It has been a long standing policy of Edenbridge Town Council to support our business community, town employment and our High Street traders. The arrival of a new retail park at the north end of the town will provide a huge opportunity to exploit this development to the benefit of the High Street, as well of the rest of the town. We have been told by many of the town residents that a vibrant High Street is important to them.
The Council is a member of the Business Forum, which holds regular discussions with business owners as well as High Street traders. High Street businesses are rightly concerned about the current retail environment, and have told us they would welcome projects which would aid them and increase footfall. In addition, discussions with building owners have shown that increased footfall would aid them in making business decisions to invest in re-developing those buildings that, I am sure we all agree, need to be re-developed.
To this end, the Town Council has worked with Sevenoaks District Council to commission a report to advise actions to be taken to help achieve these goals. This report was produced by a professional organisation, which is experienced in helping towns such as ourselves in developing their full potential, and has been endorsed by the Economic Development group at Sevenoaks District Council.
Discussions with residents have shown a number of concerns with regards to inappropriate parking in the High Street, especially when there is a nearby car park which often has available spaces. In addition, High Street traders, through the Economic Forum, have expressed concerns about visitors being unable to find the car park and thus they are missing out on passing trade.
It has also been identified both by the Economic Development report and the Economic Forum that, whilst there is some pedestrian signage in the High Street, there is nothing elsewhere. This is especially noticeable at the top station and around the new retail park. This concern has been expressed in the Economic Forum.
Nowhere is there signage in the town showing a clear map. This has been identified by the Economic Development report as an impediment to growth. Our town will be divided into three areas. The first, our historic High Street, with its current shops; the central area with Stangrove Park, Leisure Centre and Eden Centre; and finally, the business area which is currently being developed at Fircroft Way. Whilst many in town know where everything is, this is not the case with visitors. Easy movement between these areas will be key for economic growth, especially if the High Street is to take advantage of the out of town customers the retail park will bring.
In order to resolve these identified issues, the Town Council has identified two potential projects.
- The re-opening of the car park’s original access to make it easier for visitors and locals to use it, and
- The installation of a wayfinding system outside of the High Street area, to allow visitors to easily navigate the length of the town.
To take the first of these, a budget level costing was presented to the Council for agreement in principle, as were the results of a consultation, as an aid to the decision-making process. However, before any final decision is made, the Council has requested a safety report be produced to ensure resident’s concerns are addressed. Final costings will be developed once that report is complete. This cannot be done in advance, as the report may show up issues which will need to be addressed in the final plan.
Similarly, with wayfinders, a provisional budget has been developed and as a result the Council has requested that two designs are developed. Once done, a final design can be selected, a final costing be produced, and then a decision taken.
The Town Council welcomes any informed contributions to this debate. We will consider any suggestions that would help improve High Street footfall, especially if they are backed up by documented evidence as to their benefits. Similarly, if you disagree with the conclusions of the Economic Development report, we will consider any evidence you have to support your conclusion.
File: Forward Planning/Committee/Statement of Wayfinders and Market Yard Access