The BID Tamworth Steering Group, made up of a range of leisure, retail and professional service businesses from across the town centre and the Ventura retail parks, has completed a feasibility study into assessing the opportunity for developing the area into a Business Improvement District or BID.
pfbb UK, BID specialists based in Derby, undertook the study assessing business views from those in the ‘old town’ and the retail parks along with consideration of key challenges facing the area.
Rob Holder, Chair of the Steering Group said: “Key findings from the report confirm many of the issues we already knew about. However, we have also been able to identify those things which need to be considered in more detail. This will enable us to explore ideas with businesses for working together and delivering new projects which will make a real difference to the visitor experience and the attractiveness of Tamworth as a place to live, work, visit and invest.”
The overall feeling gathered as part of the study was that Tamworth town centre has seen a general decline over the last few years both in its retail offer and its night life and has lost out to Ventura with large retail brands re-locating from the old town and the town centre shopping mall of Ankerside, to the retail parks, which has a bigger retail offer and free parking.
Although Tamworth town centre has recorded declining footfall over the last ten years of around 29%, since the development of Ventura, this is in line with many towns and city centres across the country.
The old town centre of Tamworth is divided from Ventura, not only physically by the rivers, but in the way in which it is used and by those who visit. There has been a strong desire for a number of years to try and address this physical divide through improvements to the public realm, bus links and innovative travel initiatives and other ideas.
Although there have been some improvements to the links between the two areas, there is currently no framework which brings businesses together with any sense of common purpose.
Rob said: “It has been encouraging in many respects that the study found there is a desire from businesses to build on the heritage, leisure and specialist retail offer of the town and the large national retail brands of Ventura and bring all businesses together as a community.
“It was also clear that although some had seen Ventura as a reason for the town’s demise, businesses now seem to see it as an opportunity to take advantage of the people it brings to the area as a whole and get them to explore the town’s heritage and leisure offer.
“This polarisation between the old town and the more recent retail parks could be seen as a challenge, but actually we see this as an opportunity to promote the fact that Tamworth has more to offer than most, with a nationally acclaimed Snow Dome and a town centre rich in heritage; it has the potential to focus on specialist retail, cafes and restaurants and become a real tourism and cultural hub with the out of centre shopping parks providing a massive retail offer,” Rob added.
The report highlighted the fact that even retail parks are having to re-invent themselves as places to enjoy and have great ‘experiences’ if they are to retain visitor numbers and that the success of the Ventura retail parks cannot be taken for granted. Their environment is not pedestrian friendly and creates a negative perception at peak periods when the roads are gridlocked and there is insufficient parking space.
The report puts Tamworth into context of the issues and challenges facing all towns and cities across the UK as they try to come to terms with the changes in lifestyle, increased use of the internet for shopping and increasing ability for people to travel to competing places to enjoy themselves.
It highlights that leisure activity and the ability to offer a great experience is even more important than ever if towns and cities are to be economically vibrant.
Rob continued: “Even though Tamworth is a relatively small town, it has a strong leisure offer with its Snow Dome, a town centre location for its football stadium, as well as its rich heritage and castle and beautiful riverside location. With our proximity to Drayton Manor Park, Tamworth is really well placed to develop into a place where people are not simply coming to Tamworth for just one thing, but actually stay longer and take advantage of all it has to offer.”
The Steering Group ‘BID Tamworth’ believes the timing of the BID is such that it will be well placed to work closely with different organisations including Tamworth Borough Council, the police, large leisure operators, retailers and other investors to ensure that Tamworth businesses of all sizes can play a key role in not only identifying the future direction but in developing and delivering projects which will contribute towards a vibrant and exciting Tamworth.
The BID Tamworth Steering Group is about to move into the main development phase of the BID which will see businesses from across the town and the retail parks being invited to a launch event in the next few weeks. The event will provide an opportunity to learn more about the project and how businesses can get involved in developing the BID plan for the future.