Had an interesting telephone call into us which I thought you’d find of interest. On 28th July, Narberth, Pembrokeshire are again holding a Carnival & Civic Week which is organised by the Civic Society. I must confess to having a soft spot for Narbeth and often use it as an example to others of a small town that has made huge efforts to improve its High Street. For some years now Narbeth has been able to boast of a real variety of individual quality shops, some good eating places and coffee shops. One black mark is a recent rush of planning applications for even more coffee shops that the council has allowed. Can’t understand this as Narbeth can’t attract huge masses of visitors because there isn’t massive parking for them – personally I’m not happy that their free car park is now a pay and display – but too many coffee shops dilute the trade for those that are already having to work very hard to make a living. Can’t councils ask themselves, ‘does the town really need this’ or is it more important to the council that we don’t have an empty shops?
Sorry, I got distracted, so back to it. I congratulate Narbeth for their Carnival & Civic Week, what a great idea, local businesses getting together to help promote their town. They are not asking the council for help, just using their own initiative to boost Narbeth. Of course Narbeth has not escaped the recession, there were empty shops on my last visit, but give them credit for doing something to change things. They are trying to promote their town and add to the atmosphere of the town – well done guys.
Traditionally traders, for the few hours of the carnival itself, have spilled out onto the pavement, to show not only their support for the event, but of course to help promote themselves. Running a business myself, I can’t see what’s wrong with that and admire their efforts and enterprise.
Narberth has for a long time been a hive of small independent businesses offering a huge choice of shopping and refreshment and has been held by many as an example to follow. Indeed the chair of the Welsh Sustainability Committee visited earlier this spring and holds Narberth as an example of how a town should work. As you can see by my lead-in to this post, I totally agree.
However, Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC) in their infinite wisdom, has decided that if the traders spill out onto the pavement, they need to have a Street Traders License. Now of course this has a cost implication £15.90 for each business, plus of course the bureaucratic, compulsory form filling, along with the fact that the license has to be applied for 14 days (I assume working days), before the event.
Earlier in the year, Mary Portas was commissioned by the UK Government to report and make her suggestions for improving High Streets. She referred to Street Trading becoming easier for communities and business rates being set at sensible levels to revive the High Streets, yet 8 months on, this does not appear to be the case. It’s not just Pembrokeshire County Council that appears to revel in bureaucracy, reports into me show that most of our 22 councils do just that, but that does make it acceptable in my book.
So my question posed to PCC was:
What is Pembrokeshire County Council’s policy to local events that promote not only the town or village, but also the businesses within it?
This question assumes that the event conforms to the prerequisite notification to both the local authority and police etc and has full consent from all necessary authorities.
Their official response was:
We do not have a fixed approach on this issue. We support events on a case by case basis.
Well Narbeth, I’m not sure what you’ll make of that unhelpful, unsupportive response from people who are assured of their monthly salary in the bank each month. After all these years, it’s the typical response that we get time after time and simply fails to provide a true answer. However, what is does do is confirm what many businesses have already felt, that PCC do not have a consistent support for all businesses across the county.
I’ll not name this person, but I was asked recently – “Kath, why are you always picking on Pembrokeshire?” Well actually I don’t feel I am ‘picking’ on PCC; I’m simply putting up stories or complaints that have been brought to me by unhappy people. I’ve no idea why I get more on PCC than many other counties. But let’s get back to basics; I wouldn’t have any stories to report on PCC if people were happy with the job you as a council are doing. The reality is that people in Pembrokeshire aren’t. I suggested that PCC put their own comments up, but this suggestion didn’t go down to well as the person didn’t wish to get into an argument. Well that’s their choice, comments are not restricted unless rude or abusive, however I don’t see welshfoodbites as a source of arguments – it’s just points of view. It’s a means of getting issues out into the open, airing them and with a little bit of luck and co-operation – get them solved.
We have contacted PCC and have their response, which doesn’t solve the problem for Narbeth does it? But you still have that opportunity PCC, give them some leeway for a day. Or maybe you’d like Narbeth traders simply to give up trading altogether instead of trying to help themselves.
Maybe PCC is not concerned about losing more business rates. The people and businesses in Narbeth have always been supportive of Welsh Country magazine and welshfoodbites so don’t expect to accept this Pembrokeshire red tape………
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