Colchester traders’ survey reveals congestion is big issue – but heritage is an asset
- Credit: Su Anderson
A survey of traders in Colchester has revealed widespread concerns that parking and congestion is putting shoppers off visiting the town.
The issue has been highlighted in a report compiled by the town team.
However there is also optimism from town centre businesses that Colchester will see growth – particularly if it makes more of its cultural heritage.
Business leaders believe that by better promoting the town’s unique historical offering it will be better placed to attract consumers away from rivals in Ipswich and Chelmsford.
Presented to around 80 representatives at a meeting on Tuesday evening it is hoped the exercise will be a catalyst to get businesses working more closely together to increase footfall and could eventually lead to the town setting up a Business Improvement District (BID).
Michelle Reynolds, chairman of the Colchester Retail/Business Association, said: “The council car parks run deals but a lot of visitors don’t necessarily know what they are so it’s about communicating that, with shop owners doing it too.
“Park and Ride is due to be delivered shortly, and whether or not that will achieve its goals and reduce congestion we don’t know yet.
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“Everybody understood there were some problem areas and everyone wants to work together to achieve common goals. It was a very good meeting and a catalyst for change.
“Colchester needs to capitalise on its heritage and that will be passed to the tourist information team, but it’s something businesses need to include on their marketing too.
“A BID is not on the cards now, but maybe in a year to 18 months we will be in a better position.
Some recommendations made in the report have already been acted upon by Colchester Borough Council (CBC), such as relocating and upgrading the town’s market and providing wi-fi across the town centre.
David Burch, director of policy at the Essex Chambers of Commerce, added: “The big issue is CBC has already had funding cut and the same is likely to happen again, and therefore the message is all these ideas are brilliant but it’s going to need business to come and work together and be prepared to provide some of the funding themselves.
“It is a difficult balancing act to make sure you can have out-of-town developments but also promote the town centre.
“Because it is a historic town much of Colchester town centre follows Roman and medieval lay out and congestion is a problem, but history can also be an asset.
“Colchester doesn’t need to replicate what is up and down the A12 but create a distinctive identity for itself.”