Gloucester City Council needs to find the “Pulse” of our city!
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Gloucester City Centre has taken a bit of a hit with the news that the Currys just off the cross has closed.  While this is bad news for City Centre, what is worse is that the City Council were taken completely by surprise.  considering that they are looking after our best interests in terms of regenerating the City to ride out the current problems, I would have expected them to have known what was going on in the heart of our city.

In reality, it transpires that this should not been that much of a shock, apparently this has been on the cards since March, with closing down signs and the staff being well informed.  But the Leader of the City Council, Paul James, was completely blindsided by the news.  This raises many questions about just how in touch with local businesses the City Council really is.  With open letters being written about the lack of support for businesses and in particular the lack of parking for customers, as well as taxing many businesses into extinction.  Eddie Eldridge, who owns SoftData in Westgate made the comparison with Stroud, which has a bustling town centre and effective parking.

Paul James himself has effectively admitted that he had no idea what is happening when he tweeted after the story broke “Currys’ head office say that the closure of their Gloucester store wasn’t sudden! Strong hint that a new tenant will move in next month..”.  That must have been a bit of a frantic phone call after the reporters of the Citizen had filled him in about what was happening in the City that he is supposed to be leading.  That tells us two things, he didn’t have a clue what one of the bigger retailers was doing right on our doorstep, and he also has no idea for the future either.

Some serious answers are required from our City Council about why it was so much in the dark.  Why is it not talking to local businesses and ensuring that they have a real feel for the “pulse” of the city.  Just where are they leading us!

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2 Comments so far:

  1. Eddie says:

    I just don’t understand our council at all, and I particularly don’t understand Paul James. I noticed he set up a twitter acount and I follwed him. Saw a post asking for help in the carnival, andwered it and of course have heard nothing back.

  2. James says:

    Out of town developments, the growth of e-commerce and the recession have contributed towards the decline of high street shopping. Based on the assumption that we cannot go back to the future, high streets need to revision and offer more than just a retail experience particularly during tough economic times. It needs more than a few pretty oil paintings 🙂

    For a relatively small city with circa 110 000 people, Gloucester has a massive retail offering when you consider:

    a) the city centre has FOUR high streets (now that’s just boasting!)
    b) the Quays
    c) the proximity of Cheltenham which has the feel of a regional shopping hub
    d) Eastern Avenue and
    e) the number of supermarkets.

    It seems resilient when compared to other larger cities and bristles with confidence. I like Stroud but it too has lost a lot of retailers over the past decade and only the more recent investment into Merrywalks and the Cineplex has helped it fight back and compete with Gloucester and Cheltenham (it does not have to compete with ‘out of town’ developments on its own doorstep).

    Furthermore, Stroud Town Council has a vision based on enagement with its townspeople and is run by the Greens who are big on fair trade and consequently more dependent on cottage industries and small/local businesses. It is also developing its ‘waterfront’ by restoring the Stroudwater canal and this will generate additional tourism. I think they have got the balance right but they tend to be more engaged with their townspeople (and vice versa).

    Returning to Currys; given that no jobs have been lost, I think the real issue here is the fact that this is a landmark plot being vacated. However, given how quickly the Woolworths site was re-allocated, I don’t think it will take long for a large retailer to take over the site. There are plenty of large retailers out there who don’t have an out of town presence in Gloucester, so the field is wide open.

    One thing I don’t quite agree with here (not that the point is valid) is this notion that Councils and Businesses are talking to each other (just as councils claims to know what citizens want/need). There is a huge amount of rhetoric about regeneration but the harsh truth is businesses have few legal duties when it comes to sharing its plans with Gloucester or any other Council for that matter.

    Dixons Stores Group plc is a listed company and it is not in the business of transmitting or sharing what might be perceived as bad news; they will be more concerned about its share price than the visual impact of its decision on Gloucester city centre.

    I agree with the sentiment behind this post, however, especially when you look at the recent debacle over the so called shared space, buskers at the Cross and some of the bigger county-wide issues in relation to service cuts and residual waste.

    One thing that emerges time and time again is the LACK OF CONSULTATION WITH THE PUBLIC.
    It is little wonder the political establishment are opposed to electoral reform and PR. Their biggest fear is that the public will engage more and challenge the status quo.

    I think it was Tony Blair who once said that the three most important things to him were –

    a) Education
    b) Education
    c) Education

    For me, the best way to feel the PULSE of any community, town or city is –

    a) Consultation
    b) Consultation
    c) Consultation

    Nuff said.

    James.

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