The owners are particularly looking to understand more about the history of the building and any ideas the general public may have for how the property might be brought back to worthwhile use for the benefit of the Town.
MR BIG Directors and the Town Team welcomed traders and businesses members to a liaison meeting on Wednesday 31 July at the Market Rasen Cricket Club. The meeting was preceded by a motivational talk from sales expert Susan Marot. Susan gave practical advice on improving sales and offered her services to traders in Market Rasen – see Susan’s LinkedIn profile to get in touch
MR BIG Board Directors gave updates and plans on the 4 Portas Pilot Promises: Town Tidy Up, Shopping Sustainability, Marketing, and Market Development. Attendees heard that our ‘High Street’ is now approaching 100% occupancy with several new businesses having opened in the town over the past few weeks. July’s Independent Retail month activities had put Market Rasen on the map: the national lead, retail guru Clare Rayner, had visited the town and given a talk and advice at a business lunch at the Advocate Arms on 30th July. (See this link for more information about Indie Retail http://www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/clare-rayner/ )
Sara Scott, Chairperson of MR BIG, displayed and introduced some exciting new marketing materials to promote Market Rasen as a tourist and visitor destination regionally and nationally. A ‘Shop Local’ promotion and posters were also previewed. Watch out for the posters and advertising boards going on display around the town over the next few weeks.
Richard Hallsworth, the Finance Director, gave a comprehensive update on the Portas Pilot money spend to date (as at May 2013 approaching 40% spend of the £98k funding).
The Town Team outlined plans for the £101k funding awarded from the Government’s High Street X fund. These include a community cafe, guerilla gardening and more Town Tidy Up activities.
All the presentations and information can be found on the two Powerpoint documents linked at the end of this post. If you would like a copy of the presentations emailing then please contact us.
Board Vacancies with MR BIG
We currently have 4 vacant seats on our Board. If you think you might be interested in getting more involved, get in touch. We are going to be holding a planning session in September to discuss our project plans and priorities for administering the £101K we won as part of the High Street Renewal Fund.
Joining existing Board members to generate ideas and discuss our approach provides the perfect opportunity to understand more about what we do and how we work together.
If you’d like to come along, simply email Nicola Marshall, Town Centre Manager on firstname.lastname@example.org .
Applications for the roles will be taken following the session.
Recently around the town centre you may have noticed there have been some fantastic changes. Not only have shops been sprucing up out front with a lick of paint thanks to help from those at JK Building Maintenance but there are new planters at the train station and, with the help of the community payback scheme, the telephone box in the marketplace has been painted and the bench has been replaced. The Advocate Arms has also installed a new sign outside their building.
The new facelift in Market Rasen is a very welcome sight as one of the promises made by MR BIG to the Portas Pilot Scheme was that the town centre would be tidied up.
Darren Lince, Property and Commercial Volunteer Director, who is leading the Town Tidy Up initiative was extremely happy to see the new changes. “As a local business owner I am delighted that we’re seeing so many other businesses on the High Street further enhancing their properties and this includes Town & Country Carpets, Rhodes and McColl’s. We also have a commitment that when The White Swan is purchased from the administrators (of the Freehold title) that will also be “spruced up”.
When these improvements are combined with the enhancements at The Goldmine, the old Halifax building and the opening of Greens as well as the painting of all the metalwork around the Market Place and many more positive advances it is great to have some positive news to balance the negative and inaccurate picture of Market Rasen portrayed recently on BBC Look North.
Market Rasen High Street still has plenty of room for improvement, we still have a couple of empty premises and it is still very tough out there for retailers and small businesses, but we are not seeing the decline that many High Streets have suffered. In fact our High Street looks and feels so much better than it did twelve months ago.
The challenge to WLDC, The Town Council, Mr Big and local businesses is to make further improvements and enhancements to try to keep more local shoppers in town and attract more spending visitors and businesses to Market Rasen, to further enhance the retail and service experience and ultimately to make the High Street sustainable for the long term future.
