Monmouth and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce

TIC return to Shire Hall is the first step in securing the economic future of the town

April 2011.

David Cummings, Chairman of Monmouth and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce commented :

"The Chamber is very pleased to have been at the forefront of the lobbying campaign for the retention of the TIC for Monmouth and for its return to the Shire Hall. We already have in hand the adjustment of the location of the TIC on the thirteen town map locations around the town, so that visitors can find the new location easily and the new location will also be shown in the new Monmouth Town Guide, available in early summer.

Readers may not be aware that MCC outsourced its Economic Development department to Venture Wales last month . I have met with Venture Wales and have indicated that Monmouth and the other Chambers of the county welcome the opportunity to work with them to create an exciting future for our region and that we believe tourism is an integral part of the economy of the area"

Potential closure of the Tourist Information Centre.

David Cummings, Chairman of Monmouth and District Chamber of Trade commented:

"We are very pleased to announce that, due to the efforts of Monmouth Chamber and Chepstow County Councillor Jacqui Sullivan, we have managed to secure a consultation period concession from County Hall. Initially this was for a period of 6 weeks beginning in January. Now we understand that the consultation period will be extended for an indefinite period. This will bring its own complications for those involved. In this statement we have simplified our description of the process that will take place for reasons of clarity and brevity. It is not clear if the people of Monmouth will be given the chance to voice their views to County Hall. Therefore, if you want to support Monmouth TIC it is very important that you sign the petition in one of the businesses in town showing the yellow on green sticker ASAP".

Monmouth Friday and Saturday markets will not be returning to outside the Shire Hall.

David Cummings , Chairman of Monmouth and District Chamber of Commerce commented:

"There have been many rumours around town this year about the market not returning to its former location. In each instance, I have been told previously by county council officers that no decision has been made and that the Chamber would be kept informed of when a report had been submitted to cabinet on the matter and we would be given the opportunity to consult with Chamber members on this issue , particularly those who are shop keepers. We are disappointed that these assurances have seemingly not been met.

Beacon readers will understand that shop keepers who pay rent and business rates will compare the approximately £10 per market stand per day with approximately £100 they pay in business rates each week, for a similar size space. They are required to pay this amount no matter what the weather, whereas market traders may seemingly come and go as they please.

Monmouth has always been a market town and it would indeed be a pity if there was no longer a Friday and Saturday market. However, in order for a market to be successful and bring shoppers into town the quality , variety and number of stalls must be consistent. Since the market moved to the small Cattle Market car park there have been days (usually Fridays ) when the lack of market traders must cast doubt in the minds of county council officers about the logic of loosing car park revenue.

On several occasions over the last few years, Chamber committee members have approached market traders and invited them individually or as a body to join the Chamber, buy they have not made that step to become part of the business community of the town. Ten years ago they were Chamber members.

From the evidence of those Chamber members who have expressed opinions to me over the last year on the subject of the market's permanent location, the overwhelming view is that the market should return to the Shire Hall, even if reduced in size. Not only because this will reinvigorate the top of town, but also that it would make available the prime 34 car parking spaces in the small cattle market car park , which are particularly of benefit to the less physically able shopper.

The case has been made that if the market returned to outside the Shire Hall the market traders vehicles would take up much needed spaces in Glendower Street car park. County Council councillors and officers at County Hall are aware of the radical proposals proposed by the Chamber some 5 years ago to create up to 75 more car parking spaces at the top of town to alleviate the problem in Glendower Street car park . Sadly, those at County Hall who have the ability to progress with this solution have chosen to reduce its importance to a level where time this year (so far) cannot, or will not be allocated. We find this situation totally unacceptable. We have now received assurances that progress will be made shortly, but remain pessimistic about the speed of progress or the outcome.

UNACCEPTABLE PROPOSED CHANGES TO PARKING CHARGES IN PUBLIC CAR PARKS

David Cummings, Chairman of Monmouth and District Chamber of Trade commented:

"I have just read through 124 pages of the Minutes of the Select Committee meeting of 16th December and the Final Report which propose changes to the parking charges structure in council car parks and are based on the consultants report commissioned by MCC.

The Chamber feels that this report has been produced without the benefit of a clear remit from MCC and the principles on which it is based are flawed. . The statement that car park revenue is dropping is based on the four years to the end of 2008 . What happened to the figures for 2009 and at least the first half of 2010? .For a business in the private sector to put up charges for use of a facility where revenue is falling (if it is ) would be commercial suicide. There seem no plans to consult with the actual users of the car parks whose input must surely be fundamental to the car parking issue.

