Reenergising the Town Centre
Parts of the Town Centre are looking a bit sad and showing their age. The pre-occupation with the Town Centre North project – a good idea when it was conceived – combined with several years of Tory indolence and lack of direction, mean that the new Labour council have a big challenge in front of us, if we are to return the Town Centre to its proper position as the buzzing heart of our Town and community.
We have made a major commitment, in our election manifesto, to turn around the decline. We will do this by refocusing effort on the core of the Town and based on three key elements: retail, leisure and residential.
Retail: we will work with the property owners, including County Mall, occupiers and their agents, to encourage them to ‘spruce up’ the buildings in Queen’s square, most of which are showing their age a bit now. And we will take action to encourage new occupiers for the vacant premises and sites – the current project to rejuvenate the Queen’s square infrastructure will help to kick-start this. We will build in to the overall plan support for the Market and see if we can find a way to develop a permanent indoor market as well.
Leisure: we will bring a variety of events to the Square, to attract residents and visitors, and to reflect and reinforce the cosmopolitan nature of our community. The Town centre should be a fun place to be and we will work to achieve this.
Residential: there is a lot of potential to encourage development of apartment style living above the retail units in the Town centre as well as on the vacant lots around the centre. And we have a long housing waiting list, not to mention the need to provide more one and two bed homes for young people and smaller families. We will encourage this sort of development – some has already started by the Pavement - and this too, will help to bring life to the Town centre.
And we have a whole raft of other ideas and objectives including improving access to car parks and sustainable transport, improving access to information – today’s offers perhaps?, and more. We will engage with the wider community throughout the process – residents can email me ideas right now.
We have started already. It won’t be quick and it won’t be particularly easy, but working together as a community we will succeed.
Cllr Peter Smith – Labour Ifield and Ifield West
Cabinet member for Planning and Economic Development