Cirencester Futures – a joint initiative to encourage the future viability of Cirencester- was launched at a conference held at the Royal Agricultural University on Tuesday 29 January.
Leading representatives from local retailers and entrepreneurs, media, Cirencester Chamber of Commerce, Gfirst Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Cirencester Town Council and Cotswold District Council came together to chart a way forward for the town centre. A briefing from keynote speaker Matthew Hopkinson, of Oxford-based business data consultancy Didobi and co-author of the Grimsey Reviews, was followed by a review of the key challenges faced by Cirencester’s traditional high street and then discussions about potential opportunities to encourage future prosperity. Matthew is also working with a number of Worcestershire towns.
A ‘health check’ undertaken by Cotswold District Council planners during November 2018, based on preliminary discussions with local retailers and businesses, indicated that the town centre is generally still making the grade as a prosperous market town when compared with neighbouring centres. However, there is no room for complacency and there are warning signs about the immediate future.
The outcomes of the conference will now be investigated in more depth through the development of specific planning blueprints – the Cirencester Master Plan Supplementary Planning Document and the Cirencester Neighbourhood Development Plan.
The next step will be to consult the wider public to obtain their views and suggestions.
Keynote speaker Matthew Hopkinson said: “I was impressed by the willingness and proactivity of stakeholders to adapt to changing trends and lifestyles. I emphasised that the key is to achieve incremental improvements rather than aim for a ‘big bang’ approach and this seems to have struck a chord.”
Cllr Tony Berry, Leader of Cotswold District Council, added: “If we want to ensure that Cirencester continues to punch above its weight, it makes sense for key stakeholders to combine forces and come up with suggestions and solutions that have their full buy in. Given the positive attitudes and imaginative aspirations that emerged at the conference today , the future looks very bright. “
Cirencester Mayor Nigel Robbins was also buoyed by the event: “Cirencester Futures is a new way of working, ensuring that everyone in the community has a say on the future of Cirencester and can play an active part in working together to shape the future and contribute positively to making a difference.”
Nicky Godding, Editor of Business & Innovation Magazine and writer on international retail, was one of the expert panellists at the conference. She said: “The enthusiasm in the room was undeniable and there were some really creative ideas which revealed how seriously delegates had considered the issues. I look forward to seeing these being taken forward to make Cirencester a vibrant and accessible regional hub which serves the needs of the whole community, young and old, and is proud of its unique Roman heritage and wool merchant heritage.”