The statement that as a result of the proposed changes revenues would only increase by 3.5% is most likely to be within the margins of statistical error of plus or minus of the data used and therefore cannot be promoted as a basis for decisions in a report. We vehemently oppose charging for parking on Sundays , loosing free car parking and increasing the chargeable period of each day from 5pm to 6pm.

In short term car parks, creating a new rate for one hour parking and increasing the rate for two hours, but keeping the four hour rate the same, goes completely against the consultants proposed objective of short term car parks for the short term user.

The consultants report states ""However, an appropriate charging structure in town centres should also look to encourage short-term visitors such as shoppers and the resultant positive impacts this can have on the economic vitality and wellbeing of town and village centres" . "Traders and businesses within these towns and villages are dependent upon people being able to park locally to access their services at a reasonable cost. As a result, the level at which charges are set needs to consider the impact on local business. Whilst setting policy,consideration should be given to sufficient provision of parking so that all potential consumers are able to access local business outlets".

We believe that the consultants report has been sitting gathering dust since early 2009 on an office shelf at County Hall and consider that the best thing to do with it would be to recycle the paper it is written on and start again"

Congratulations to the Festival Committee....

David Cummings, Chairman of Monmouth and District Chamber of Commerce commented : 2nd August 2010.

"Congratulations to the Festival Committee on staging another great Festival in Monmouth. Our thanks must also go to all those businesses who sponsored the Festival and also Monmouth Town Council for their contribution. We are lucky to have volunteers to help run the event and collect donations, including several Town Councillors.

The Festival provides an important source of income to so many local businesses over the nine day period including pubs, restaurants, take-aways and supermarkets, who will no doubt wish to thank the thousands of families, local and otherwise, who attended the events each night. It was so nice to see people from 0 to 90 years old enjoying the events of the Festival, with the brilliant Uncle Funk closing on Saturday night . Let us hope that the Festival continues as a town based event in the coming years, not only for ease of access on foot for residents, but also for local businesses to benefit."

2010 A year of great expectations....

David Cummings, Chairman of Monmouth and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce commented "A very Happy New Year to you all and your families from your local Chamber of Commerce.

2010 promises to be an exciting year for the town with events and exhibitions planned for the Centenary of the Death of Charles Rolls from February until October. The Chamber are keen that visitors and the general public should have easy access to information as to what is going on in 2010 and have set up a website at www.monmouthevents.co.uk. No doubt events will be well publicised in the local press and in the county wide Monmouthshire County Council produced What's On Guides, with official events under the control of the Town Council.

There has been much talk of the benefits of the Ryder Cup to our area and Visit Wales, formerly the Wales Tourist Board, have plans to create a sense of place and occasion for visitors to the Ryder Cup and to emphasis its Welsh connection. Monmouthshire County Council is actively promoting the event in the new 2010 Wye Valley and Vale of Usk Guide and on their website. The event will run from 27th September to 3rd October at the Celtic Manor and, for those lucky enough to obtain tickets, there is planned to be a park and ride facility at Usk Showground for those approaching the event from the north.

This spring we will see the completion of exterior works on the impressively restored Shire Hall building. I have seen images of the meticulous work in progress being undertaken to create a building of which we can all be proud. It is important that when all is completed that we not only acknowledge the work that has been done by the contactors, but also the years or preparation given by the Shire Hall stewards, county council officers and councillors. Once work is completed on the shops in Church Street, this will no doubt create a quality shopping environment for visitors and locals alike at the top of town.

We were pleased to see in 2009 continuing demand from small businesses for any shops that became vacant and evidence suggests that this trend will continue in 2010 to provide a unique blend of products and services on offer for the shopper. New businesses selling luxury chocolates, Thai meals, toys, jewellery, giftware, paintings, objet d'art and homeware completed the picture in 2009.

The Chamber would like to thank the public for turning out in such numbers to the Chamber arranged CCTV meeting in February 2009 and also the Local Development Plan Candidate Sites meeting in November, with another Candidate Sites meeting to take place at sometime in February 2010.

A New Year is a time to give grateful thanks and to welcome in the new. Brian Ramsey, our Chamber secretary and well known local figure is leaving for a new life and job in London and Sarah Robson our Town Clerk has left for a new start in Chard. We thank both for their tremendous efforts over the past years and wish them well in the future. A new Secretary of the Chamber has yet to be appointed, but we would like to warmly welcome in the new Town Clerk, Dr John Evans.