New working group formed in Long Melford to address shop closures and decline in visitor footfall
A new council-led working group, established to help address business closures and declining shopper footfall in Long Melford, believes the village must create a clear identity to draw more visitors in.
Long Melford Parish Council voted to form a new committee at its meeting on Thursday evening, to develop solutions in response to numerous closures in the main shopping avenue of Hall Street.
The new working group, which aims to help implement ideas in the upcoming neighbourhood plan, will include three councillors – Jonathan Ewbank, Liz Malvisi and Carol Michette – as well as three members appointed by the Long Melford Business Association.
During the council meeting at the United Reformed Church, councillors agreed that, while declining footfall is a nationwide issue, measures needed to be taken to try to address the problem, including encouraging visitors to Melford Hall and Kentwell Hall to spend money in local businesses.
They also said obtrusive on-street parking was having a particularly negative impact, and stated that improvements to car parks at the village hall and the Old School were needed to address this.
Cllr Malvisi, who is also Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “It very much hinges on the efforts of the neighbourhood plan with parking.
“If you have commercial vehicles parked in the street, those driving through can’t see what’s behind them.
“Long Melford depends on tourism. The retail outlets in Long Melford will not survive purely on local trade.
“I think we, as a parish council, should define our identity. What are we about?”
Suggestions were also made about enhancing the village’s appearance, including the possibility of setting up a Melford In Bloom competition, inspired by similar initiatives in Sudbury and Halstead.
In addition, council members said measures must be taken to address the untidiness caused by excessive ‘fly-posting’ of advertisements on telegraph poles, lamp posts and railings around the village, which they feel has contributed to turning visitors away.
Cllr Ewbank, who also chairs the parish council’s neighbourhood plan sub-committee, said: “I think that will be a big thing in making the village more attractive.
“There are a number of issues here that all point towards broadening our community action. We have got a lovely village and we’ve got quite a lot of volunteers. It’s about creating an identity.
“A lot of businesses, for whatever reason, are not members of the business association. I think that will change, if we are successful.”
Fellow councillor Dave Watts added: “The character of Long Melford is very dependent on thriving, independent shops. That’s what makes it a great place to live, as well as a great place to visit.
“We ought to be doing whatever we can to change this around and continue to support Hall Street.”