This Ely City Centre Forum is a group of representatives of all groups and sectors with an interest in the effective management of Ely City Centre. It has come out of the recommendations in the Portas Review (see here)
The meeting was the first for the ‘Town Team’ mentioned in these recommendations.
Main points going forward were to investigate the commercial entities that contribute money, much like the Lancaster way cycle path and what Sainsburys are doing, the representative from the Market Towns Association who seemed to know a lot about channelling funds generated through businesses great and small; that could be used to improve facilities.
There was a lot of comment about the lack of signs for tourists and that visitors can’t find important landmarks like Oliver Cromwell’s house or the railway station.
Some members of the forum raised the issue of litter and businesses not keeping the centre tidy.
There was some opposition to the idea of pedestrianising the high street from the traders association who felt that pedestrianising the High Street would be harmful to city centre tade.
Everyone was in agreemeent that the business rates in Ely were far too high and there were too many charity shops (which pay lower rates) as a result (they get it much cheaper). It was felt that it would be helpful if there were initiatives to increase and encourage the independent traders. Pop up stalls were mentioned. The traders association have been given the task of asking all the local shops to feed back what works and doesn’t work for them.
There was a bit of talk about how drab and under used the market square was and that needs enlivening, not turning into a car park.
One forum member mentioned the cycle stands at Wisbeach CCC depot (which the Cycling Campaign have contacted CCC about already) and that he felt the Cloisters land owners are the reason there are no bike parking by Waitrose.
There was agreement (outside the traders) that paid parking would be good because the 2 hour free parking window limits the amount of time people stay in the centre and where they visit – Forehill gets bad foot fall because people don’t stray too far from their cars. In theory, if they pay, they will stay as long as they need to, or leave their car and come in by other means.
The owner of the Waitrose car park and building offered to put in cycle parking under cover, between the trolleys and the cash point.
The Ely App was discussed, it will be downloadable from new planned free WiFi hotspots in the centre of Ely. It will guide tourists, provide joined up information about products, services, attractions, what’s on, when and why.