12th April 2019
President’s speech for Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce annual dinner 2019
Welcome to our Members and to our guests. Our guests are:
Liz Townsend – Cranleigh Parish Council Leader
Angela Richardson – Cranleigh Parish Councillor
Andrew Povey – Surrey County Councillor
Cllr Jim Edwards – Economic Portfolio Holder, Waverley Borough Council
Euan Davidson – President, Godalming Chamber of Commerce
Craig McGowan – President, Haslemere Chamber of Commerce
Brian Walpole – Cranleigh Lions
And of course, our guest speaker or rather interviewee, John James of Soho Estates and President of the Cranleigh Agricultural Show who will be speaking during coffee
This is the end of my first year as President and I have found it really worthwhile. Our Committee and I have tried to continue to add real value to our Members, whose subscriptions are vital to maintain a vibrant economy and to retain our lovely High Street which is suffering badly
So, what have we delivered for your members fees? What have we delivered that adds real value? How do we keep relevant for our members
It has been another year of events, a year of lobbying, a year of influencing, a year of campaigning and a year of partnering and collaborating.
We want to put local businesses in front of other local businesses. We want to help you develop relationships which lead to fruitful business. And we want to keep our businesses informed. Our networking events are ideally suited with speakers on interesting and relevant business topics.
And we listen to you! Some of you said that breakfast networking meetings did not work for your school runs. So, we introduced lunch and evening meetings in the past year. We held eight networking events and we have a full programme for the next year. We constantly try to keep the speakers and events interesting. Some of you will remember our cycle networking event over to the Milk Churn and Firebird Brewery? Well this May, we will be holding a Netwalking meeting. Yes, networking where we walk and talk! Let’s hope we have good weather!
We have also been responsible for two large events.
The Waverley BIG Awards was a tremendous success with all four Chambers of Commerce in Waverley taking part.
The Cranleigh Business to Business Show was new to us and really hit the ground running with 27 exhibiting businesses which was the maximum capacity of the Village Hall.
High Street Events
Supporting our High Street businesses is one of our key objectives. I am disappointed to inform you that our High Street vacancy rate has increased from 2% in 2015 to an incredible 9%, by far the highest in Waverley. It is lower than the national rate of 11% but that is absolutely no comfort.
We continue to hold our Spring and Autumn High Street events which do have an immediate on-the-day increase in sales, especially the cafes but that is not enough. Our residents and visitors are not supporting our High Street retailers and choosing to buy online. Let’s face it, we all do. Online retailers do not pay business rates or rent. Whether or not they pay tax is a matter for government but one which we must lobby for when we talk to our politicians.
So, like all High Streets in the UK our High Street will have to change to survive. It must become a place of entertainment. It must develop a night time economy of bars, cafes and restaurants. It must offer unique product. The new For Earth’s Sake shop is possibly a good example of that. I have no idea whether it will be successful, but I do hope so because it has livened up that end of the High Street where both Carolyn Lodge Travel and the Lemon Tree closed at the same time.
And maybe we should all think more about buying more products locally. It is a vicious circle. What would Cranleigh be like without our High Street. Pretty ghastly.
Our objective for 2019 is to form a High Street retailer steering group and work towards implementing a Business Improvement District in Cranleigh High Street. This will need the support of over 50% of the retailers and business rate payers in the High Street and will be tough to sell to them because it will mean a 1 – 2% levy on their business rates.
But the real advantage is that the large retailers like the Coop, Sainsburys, M&S pay the lions share. BIDS, as they are called, are hard to get started but once they do, they are extremely effective in improving the High Street because they bring in an annual pot of money of around £100,000 that the retailers can decide what to spend it on. Not the council, not the Chamber but the retailers and rate payers. It could be CCTV, Banners, marketing, parking subsidies, improving the pavements, street furniture, more street cleaning, street events and so on. The money and the decisions are in their hands.
The long established High Street event which is the most expensive to stage is the Xmas lights event. Every year we must start from scratch and raise at least £12,000. Last year they cost almost £16,000 to replace, renew, repair, install and take down. Can I send out a plea that you all continue to support us when we request funding to help us put them up and hold the event. Any amount really does help. And if you feel generous, we have a super Xmas 100 club with a regular monthly subscription. A draw is made very quarter and you can win a nice bonus. You stand a far, far better chance than the Lottery or Premium bonds so do consider it. Speak to Julie or Roger.
