A regeneration specialist is set to visit Hednesford to offer support and advice with the town’s plans to re-vitalise and make the most of the wealth of opportunities it has.
Chris Wade, chief executive of the Lottery-funded and Government-backed Towns Alive initiative will spend the day with representatives from Hednesford Town Council and The Heart of Hednesford Restoration Project (HoHRP) on Thursday, September 4.
He has taken part in dozens of projects aimed at breathing new life into towns, using ideas such as reinstating markets and reviving original shop frontages to make town centres more attractive again.
Mr Wade will be given a tour of Market Street, the Museum of Cannock Chase and Victoria Shopping Park to get a feel for the local area before presenting recommendations to an invited audience of traders, business owners and community leaders at Pye Green Community Centre.
He’ll be accompanied by representatives from Hednesford Town Council, the Heart of Hednesford Restoration Project and Hednesford Traders Association.
Cllr Brian Gamble said all those involved are delighted to have Mr Wade on board, to bring a fresh perspective on how Hednesford can build on the recent rounds of investment in the town, that has brought in big names including Tesco, Aldi and Costa Coffee.
“We’ve had some solid investment in Hednesford and want to use this as a springboard to re-energise our independent traders, and take advantage of the positive community spirit which has been building as a result of this,” said Cllr Gamble.
“As well as the money spent within our town, look at the wealth of riches we have on our doorstep, such as Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and planned developments on the horizon like the Designer Outlet Village – we need to ensure we are making the most of every opportunity to draw more people into our town.
“Our community is set to expand with up to 900 new homes due to be built – we are going to need more amenities to serve this influx of residents, something which we hope will be a further boost for Hednesford traders. We need to come up with fresh, innovative ideas to make the most of this.
“Chris has a true passion for helping towns thrive and has had some great results across the country – this is our chance to tap into his experience and wisdom and take our plans for Hednesford on to a whole new level.”
Mr Wade has publicly spoken about the common problems that small towns are facing and that to survive and thrive communities should work together, as if the town centre was actually a single entity like a department store, getting the basics like car parks and signage right as well as creating a buzz.
Chris has also highlighted that whilst internet shopping has had a massive effect on the High Street, new technology such as smartphones and tablets do offer the opportunity for shoppers and visitors to find some hidden gems in our town centres.
Mr Wade has 20 years’ experience in environmental management and rural affairs as well as a strong background in running independent rural development organisations.
Until recently Chris was Chair of Locality’s Policy Committee and Vice Chair of both the South East Rural Towns Partnership and the Yorkshire and Humber Market Towns Network. He is also an active member of the Rural Coalition.