2011.04 - Stratford Business meets the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership)
20th May 2011
Denys Shortt - Chairman of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership - held a meeting with leading Stratford-upon-Avon Businesses at DCS Europe offices.
The meeting comprised of 33 attendees and included Louise Wall of Warwickshire County Council and Programme Director of the LEP. Paul Lankester, the CEO and Stephen Gray, the Leader of Stratford District Council were also there. Dave Webb - Head of Business at Stratford District Council was also there to help answer questions and queries on Business matters.
Some of the businesses attending were - Orbit Housing, Stratford Town Trust, Tana Travel, Eden Hotel Collection, Needham & James, Bird Enterprises, DCS Europe, Ragley Estate, Warwick Business School, Macdonald Hotels, and Lloyds TSB.
Denys Shortt outlined the work of the LEP and summarised that the LEP was focussed on three things - to grow business, grow jobs and remove the barriers to growth.
He then explained how the LEP Board was formed and stressed that it was business led - he said "for the first time business has a voice at the highest level and can make a real difference. We have some excellent business leaders and many live or work in the Stratford-upon-Avon District."
He outlined that the three main areas of concern for LEPs are :
1) Access to Finance - we need the banks to lend more to stimulate growth. The LEP has formed a Finance Group which is working well.
2) Planning - speed, clarity and simplicity are needed - the LEP is working on a Charter for the region.
3) Skills and Employability - there are jobs available but a lack of people with the right skills to do those jobs. Again the LEP is working on this with Colleges, Universities and the Public and Private Sector.
There are many other areas of work which are all detailed on the LEP website.
Denys Shortt then went on to give his thoughts on Stratford-upon-Avon Business.
"We are lucky to have Shakespeare born in Stratford - many other towns in Britain wish he was born there ! If you google Shakespeare you get nearly One Billion results ! That is a lot of free advertising worldwide for our town."
"It's not all about Shakespeare - I believe we have some World Class businesses in our region from huge ones like the Royal Shakespeare Company, Jaguar Land Rover, and Aston Martin but not to forget ones like Orbit Homes and Pashleys Bicycles. We just need to shout about the brand - Stratford Business"
Through his company Enable Software - Denys has donated a website called www.stratfordbusiness.co.uk to help focus and promote the brand Stratford Business.
Various topics were discussed and the audience were given over 45 minutes for open debate.
Denys Shortt asked - "Where can a large business grow in Stratford - we seem to have lots of small offices but where is the big plan for growth ?
Paul Lankester explained that there were areas in Alcester, Bidford, Wellesbourne, Southam and Shipston designated for business growth and that the Tech Park on Banbury Road was still to be filled. A formal plan is "work in progress" at SDC. He also explained that a business survey is being undertaken and stressed that businesses need to respond. So far not many have. Businesses neet to come forward with their priorities.
Paul said "The three key issues in Stratford are currently 1) Affordable housing 2) Activities for teenagers and 3) the lack of numbers of people of working age in the district".
Parking in Stratford was discussed and it seems that a solution here is needed desperately. Denys Shortt stressed that some of these issues had been discussed for a long time and we need some fast action.
Empty Retail stores was mentioned. Jonathan Smith of the Stratford Business Forum explained "The level of empty shops in Stratford Town Centre is actually quite low compared to other towns but it was stressed that these shops need to look smart." Paul Lankester said " There is a real challenge to get landlords to keep the shop fronts looking good. This is work in progress by BID - the business improvement district."
The Bell Court Shopping Centre redevelopment is seen as a key cornerstone of the future of Stratford Town Centre. This badly needs to be redeveloped. Denys Shortt offered to help lobby the owners in this respect through the LEP.
It was agreed that the businesses attending would keep in touch and through Stratford Business Forum and the Stratford Business website would start to build a brand for Stratford Business.