Much is still to be done before a robust strategy is put in place to cover the temporary loss of one of Leamington town centre’s busiest car parks.
This is the view of BID Leamington, in response to an update from Warwick District Council on its strategy to create enough parking spaces to be in place for the 20-month period of when the 468-space Covent Garden carpark closes to be replaced by a new car park, apartments and local Local Authority headquarters on the site.
The report, which was approved by the Council Executive, follows a very well attended public meeting which was held on the 19th of June. Approximately 150 people, around 60 of which were business owners filled the Spa Centre to question Council Officers on the scheme. Among other things the questions focused on five key questions relating to car park displacement, loss of footfall, timing and future provision set out in the graphic below.
Following the 2.5 hour long meeting it was agreed that further engagement directly with the business community was urgently needed, as there were many questions that remained unanswered. It was also agreed that specialist car parking expertise is engaged to review plans.
One month on, BID Leamington are pleased to see that a number of our suggestions have been agreed in the July 25th, Executive Report. This includes funding towards a communications plan and the engagement of specialist expertise to review the WDC’s car park displacement plans.
The review, being undertaken by a specialist parking consultancy which we helped select, started this week and will look at the impact of the closure of Covent Garden Car Park, what is proposed and recommend further measures to minimise disruption and re-balance footfall in the north of the town centre. We anticipate further recommendations may need to go forward to Officers and Members following this work.
Engagement with Warwick District Council is also ongoing. We have further meetings planned in early August, with a focus on addressing the concerns of businesses in Warwick Street who will be among those impacted by the loss of footfall when the car park closes. There are also calls for a follow-up ‘business meeting’ open to all local businesses to take place when WDC plans are clearer.
We are mindful that the proposed closure date of Covent Garden Car Park of January 2019 is less than six months away and there is still a lot to do. Much of the proposed ‘additional car parking’ needs planning permission to be built or in the case of Station Approach will not be ready until late 2019, so we are seeking reassurances that the Covent Garden Car Park will not be closed until an adequate plan is ready to be delivered.
The importance of this has also been confirmed by recent ‘Institute of Place Management’ (IPM) research which identifies ‘accessibility’ as among the top two criteria impacting high street vitality, the other being ‘footfall’. This means we need to welcome and deliver investment that puts these issues and local business interests at the heart of the conversation.
Image: Covent Garden Car Park Meeting – 19th June, 2018. Key Numbers & Questions.
Prepared by BID Leamington, using figures set out in the Covent Garden Car Park Planning Application (as Approved on 9 Jan 2018) Ref: W17-1700.
A clothing repairs and alterations business has sewn up 20 years of independent trading in Leamington.
Stitches is celebrating two decades in the town centre – and is the first to be recognised in a new initiative by BID Leamington to mark retail milestones.
Husband-and-wife Subhash and Arvinda Gohil, known as ‘Mr and Mrs Stitches’, moved up from London around 12 years ago to take over the shop in Park Street which was originally opened by three of her uncles, the Supeda brothers Naran, Kantilal and Naresh.
The business continued to be a family affair with their son Manesh and daughter Minal growing up behind the counter where they learnt the trade from their parents.
It has expanded over the years and they opened a branch in Banbury seven years ago which is now run by Manesh and his wife Shilpa.
Subhash said: “Originally the shop was run by the three brothers who had been in the tailoring business in Leicester for 40 years. They wanted to go into clothing alterations and visited Leamington and saw the opportunity here.
“At first they opened on Regent Street but were only there six months as Kantilal spotted this shop on Park Street. They ran it together as a family for years until Naran and Kantilal decided to retire. Naresh carried it on and then we took it over about 12 years ago to keep it in the family.”
The family prides itself on its quality, expertise, service and speed which it believes has resulted in a growing loyal customer base with some even known to have travelled from as far as London, Slough, Liverpool and Swindon.
Deborah Callaghan, who lives in Leamington, is one of the most long-standing, and regular, local patrons.
She said: “I have been going to Stitches since it first opened. I often re-design my clothes to get the right fit or to recycle old ones into a new style, and Subhash is able to undertake pretty much any challenge and with a professional finish.”
BID Leamington has presented Stitches with a certificate and window sticker to celebrate its anniversary, and now plans to recognise milestone years of other businesses.
Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “It’s important to celebrate our businesses that have managed to stay on the high street for so long, particularly when competition is tough for both independents and national chains.
“Stitches is proud to have been independently trading in Leamington for 20 years and we are delighted that it is the first to be recognised in this new initiative to support and promote our town centre business community.”
Subhash added: “We would like to thank all our loyal customers for their support over 20 years.
“We look forward to many more years, with our son Manesh helping us to take the family business further forward and perhaps one day his daughter Nivah, who is not yet two, becoming the fourth generation.”
To mark the anniversary, Stitches is offering customers 20 per cent off repairs and alterations with a minimum spend of £20 at the Leamington store between July 18 and 21, and a celebratory glass of champagne.
PICTURE CAPTION: Pictured, from left to right, are Stephanie Kerr with Subhash and Arvinda Gohil, and Shilpa and Manesh Gohil with their daughter Nivah.
June marks the first month of Royal Leamington Spa’s ‘Summer of Fun’. Until September, the town centre will host a feast of yummy, action-packed community events. If you’re ready to experience summer vibes like never before, make sure to put these dates in your diary!
Kicking it all off on June 16th and 17th was the Leamington Peace Festival! One of the UK’s longest running free festivals. It takes place each year on the weekend before the Summer Solstice, filling the Pump Room Gardens, in the heart of Royal Leamington Spa, with a brilliant mix of family friendly activities, free workshops, Peace talks, live music, vibrant local stalls, campaign groups, healing treatments and a wide range of vegetarian food stalls.
