I’m at the full meeting of Leeds City Council. My new ward colleague David Nagle has just given his maiden speech about our fight to save the allotments in Rothwell.
I spoke on setting up the Rothwell Town Forum and this is gist of what I said:
I was elected last year as a Rothwell councillor and it was obvious to me that the town of Rothwell, like many other areas, is crying out for new life. Some of our shops are struggling and we need more footfall down Commercial Street. I’m passionate about helping to do this. Which is why I called a public meeting to start a Rothwell Town Forum.
We have a fantastic asset in our town centre with some great individual shops which I totally support, god forbid we should end up with our high streets being full of nothing but identical chain shops replacing our much loved individual local shops and no Olywn Fox providing true local service, but instead only Currys with its know nothing assistants; and no Brew tea rooms, but only Starbucks on every street.
We have to make the most of what we have in Rothwell and not only fight to keep our individuality but help our centre to realise its full potential and draw people here. I want to see us build on the unique character that Rothwell has whilst at the same time bringing it into the 21st century. We need to offer people something which cannot be matched by out of town shopping centres or the internet.
We also have other pockets throughout the district including in Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton with fantastic shops which also have huge potential and also need our support.
There was a huge amount of enthusiasm at the first meeting for the need to do something, despite some of the challenges and setbacks traders have faced in the past. This will only work with the community coming together to help themselves and I’m sure that we can do it.
Some great ideas came out of the meeting like the need for improved signage, a directory and newsletter promoting all local businesses that could be distributed to every house in Rothwell, experimenting with late night opening for one night a week, looking at what could be done to improve the semi-pedestranisation of Commercial Street, how businesses could work together with joint promotions, perhaps creating a ‘Rothwell Pound’ – a special currency that can only be spent in Rothwell, a community notice board and better business support and advice.
And we’ve got our role to play. Keith did a great job chairing the “Commission on the Future of Local Government.” But we’ve got to ensure that it’s more than just words and truly embrace entrepreneurship. Too often our local traders face petty bureaucratic restrictions and as a council we aren’t flexible enough to meet the real needs of people.That has to change. And we here should be that change.