An appeal is today going out to residents of Monmouth to get behind the town’s Chamber of Commerce in its efforts to breathe life back into the heart of the business community.
Sherren McCabe-Finlayson, chair of the Chamber believes the toll of the pandemic and the controversial scheme for Monnow Street is affecting morale.
And local traders and business owners are feeling the pressure.
Said Sher: ‘‘We would like help from Beacon readers.
‘‘You will have seen for many weeks the comments and fight the Chamber of Commerce has been making regarding Monnow Street and the ongoing consultation on its future.
‘‘We have been endeavouring to raise public awareness of this, and the plight of many town businesses.
‘‘And as Chair of the Chamber, I have an appeal to make. The past few years of trials and tribulations have really affected the morale of everyone.
‘‘The fundamental concept behind new town plans and Placemaking schemes, accommodates centres full of trees and plants; additional facilities for pedestrians and cyclists; a new form of living to promote wellness and mental health.
‘‘Yet, I would argue that what isn’t considered is the wellness and mental health of our business owners, who pay high rents and rates to provide unique and vital services that make our town centre the place it is.
‘‘They put on a welcoming smile and encourage you into their shops, where they provide the excellent personal service you expect, despite the chaos around them.
‘‘In a boost to the health of our high street I would like to ask that the next time you are shopping in the town, especially when visiting one of our wonderful independent retailers, you please consider performing an act of kindness.
‘‘Don’t ask them about Monnow Street. Don’t ask them why they aren’t trading in Abergavenny where they’d be doing much better business. Don’t ask them why there isn’t enough parking. Don’t ask them whether they could be the next business that will close. Other customers they will have had in that day may well have asked all these questions already.
‘‘Just say hello, give them a smile, tell them a joke if you’re so inclined, and ask them how they are.
‘‘I guarantee you’ll make their day
‘‘Believe me, every business knows the problems within the town; they are having to live through them. So, please share a smile and make someone’s day. You might even leave their establishment with an extra bounce in your step too. Then you can pat yourself on the back and say, ‘I did a good thing today’.
‘‘Let’s give our shopkeepers, business owners, and tradespeople a reason to help us get back to a Happy High Street while the big issues are resolved.’’
In recent months there have been public consultations on the proposed Monnow Street scheme put forward by Monmouthshire County Council.
In response to the public feedback on this the Chamber, representing most of the businesses in the town, has also put their views forward for consideration.
In a letter to the council Sher stressed that the temporary Covid measures that were installed were extremely divisive in Monmouth.
The businesses largely blamed them for the demise of custom and footfall in the town. Several retailers reported that their turnover is down 35-40 per cent on pre-Covid levels.
‘‘With the potential for levelling-up funding and the ongoing Monnow Street consultation, it made sense for work in the high street to be completed in one hit. However, now that this pot of money is not available and the wider regeneration opportunity for enhancing Blestium Street and the Museum is put on the back burner, it is becoming clear from conversations I’ve had recently, and from more general opinions, that the temporary measures should be removed as soon as possible, apart from Salt and Pepper’s cafe area, and the street put back to how it was pre-Covid.
The retailers would rather have this disruption NOW than wait for what could be several years, to secure funding and put a Placemaking plan in place. This could make all the difference to those teetering on the edge and is deemed an essential step forward for the future of the town.
This would allow things to go back to normal while funding is being sought to implement the outcome of both consultative processes, with the Placemaking plan yet to start. I remember back in July, after months of an unpopular scheme in Chepstow, the townspeople were consulted, and a vote was taken in Council to return the town to its pre-Covid status. We would like to request the same consideration is given to Monmouth. One has only to read the Monmouth social media pages to see how unpopular the current regime is with the public.
It seems to me, that if this is undertaken now, it could have a three-fold benefit:
1. It will make people believe they are being listened to.
2. It will address the issue of whether the businesses are right to blame these measures on the demise of our town centre.
3. If nothing changes and trade is still in the doldrums there is likely to be far more support in the long run for what the Authority is proposing.
If things are left as they are until funding is sourced MCC will always be blamed for the death of Monmouth!