In July, Leamington Carnival will meander around the streets of Leamington on Saturday the 14th. With spectacular floats, drummers, energetic dancers, colourful costumes, live bands and much more. This is your chance to be part of this fun community event, celebrating the town’s diversity, creativity and energy whilst supporting local charitable organisations. The Carnival will wind its way to the Royal Pump Room Gardens where the celebrations will continue at the Summer Festival with 50 local stalls, food for all appetites, entertainment and Barkers Amusements Funfair will be there to welcome you!
Make sure you’re ready to get creative in August when Art in the Park returns for its fifth year on 5th and 6th in Jephson Gardens. The theme this year is about ‘Trees’ to celebrate Leamington’s historic Jephson Gardens, a hidden tree paradise and host to a magnificent 4 day ‘Festival of Oaks’ in Victorian times. Enjoy a jam-packed weekend of art, creativity and fun as over 120 local makers, musicians and performers show and display a mix of crafts and arts and to fuel the fun a little more, local eateries will provide a variety of high quality food and drinks for all appetites.
Warwickshire Pride, Saturday 18th August, has continued to go from strength to strength; getting bigger and better each year, while retaining its identity as a grassroots, community Pride event. Warwickshire Pride is now an established festival in Warwickshire’s event calendar, welcoming masses of people each year for a celebration of LGBT+ culture.
Now in its eleventh year the annual Royal Leamington Spa Food and Drink Festival will take place over the weekend of September 8th and 9th at the Royal Pump Room Gardens. Visitors will find an exciting variety on offer, with exhibitors displaying culinary skills and cuisines ranging from delicious Caribbean food to gourmet toasties, to Indian street food and Persian delights accompanied with an array of local brews and exotic aperitifs.
The Home Cook of the Year, organised by Aubrey Allen, also returns to crown Leamington’s finest amateur chef who will be judged on a three course cooking challenge and children will also be able to get their hands dirty by cooking scrumptious dishes at the kid’s cookery school all washed down with local live entertainment to enjoy all weekend.
To find out more visit peacefestival.org.uk/; www.royal-leamington-spa.co.uk; www.leamingtoncarnival.org.uk; www.artinpark.co.uk; www.warwickshirepride.co.uk; & www.leamingtonfoodfestival.co.uk. Admission is free.
A public meeting is to be held on the high-profile redevelopment of Covent Garden Car Park in Leamington.
The event will give local businesses, employees, customers and residents the chance to put forward their questions on the development of new headquarters for Warwick District Council, new multi-storey car park and apartments on the site.
It is being jointly organised by BID Leamington and Leamington Chamber of Trade on behalf of the town’s business community and will take place at The Studio in the Royal Spa Centre on Tuesday, June 19, at 6pm.
It is hoped that the meeting will enable greater engagement and opportunity for the wider community to have their questions answered by key local authority representatives including Bill Hunt, deputy chief executive of Warwick District Council.
BID Leamington is concerned that insufficient provision has been made for the loss of parking and that the new multi-storey will not be able to meet increased demand from the new headquarters and apartments.
Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “The Covent Garden Car Park redevelopment will greatly impact on local businesses, their staff and customers.
“As their collective voice, BID Leamington has been actively lobbying on the scheme for over a year, particularly in relation to the displacement plan for parking.
“As part of that, we met with Cllr Andrew Mobbs, leader of Warwick District Council, in early February when we set out the concerns of 200 businesses which included 27 emails that we had received from individual retailers.
“With around 25,000 vehicles per month affected, local businesses are worried that a shortage of parking spaces, within an acceptable distance, during the two-year development will deter shoppers and significantly diminish footfall particularly in the north of the town centre where businesses will also notice the loss in passing foot traffic.
“We are committed to working with Warwick District Council not only to improve parking in the long-term but to attract the right kind of investment to take the town forward.
“However, we feel that this needs to be delivered in a way that responsibly mitigates any disruption to businesses as the high street is already facing significant challenges.
“The public meeting will be an opportunity to hopefully have questions answered and we would urge businesses, and anyone in the local community with interest and concerns, to attend.”
Anyone who is unable to attend the meeting or would like a question posed on their behalf is invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org
To view the plans for the development, please visit the Warwick District Council website by clicking here.
More details can also be found on the invitation by clicking on the images below.
Today it was announced that Leamington’s House of Fraser store will be among the 31 House of Fraser stores are set to close nationwide.
Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “We are sad to hear the news of House of Fraser as it has been in the heart of Leamington for some time. This is a decision that has been taken nationally and is affecting stores right across the UK
“Our thoughts are with the staff as we have come to know, there is something wonderful about them and their commitment to serving the customers of the town.
“In recent months, BID Leamington has supported House of Fraser’s efforts to collaborate with independent businesses in the town to showcase the local offer and enhance the shopping experience.
“This type of creative partnership is something we are keen to foster as our independent sector is particularly important and continues to prove itself to be agile and innovative.
“The BID has been recently renewed and an important part of our role is helping to support businesses and guide change so we will also look to reach out to the landlord and other partners to do this.
“After ten years of the BID, we also know that Leamington is a wonderful, creative town with a lot happening and the people of Leamington will help us achieve this.
“The BID Leamington Board will meet next week to look at how we can support this transition and there is a lot of business talent and creativity locally to draw from.
“Our approach has always been to ‘roll up our sleeves’ and work together to ensure the town center thrives.
“It is also more important than ever that as a community, we support the businesses we know and love.”