50 members of Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce and special guests attended our annual dinner at Cranleigh Golf & Country Club yesterday evening.
Our speaker was the incredible Shaun Parry-Jones who shared the story of his life-changing rugby accident and inspirational journey since.
More photos can be found on the Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page.
Before dinner, Chamber president Richard Graham delivered his report at the annual general meeting.
A second successful year
He reflected on a second successful year for the current committee of Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce, and thanked local businesses for supporting the reformed Chamber.
Membership now stands at a record 139 businesses.
It has been a busy year of events, lobbying, influencing, campaigning and partnering, to make sure Cranleigh is the very best place to live, work and play.
During the past year we have hosted seven popular networking breakfasts, one BBQ and also an evening event at Rudgwick Brickworks. Some hardy individuals even managed to cycle there and back!
Our speakers this year have been interesting and varied, covering a variety of topics from cheese making to cyber security, living longer to the cycling revolution that has hit Cranleigh.
We held two Brexit debates in May and June last year, which were both extremely well attended as well as lively!
One big focus for the Chamber was customer service, with the Up Your Game programme of mystery shopping assessing what businesses are doing well, what they can do better and what they can learn from each other.
Once again we worked closely with Cranleigh Arts Centre, staging a second excellent Food & Music Festival on a very sunny day in late September.
Rain for the Christmas Lights
The Christmas Lights event in November was less sunny! The poor weather not only put a dampener on the evening but caused a power outage in the square just as the entertainment programme was about to start!
Nevertheless, the crowds were patient and stayed to watch the Christmas Lights being switched on.
It costs the Chamber over £12,000 a year to repair, buy replacements and erect the Christmas Lights, all of which is raised by the local business community. Unlike other local towns, there is no public funding for the Christmas Lights in Cranleigh.
Richard thanked the Christmas Lights team for their hard work – Roger, Martin, Julie and Rosemary. He also thanked the volunteers who got very wet helping Rosemary stop and redirect the traffic during the High Street road closure that evening.
The second Business, Innovation & Growth (BIG) Awards were held in January, thanks to sponsorship from Alan Young of Surrey County Council, Dunsfold Park and other local businesses.
Once again, we celebrated small and large business achievements and were delighted to award the winner of the 5 Employees & Over Award to Idyllic Beauty & Day Spa, and the 5 Employees & Over Award to Atrainability.
We are planning to change the timing of the Cranleigh BIG Awards in 2018 to avoid the Christmas period altogether, giving entrants more time to prepare their winning entries and the organising team more time to plan the event itself.
Cranleigh in Bloom, led by Martin Bamford, excelled itself last year by winning not only a Gold Award but also the Best Town Award at the South & South East in Bloom Awards 2016.
Cranleigh was truly exceptionally attractive in 2016 and indeed continues to be so in Spring with the field of crocuses on the Common, the cleaning up of local ponds and the vibrant displays of tulips, pansies and other spring flowers.
Lobbying and influencing
An important role for any Chamber of Commerce is to lobby and influence the public sector. We have really got into our stride during the past twelve months.
Cranleigh Chamber fought hard to try and retain Hewitts Industrial Estate as employment land. We wrote an economic justification paper for the Planning Inspector and spoke at the appeal.
However, the appeal was lost because Waverley Borough Council does not have a Local Plan in place. We are now desperately short of employment space in Cranleigh as a result.
Downs Link proposals
Many proposals have been made over the year for the Downs Link. Even as a leisure and commuter track, the path is not really fit for purpose.
We commissioned Sustrans to carry out a corridor assessment for us, including a recommendation for improving the path to a quality to take bicycles, walkers and even wheelchairs.
Once again, local businesses put their hands in their pockets to pay for the assessment, which has recently been received by the Chamber – more news on this very soon!
Car parking in Cranleigh
Committe member and vice president Bob Bayley has campaigned tirelessly with Waverley Borough Council to introduce a car parking system which will accept debit and credit cards. This new system will allow visitors and shoppers to relax and spend more time in Cranleigh.
Our experience in other towns which use this ‘check in, check out’ car parking system demonstrates income to the local authority increases due to longer stays. The upgraded machines are now in place and we expect the system to be activated within the next fortnight or so.
Unfortunately, the Chamber was unable to stop Waverley Borough Council from increasing car parking charges to 80p an hour. Now that the government is reducing financial support for local authorities, before entirely removing it in 2020, Waverley Borough Council (like others) will be doing everything it can to find other sources of funding.
We wrote a detailed economic paper in response to Waverley Borough Council’s request to refresh their own economic strategy. They were both pleased and surprised by the professional content of the paper, and both Richard and Bob were invited to speak with them about it.
Richard explained that we will formally complete the incorporation of Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce to a company limited by guarantee, on a not-for-profit basis.
We will continue to lobby and influence decision makers to identify more employment land in the village.
We will also work collaboratively to maintain the High Street as a vibrant destination for both local residents and visitors.
He gave his thanks to the committee, members and speakers over the past year.