Summer 2015 Report

Upton Business Association 

Summer 2015 Report

Dear Traders

You will recall we developed our plan of action and objectives for 2015 at our meeting in mid-January. We were assisted in this by People & Places (previously Action for Market Towns) and MHDC Economic Development group. A series of actions and projects were agreed by all.

A new Town Guide brochure has been produced, with a print run of 40,000 copies, of which 32,000 are to be widely distributed throughout the West Midlands by Take One Media, to over 1000 visitor and tourist oriented outlets. Our website, www.youruptonuponsevern.co.uk is also being modified to reflect the new style of the Guide, and to make it available on all platforms, smartphone, tablet, laptop, and computer.

The town flags went up pretty well as planned, with minor delays due to the emergency calls on MISAR, who we commissioned to put up the flags for a donation. Despite the delays, we stuck with our support for MISAR. A cheque for £250 will be presented to them at an appropriate gathering, to be arranged by Cllr. Peter Webb. For reference, we consider the most useful time to put up the flags is just prior to the Folk Festival, as this marks the start of the tourist season. Easter is recognised as being difficult commercially as its date can vary by up to four weeks. We will however be receptive to any commercially based arguments to mark an earlier start to the tourist season, especially if significant events were to materialise for the Easter period.

We have worked very closely with Upton in Bloom to co-ordinate their display efforts and the hanging basket display organised by the Business Association. After an open bidding process, Brian Williams, the Upton in Bloom supplier and consultant, was awarded the contract. We co-ordinated flowers and colours, and also supported their suggestion of fewer but larger and better stocked baskets, and to concentrate on locations well supported by the automatic watering system. Last year we had too many baskets die due to lack of continual watering. I think the results speak for themselves. Not all locations wished to have the baskets, indeed one location has preferred plastic imitations!! In total 80 large and 15 medium baskets were deployed. We have been advised by Upton in Bloom that the judges commented favourably on the larger and better stocked baskets.

We have continued to advertise the town with banners at the three approach roads. We have done both Spring and Summer versions. We had earlier proposed a Festivals version, with the logos of the three later Festivals, but unfortunately one of the groups did not support our approach. The UBA also supported the very successful Upton Choir Festival and provided a large promotional banner for the event in front of the Church.

Based on your comments and suggestions in January, we entered into an agreement with the Town Council over a project to smarten up the New Street play area, and this has been successfully completed, and well reported in the Malvern Gazette. We provided new swing seats and chains to upgrade the existing installation.

Working with MHDC and the Town Partnership, the very useful Walkers Guides produced by Simon Wilkinson are now available free of charge through the Visit the Malverns website. Usage would indicate that this is a welcome facility that helps in attracting visitors.

After an initial investigation by Don Bridges, we have engaged Steve Reed Tourism, specialists in the promotion of Coach Travel promotion, to visit the town and then propose methods of packaging our offering to attract coach companies to add Upton to their schedules. With many other venues in the area, this is a very competitive market (the old free meal for the driver does not work anymore). Typically tour operators plan their schedules six to nine month in advance. The survey results are expected by the end of August.

At our January meeting, much concern was expressed over the limitations of tourist and visitor signage in the town. Previous emphasis has been on heritage and natural attractions, but little on direction to the retail and hospitality opportunities. In conjunction with MHDC, we commissioned a study by People & Places, based on their experience in many other towns, as to the effectiveness of our signage in promoting both visitor attractions and the retail and hospitality outlets. This comprehensive report is now just available and will require a wide range of consultation. As all the consultees are active members of the Town Partnership, and so as to ensure an impartial review, we have agreed that the Partnership will mentor the review of this report, and its recommendations. The UBA will be consulting members to solicit their input.

We continue to work with WCC Highways to gain agreement to install Upton upon Severn brown tourist direction signs are the entry/exit roundabouts of the M50/A38 junction. We are confident that these will be established by the end of this year.

You will know that our traders reacted with real concern to the spate of shoplifting and break ins at retail premises during the past twelve months. Initially there was a call for extensive CCTV coverage along the High Street and Old Street. This presented both logistical and financial problems, as well as concerns over personal liberties. However, the Police are now promoting a widely used and very successful scheme called Facewatch. Membership costs just £3 per month, and members can report incidents to the Police, or share concerns to group users (for example a group of pubs), and these can be integrated with images from their in house CCTV, and images received from the Police. We hope to incorporate a scheme to support the installation of simple in house CCTV for those not so equipped. It has been very successful in Herefordshire, and is now just starting up in Malvern. Further information is available on www.facewatch.co.uk. We will be calling for test sites very shortly.

Our traders called for a better, attractive, central event calendar, targeted towards both residents and visitors, but available monthly in hardcopy. Through the Town Partnership, Peter Booth has volunteered to develop and produce the initial editions, and define a framework for on-going publication. Funding is jointly by MHDC and the Town Partnership. We anticipate the first edition shortly.

The first two Festivals of the year have been well attended, and the Blues report record advance bookings. We constantly debate whether the success of the Festivals is reflected in similar retail success for the traders. Do the shops do well? Do the pubs and cafes do well? Do the service suppliers do well? Or does everyone do well? After the Blues we will do a simple survey of all town businesses so we can get an opinion on all these questions, and then share the results with the Festivals, so that anything to improve our businesses can be addressed.

We have kept you, our members, updated on the progress made on these projects by three Newsletters so far year. In late September/early October we plan another traders meeting where we will evaluate progress so far, and again seek you agreement for future projects. You will appreciate that this has been, and continues to be, a major body of work for a small organisation, and the active volunteers are to be congratulated.

One item that you identified in January was the provision of additional visitor moorings. This project would ensure the establishment of Upton as a boat friendly key stopping off point, both up and downstream. This is to be undertaken by the Town Council, and we have asked for a progress report.

My apologies for the length of this report, but that only reflects the wide programme of work being undertaken on your behalf, to ensure the financial health and regeneration of our town’s economy.

Best regards
Annette Keyworth
Chairman, Upton Business Association.