Document and the Cirencester Neighbourhood Development Plan.
Once these documents take shape, the next step will be to consult the wider public to obtain their views and suggestions. Additionally, there is scope for the formation of stakeholder groups that can participate in the ongoing development of those plans.
Commenting on the launch of Cirencester Futures, keynote speaker Matthew Hopkinson said,
“It is vital that we ensure the longevity of our high streets in the years ahead. I welcome this new initiative to tackle the challenges facing Cirencester’s town centre, and I was impressed by the willingness and proactivity of stakeholders to adapt to changing trends and lifestyles. I emphasised that the key is to achieve incremental improvements rather than aim for a ‘big bang’ approach and this seems to have struck a chord.”
Gfirst LEP Chair David Owen was equally enthusiastic,
“Today marks a real milestone for evolving a town centre in Cirencester that will safeguard its enviable heritage while offering new retail, employment and lifestyle experiences. This conference was just the start of the process and I am pleased to hear that attendees are on the same page. I can assure them of our full support in embracing the funding opportunities available.”
Cllr Tony Berry, Leader of Cotswold District Council, added,
“If we want to ensure that Cirencester continues to punch above its weight, it makes sense for key stakeholders to combine forces and come up with suggestions and solutions that have their full buy in. The town is the leading market town in the District and, given the positive attitudes and imaginative aspirations that emerged at the conference today , the future looks very bright. “
Cirencester Mayor Nigel Robbins was also buoyed by the event,
“Cirencester Futures is a new way of working, ensuring that everyone in the community has a say on the future of Cirencester and can play an active part in working together to shape the future and contribute positively to making a difference.”
For more information about Cirencester Futures please visit www.cirencesterfutures.org.uk
Cirencester Futures is an informal partnership between Cirencester Town Council and Cotswold District Council aimed at delivering a healthy and resilient future for the town. At inception it brings together the following three planning initiatives:
- Cotswold District Local Plan
- Cirencester Neighbourhood Development Plan
- Town Centre Masterplan Supplementary Planning Document
The purpose of establishing Cirencester Futures is to ensure good planning by working together as a community in co-ordinating both town and district planning initiatives. It’s important to stress that Cirencester Futures is not simply another ‘local council’ project but is something intended to be owned and supported by everyone in Cirencester. See www.cirencesterfutures.org.uk
Matthew is a well-respected and trusted commentator on UK retailing and its places. He is a regular contributor to national and trade media outlets and adviser to companies. In 2013 and 2018 he was a co-author of The Grimsey Reviews of town centres and how they might thrive and prosper in the future. For more information see www.didobi.com
GFirst LEP is a Local Enterprise Partnership – one of 38 in England – and is responsible for Gloucestershire's Strategic Economic Plan. A partnership of business and local government, LEPs were created in 2011. GFirst claims that it was responsible for bringing £77m of inward investment to Gloucestershire in 2015 alone. The LEP chair says in the 2015 annual report that GFirst is "the most successful LEP in the country; the only LEP to receive everything it asked for – and more – from Government." For more details see www.gfirst.lep.com
Cirencester Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Commerce is a collection of some of the best businesses and business people in and around Cirencester. Members supply goods and services and the Chamber advises on best practice, opportunities for collaboration, and also rewards excellence in the form of annual business awards. More information is at www.cirencesterchamber.org.uk