Town centre manager for Epsom
Epsom looks set to finally get a town centre manager, thanks to a Government windfall and the generosity of a shopping centre.
Councillors approved recommendations for the position, aimed at boosting the flagging vitality of the town, at a meeting of the strategy and resources committee last Thursday.
The post will be funded out of the £100,000 it has been awarded from the Government’s High Street Innovation Fund.
The council was one of 100 local authorities selected to be given the money to address the issue of empty shops.
Half of the money will be used to fund the new post for the first two years, with negotiations underway for Bride Hall, which leases the Ashley Centre, to match this up to another £50,000.
After that it is hoped the post will become self-funding.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Neil Dallen, chairman of the committee, said a town centre manager would allow Epsom "to be what we want it to be".
He said: "They would positively market Epsom and target specific shops and businesses to bring them into the town centre - so the right mix can be achieved.
"They would also have a community focus and work on making the town more vibrant, and work to develop the aesthetics of the town too.
"It will help Epsom which has struggled with its identity in recent years. We are a market town, but we still want a good mix."
He added that a town centre manager should be in place by the end of the year.
Tom Bowden, managing director of Lester Bowden, which was established in Epsom in 1898, said: “We absolutely welcome anything to help improve the current trading difficulties, provided the role is adequately resourced and could deliver a difference.
“Epsom has a huge amount to offer and it would be great to have some fresh enthusiasm and input.
“The economic climate has particularly hit the retail trade. "The whole face of retailing has dramatically changed in the last couple of years and I don’t think it will ever be the same again.”
Councillors have also approved the setting up of a civic investment fund which would provide grants for environmental and business projects including improving street furniture, shops fronts and the appearance of empty shops.
There was debate among councillors at the meeting as to whether the fund should only be invested in Epsom town centre.
Coun Dallen said: "We will be looking at Epsom as the main shopping area, gauge the benefits there and then there can be spin-offs to Ewell and Stoneleigh."
But Councillor Darren Dale replied: "If we are going to do this in Epsom town centre, let the other areas know that ‘if it works, we will come out to you’. "The feedback I have gotten from Stoneleigh shopkeepers is that it feels like the forgotten poor cousin of Epsom."