ATCM Chief Executive's Blog - Tackling the recession at a local level
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Tackling the recession at a local level
Wednesday 15 July 2009
Apart from the number of people present, what also greatly enthused me was the clear determination to get things done and to help Sutton navigate through the recession. As a centre, it has suffered over time and has seen strong competition from neighbouring Croydon and Kingston, but the partnership seems to have brought together not only a broad coalition of interests and stakeholders, but also ensured that they are engaged and represented at a senior level. It is really good to see the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive of the local authority both sitting on the partnership steering group. This in turn encourages involvement at a senior level by other partners.
Sutton is to invest some £3 million in an 18 month public realm improvement programme. The funds have been found through s106 Agreements (money contributed by those seeking planning consent to mitigate the impact of their development) and through Transport for London. The proposed scheme has been designed not just to provide an improved street surface but also to encourage visitors to the centre to extend their stay by providing flexible seating, event space, room for pavement cafes, and space for children. It has also thought about how the centre functions at night. Once seen as a problem destination after dark, Sutton, like many centres, is now a safe place to visit in an evening and the new street works have designed lighting that will enhance this further and include the latest ability to increase lighting levels when required. Work is scheduled to start shortly, and though like all such schemes there will inevitably be disruption during the course of the works, the extent of engagement by the town centre businesses and the key agencies delivering the work in the town centre partnership mean that there are established mechanisms for any significant problems to be dealt with quickly.
It is perhaps no coincidence that a strong and engaging partnership like Sutton also has an enthusiastic and very active town centre manager. A quick visit would suggest the partnership and the TCM energise one another, which I think is exactly how it should be. In many ways an undistinguished centre with clear competition within easy reach, I think it will be interesting to see how Sutton comes through the current downturn and what the impact of the street works and the other projects the town centre partnership and the individual partners are pursuing is. They seem to have the right groundwork in place, and I have a sneaking suspicion that we will be hearing good things about the place over the next few years. If I were them, I would be taking plenty of ‘before' photos now to compare with how the centre will look when the works are finished and other investment is coming forward.