HUCKNALL traders, councillors and residents have formed a ‘Town Team’ in a bid to breathe new life into the High Street.
The group came together at a meeting to discuss the future development of the town centre and to attract new businessess.
Service with a smile, improving the gateways to the centre and enlisting the help of a volunteer to co-ordinate efforts were just some of the suggestions made during the meeting.
Ashfield District Council’s town centre and markets manager, Mark Armstrong, hosted the event which was held at the Under One Roof centre at Vine Terrace.
“There is a lot of passion in the Hucknall area,” said Mr Armstrong. “Everyone wants to see something happen, but getting the team set up and putting forward ideas of working together are the priorities.”
Janet Archer, who is acting director at Specsavers who organised the successful Christmas Tree Festival in the town, is enthusiastic about what the team could achieve.
“Creating a working party will enable everyone’s ideas and suggestions to be heard,” she explained. “It’s also helpful to look at other similar towns and see what methods they have tried and been successful with that we could adopt.
“It’s about doing the things we can influence and achieve. We have to be positive about the future.”
Although Hucknall has lost a few High Street names like Bon Marche in recent months, the High Street has fewer empty shops than most town centres.
Chairman of Hucknall Business Voice, Martin Leach, who has traded in the town for over 30 years with his hair salon on Duke Street, confirmed Hucknall had been hit less than most other places in the recession.
“There have only been 9-12 per cent shop closures here compared to nearly 30 per cent in Mansfield and 50 per cent in Selby, North Yorkshire,” he said.
Mr Leach spoke at the meeting and said he didn’t believe the Tesco superstore and parking charges were the ‘downfall’ of Hucknall that many people in the past have suggested. He added it was important to look at the ‘bigger picture’.
Coun John Wilmott suggested a solution might be to bring in more specialist shops to boost trade as well as attracting a new superstore at the Market Place end of High Street.
Coun Ian Morrison, said the iconic Byron Bingo Hall at the town’s ‘gateway’ would make an ideal venue for musical attractions if bingo ever ceased.
All these ideas and more, together with the Town Centre Improvement Plan, is hoped to rejuvenate the shopping centre and attract new businesses and trade to Hucknall.
The £12 million investment improvement scheme has been submitted to Nottinghamshire County Council’s planning department and is expected to go before the committee in late spring.
If the scheme gets rubber-stamped work will start in September 2014 with an anticipated completion of May 2016.
The main features of the plan will see a pedestrianised area on High Street from Watnall Road to Baker Street with a new road running parallel to the High Street and a new ‘bus only’ link road.
The scheme has prompted heavy debate in the town since the comnsultation and divided opinion.
Sheila Robinson, a volunteer worker for the Hucknall Tourism and Regeneration Group, is behind the team, but still has concerns over the pedestrianised scheme.
“As I understand it the bank bullion lorries and Post Office trucks will stay have access so i’m not sure how it will work,” questioned Sheila. “But now we have got the money we need to get on with it.”
The next meeting of the Town Team will take place on Wednesday 10th April at Under One Roof at 6.15pm.