Lobbying and Influencing
Our other added value to our members is our constant lobbying and influencing of public and private sector partners to improve our Village.
This year we have proposed to Waverley Borough Council that we cap our parking at three hours payment to assist our low paid workers with cheap parking, to retain visitors in the village longer and to stop undesirable parking in residential streets. Our car parks are only 50% full at any time except Thursday during the market when they increase to around 70% full. And 95% of parking paid is for three hours or less.
We proposed to Waverley that they can actually increase their parking income with more people parking for 3 hours. However, it will take Waverley some time to get around to the proposal because they want to do a full parking review of the whole of Waverley. We re lobbying hard to make the case that we are unique because we do not have commuter parking like the other Waverley towns which fills their car parks. We will continue to push this. We know it works elsewhere.
We are continuing to lobby Surrey County Council about converting Longfield House, previously a care home, partly to small offices for start-ups and small businesses and partly to accommodation for vulnerable adults. This has stalled recently because Surrey CC have few staff left. But we are keeping up the pressure in partnership with Smart Cranleigh
Mobile Phone Reception
Despite what mobile phone providers claim, our reception in Cranleigh is poor and patchy. This is no longer a luxury but a necessity with vulnerable children and adults unable to access help should they need it. Nor can we use RINGO to pay for parking. So, we have carried out an online survey which received almost 400 responses and submitted it to Anne Milton. She is now organising a meeting with the mobile phone providers to knock heads together.
I have not mentioned Cranleigh in Bloom (thank you Andrea and well done for getting selected for Britain in Bloom), the Santa Dash, the Downs Link and so much more!
To achieve all this, I have depended so much on our wonderful Committee.
Thank you to Martin Bamford of Bamford Media and Informed Choice and our vice president, who handles our marketing and social media, who organises and reminds us of events, who keeps our website fresh and informative and who handles all the horrid regulation for our events.
Thank you to Roger Coupe of the eponymous estate agents, who leads the charge to raise money for our Xmas lights. He also follows up on every new business that arrives to persuade them to become a member of the Chamber and hopefully of the 100 Club.
Thank you to Julie Alexandersen, of Hans Christmas Andersen, who has knocked into order our Members Subscription Lists (so watch out those of you who are behind in payment, she is after you!); who has both provided space for and organised free training sessions for members over at Santafir. She is always prepared to spend long hours manning our stands at various shows and events. And thanks for your generous sponsorship of the Spring into Cranleigh event and our Guinness world record attempt at the largest display of painted rocks.
Thank you to John Wright of Its Eeze, who works closely with Julie on the training events and who launched the Cranleigh Business to Business Show. And yes, he is planning our next Business Show. Some of you may not know that John is also the President of the Horsham and Billingshurst Chamber of Commerce.
Thank you to Christine Martin of TRTUK, who led a team of four Waverley Chambers to stage the spectacular Waverley BIG Awards in October. It took six people, nine months in planning and an awful lot of free human resource and late, late nights to make it happen. But what a great night celebrating business success across Waverley. Thank you to Waverley Borough Council for your sponsorship of this event amongst many other sponsors.
Thank you to Mike Parsons of Cromwell’s who leads our High Street Spring and Autumn events and who creates some sort of excitement at his Cromwell’s restaurant every week.
Thank you to David Counsel, our treasurer who keeps us very much on the right financial track.
And thanks to Bob Bayley, a retired business member, who strives to improve our Parking, our Mobile phone reception and our Downs Link. I am pleased to say he is the bane of the lives of Anne Milton and the Waverley councillors and executive! Don’t give up Bob, we are getting there!
It is remarkable the skills, the experience and the expertise we have on our Committee; and members willingness to voluntarily donate those skills and their time.
Cranleigh Chamber is a Chamber which punches well above its weight. We will continue to support businesses in Cranleigh in every way we can. Your membership subscriptions are very well used for the improvement of the economy. Thank you!
Rosemary French OBE
11 April, 2019