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New vision revealed for Worcester city centre
A NEW vision for Worcester city centre can today be revealed - which could include longer opening hours for shops, a thriving farmers' market to pull in the tourists and fewer clunky A-boards littering the streets.
A major six-month review into the city centre has just taken place at Worcester City Council outlining a host of ideas to improve shopping, attract more visitors and improve its feel.
The 16-page dossier, created by four politicians for the attention of the council's Labour leadership, suggests:
- Worcester would benefit from longer trading hours for shops, extending footfall into the evening similar to most of continental Europe
- The council should back that up by offering cheaper evening parking, a major marketing drive and WIFI access to encourage people to take advantage
- The city should be capable of hosting a top class farmers' market, with South Quay or outside the historic Guildhall entrance considered good locations
- A major publicity exercise should kick off in a bid to all but rid Worcester of seagulls once and for all
- Traders that leave sacks of rubbish out overnight or for long periods should face "the threat of penalties" to improve the city's image and reduce litter
- Shops that want A-boards should pay a yearly licence fee and be subject to enforcement action if they are placed in poor locations
The blueprint is hinged on exploiting the time 'gap' that exits between the shops closing early evening, and pubs and clubs gearing up for the night.
There is no legislation currently stopping shops from opening later, but few do so because of the costs involved.
But councillors believe if taxpayers' cash was plughted into promoting later opening hours, it could tip the balance on certain days of the week.
The dossier was debated on Wednesday night during a meeting of the city council's scrutiny committee.
Councillor Simon Cronin, who led the review, said: "We've got to find ways of encouraging people to stay in the city, we could start it by launching a trial period on a certain day of the week, with later opening hours for shops and discounts on car parking."
Councillor Joy Squires said: "Extended trading hours was something that came up very strongly in the Future Worcester consultation a couple of years ago.
"Certainly more residents said they wanted shops to open after half-past-five so they could pop into the city for something other than a pub or a club.
"I'm really glad that's being looked at because it needs to be considered seriously, especially with the summer ahead of us."
Councillor Marc Bayliss named cities like Cardiff as being "very successful" in pulling people in during the evening using later trading hours.
The review contains 19 recommendations in total, which also includes encouraging the use of 'pop-up' shops or short-term leases to fill more retail units, and discounted business rates on buildings which have been empty for months on end.
It is being sent to the Labour-led cabinet.
WHAT THE SHOPS THINK
SHOPS in Worcester say they like the idea of extending the city's opening hours - but it must be backed up by council support.
Anja Potze, from Anja Potze Fine Jewellery in Friar Street, is orginally from Holland and said it is common over there.
"In Holland Thursday night is the late night shopping day amd I have to say, it works very well," she said.
"People go into town and see the shops before going for something to eat after.
"For me personally it would be difficult as my son finishes school at six so I'd be snookered straightaway.
"But would be very interesting to see, especially if the council is prepared to push it on, because that is what it needs."
Keith Marshall-Walker, who runs The Paint Box Gallery in Mealcheapen Street said: "I don't do late night openings but I did open on the three Sundays befoe Christmas.
"It's the big events that tend to get people in, for example there's a motoring show on in May, that kind of thing.
"For it to work it may need free parking to be offered, then people may think 'blimey, let's nip down to Worcester', to give it that impetus."
Councillor Geoff Williams, city council deputy leader and the cabinet member for economic prosperity, said: "There's a number of interesting things in the report and the cabinet will look at it very seriously."