Around Christmas time last year, we drew up a bid and submitted it to government, explaining some of the great things we’ve achieved in Market Rasen and outlining some further ideas we would like to implement to continue our journey to re-invigorate the High Street.
We were one of 55 towns who applied (and submitted videos) and only 7 towns were given the award. In the words of our representative from Government – we are a truly exceptional town. We asked for £79K, But we were awarded £101,057. . .and it’s taken us a little while to find out why, which is why we’ve not been super-quick to announce the details of the win. We wanted to get our facts straight.
So here they are.
Our bid was formed from the ideas laid down in our town transformation plan, written with the input of traders and business people back in February 2012. It builds on the four promises laid down in our Portas bid: Town Tidy Up, Markets, Shopping and Marketing and Promotion to drive footfall.
This bid includes a host of activites, they include:
Town Tidy Up
‘Operation Ice Cream’ which will create a fund to help shop owners and businesses repaint their shop frontages
- Gardening initiatives, including community groups and schools to improve unloved areas of the town
- Love Your Street – a scheme to encourage groups to ‘adopt’ and care for areas of our town
- Management fund to ensure we can continue to host BIG monthly markets and to continue to fund our Town Centre Manager for a 2nd year
- Funds to try new and different markets formats to keep things fresh and exciting
- Work with local councils and transport providers to provide market day buses and trains from Lincoln and Grimsby.
- Community cafe with gallery space and family friendly facilities and visitor information.
- Personal shopping service and outreach for vulnerable people and people without access to transport.
- Develop overnight accommodation provision and ensure our visitors have a VIP experience
- Formal support package for start-up businesses
- Improving the visitor experience through signage and information.
- Shop Local campaign
- Regional tourist promotions to create a branded offer to visitors, showcasing our towns assets including Racecourse, outdoor activities as a Lincolnshire Wolds Town, Biker events, Food Tourism etc.
- Promote Market Rasen and surrounding villages regionally as cultural destination for arts and crafts
As you can see, there’s a lot to do here and the money we’ve won is allocated in small portions against each of these activities, so we need to think carefully about what projects we undertake in what order.
There is no deadline on when we spend the money and we’ve still got approximately 50% of our Portas funds left – so there are plenty of projects on the go already.
We were keen to understand why the Government had awarded us an extra £22K. The answer is that these funds are there to help us make our projects sustainable – so to pay for the people resources required to keep things moving, but also to help us spread news of our projects by networking with other town teams. They are not to be allocated to new and additional projects to those outlined in our bid.
In the couple of weeks since the X Fund win was announced in the national media, I’ve been approached by a handful of concerned townspeople, who were worried or unclear about the purpose and remit of MR BIG. First, a number of people expressed concern about the idea of having a ‘community cafe’ as part of our plans and that it would encroach on other eateries in town. To be clear – there is a limited budget of £10K against this activity and the focus will be on creating a family-friendly environment that fulfils a number of different functions for residents and visitors. The location and format of this initiative is not agreed and the opportunity will be tendered out at a date tbc for local businesses or groups to ‘bid’ to take this activity forward.
Secondly, I’ve been asked on many occasions for MR BIG to extend the scope of works to tackle a host of different issues the town faces. Again, we want to be clear that as a business improvement group there is a limit and focus to our remit that is around regenerating our High Street and businesses within Market Rasen. Activities that encourage business growth will continue to be our primary focus. Whilst these may have benefits to the overall community as a whole, our Group is not a catch-all for every issue our town faces.
Our Board takes time and care to ensure that we remain true to the vision we set right at the outset at the beginning of 2012 – which was to make Market Rasen a more inviting place to be and to drive the footfall on the High Street that will benefit local businesses so that they, in turn can invest in our town.
In light of recent feedback from our members, we will be looking to meet with them more regularly and informally over the months ahead, so we can continue to canvass the views, opinions and ideas that have been critical to our success thus far.
Sara Scott – Chair MR BIG