Retailers gather for High Street summit

PUBLISHED: 08:14 06 November 2013 | UPDATED: 08:14 06 November 2013

Meeting taking place at Mello in Royston

Meeting taking place at Mello in Royston

Archant

Business owners gathered for a meeting to discuss the problems affecting Royston town centre.

The meeting, which took place on Wednesday at Mello in Angel Pavement, saw representatives from a variety of firms come together to discuss issues they face attracting customers to the town.

It was organised by local campaigner Clive Porter after the owner of the former Garden House hospice shop applied to change the use of the building to cafe and restaurant, as well as retail and office.

Suggestions raised to improve the town centre included longer free parking, relaying of the pavements in the High Street, reduction of business rates and further incentives to attract new retailers.

Rupert Matthews, chairman of the Royston and District Chamber of Commerce, was one of those in attendance, and told the meeting: “The Chamber has 75 members, but few are retailers, and none are present this evening.

“I don’t rely on footfall, but I am acutely aware of the problems confronting the town. All the bodies need to engage with one another. The large retail brands don’t want to come into the town centre.”

The Royston First business improvement district company has been working to bring more people into the town centre by supporting free after 3pm parking and opening the Royston Picture Palace community cinema. Retailers have also formed a group, Royston Means Business, which has organised several events throughout the year and is planning a Christmas fayre and ice rink for December. But the meeting felt more could be done.

Former local government officer Elizabeth Smith also addressed the meeting. She said: “Independents can only compete with supermarkets, on the basis of excellence, and they need to go the extra mile on service.

“They should be proactive in seeking funding and assistance. It isn’t the 1950s, and they need to give the public what they want, including reviewing their opening times, and fit into their customers’ requirements.”

Royston’s town centre manager Geraint Burnell said he felt the problems facing Royston were no different to those being experienced in other small towns across the country, and that it was important retailers spoke with one united voice if they were to improve the situation.

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