Opinion: "The village needs to move with the times"


Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles looking at Alderley Edge's night time economy and the state of the village.

The first article 'This village is going down hill quicker than people realise' was published by myself about a discussion at this month's Parish Council meeting. This was followed by a piece 'Thoughts from the front line' written by Emma Cail, manager of The Bubble Room, offering her opinion as a worker in the village.

What follows is the opinion of Vince Fogharty, a regular reader of alderleyedge.com, resident and frequent visitor to the village's bars and restaurants who has taken the time to put his thoughts in writing regarding the nightlife on London Road.

As we have had the opinions expressed by our local councillors and a local business I wanted to take the opportunity as a customer and resident of the village to offer my own.

A little bit of background on myself. which I believe allows me to give a more qualified view on the retail and services on offer in the village. I am a senior exec for a very large high street brand and I currently run 495 stores across the UK and Ireland and so I see the state of our high streets up and down the country on a daily basis.

My brand is one of the lucky ones in that we are still opening new stores and we spend a lot of time deciding where to open based not just on the usual rent, rates, customer demographic etc. but also what the area is like, what local planning has been approved or declined and also what the local residents have embraced or had issues with in the past.

As a retailer I would welcome any of my stores to be in an area that has such a busy and well visited night life as is the case with Alderley Edge, it means the area has customers who may see my stores when they are closed and revisit during the day and also there is less risk of vandalism and break-ins as the area is busy at night and not left as a ghost town.

There are a few residents in the village that seem hell bent on painting a negative picture and trying their best to create what will never exist i.e. the idyllic quaint 'Miss Marple' village and this will ultimately drive business and customers away. (Great example is the constant refusal to allow Pizza Express in the village as it is unneighbourly, clearly a building that is now as good as derelict, due to over 3 years of being empty, is more neighbourly than a thriving brand that trades all day and will bring new customers into the area) Walk down London Road on an evening and see the buzz that is created and the reason the businesses are so successful, I know many local and town councils that would kill for just a slice of what we have got.

As a resident I love what is on offer both during the day and in the evening. We moved here from Chester City Centre over 3 years ago with one of the main reasons being the wonderful array of bars and restaurants that would be literally on our doorstep (yes we live a stone's throw from London Road) and we are lucky enough to be able to be out in the village at least 5 times a week.

How many of those councillors who are passing comment actually use the local services?How many of them use and support the stores during the day? Most will be seen in Sainburys in Wilmslow or Waitrose, when the village has all you could need. (We haven't bought food from a supermarket since we moved here, buying all we need from Alderley Village Butchers, Granthams, Weinholts and Corks Out.)

The businesses in the village have created an area that is deemed in leisure and retail as 'a destination area' in that customers will travel to use the services on offer, this is due to their hard work, fantastic service and the fact they want to create a high end feel to the village, both during the day and the evening so that customers can enjoy what is on offer.

The minority of residents that moan about parking, fag ends and noise really need to remember that most the business comes from outside, if they keep putting up hurdles and barriers those customers will go and use another area, it's that simple!

It's 2013 and the village needs to move with the times, unfortunately it's a fact of life that people throw fag ends down, litter and park where they want, it's not the business's responsibility to deal with that, although all of them do what they can to deal with issues outside their own property.

Equally it's not the PCSO's responsibility either, it's the Councils responsibility to ensure litter etc is dealt with. (perhaps they could use some of the £30,000 they spend to run the waste of space that is the public loo!), so they need to stop moaning about it, stop trying to pass the buck and debate it correctly, fully and agree on a solution, after all many many other towns and villages across the UK manage it!

One last comment I wish to make, some people who know what I do for a living ask why we don't open up in the village, well we looked at it, but it would just cost too much money.

The majority of local and town councils and even landlords will offer incentives to bring a brand into the area and keep the high street alive, there are landlords that will give you 75% plus off your first year's rent or pay the rates for you. There are councils that offer free parking passes for your staff (not push to charge them as AEPC seem hell-bent on doing) and offer cash incentives towards local regeneration of the retail areas. Unfortunately these are not on offer locally but they are just a few miles up the road!

Finally, myself and my partner are very passionate about our village and helping to keep it alive, thriving and vibrant (when we recently had our civil partnership in the village everything for it was bought here, we had 50 guests stay in the Premier Inn to enjoy the village for the whole weekend, and they are very jealous of what we have on offer on our doorstep) and it saddens us when our locally elected councillors simply make derogatory and negative comments about it, they need to remember that they serve at our pleasure and they serve to solve problems, make decisions and ensure the village moves forward and not try and pass the buck and blame the very people that are keeping this village alive!

Guest post by Vince Fogharty.



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

David Otway
Thursday 25th April 2013 at 9:50 pm
Vince, excellent article on a par with Emma's, wake up AEPC, listen to people who understand and who involve themselves in the community, not people living in the 19th century!!!
Frank Keegan
Thursday 25th April 2013 at 9:52 pm
What a patronising article. There are no Town or Parish Councils who would offer incentives or discounts to retailers. NNDR (Business rates) are collected and passed to central government and none of it comes to a local council. The village does have a thriving evening economy; but it is not the Council's responsibility to go around and clean up after the visitors who make a mess. If a business trades successfully in the village they have a responsibility to clean up their local patch - they pay nothing to the local council. Payroll taxes and VAT go to London; Business Rates go to London; Council Tax is paid by the 3,000 households and they provide the funds to deliver services.

It is a perverse view to suggest that because some people can afford to eat out in the village 5 nights a week, the 3,000 people who don't eat out 5 nights a week should subsidise them by cleaning up after them.

Waitrose and the Co-op in the village are very well used by local people who actually eat at home.

The Victoria Wine shop on Steven St/London Road has planning permission to be an office. It could have been open as an Office for about 2 years. It chooses to remain derelict; Alderley edge is a destination venue, and a suitably presented retail offer on that site could attract daytime visitors from a wide local area. In the Council's view, the mix between A3 (restaurants) and A1 (retail) is slightly overdone and we do not want to lose more sites to A3. A visitor to the village can visit many retail shops in one visit, but they only visit one restaurant in one visit.

And car parking charges? They are a necessary part of funding for a local council - not the local Parish Council but Cheshire East Unitary Council - and Councils wish they did not have to rely on parking fees. If you take away the charging, who would suffer? The vulnerable Children and Adults who take up two pounds in every three, would have services cut.

I can't imagine explaining to a resident who suffers cuts because of no car parking income that their pain is necessary so that the A3 economy can continue to prosper.

And the local loo is provided by the COUNCIL TAXPAYERS; they pay to provide a facility to the visitors to the A1 and A3 sites in the village.

The world does not revolve around A3 facilities; I personally use almost all of the A3 premises, and I would miss some of them if they closed, but I don't have to listen to histrionics as if only A3 mattered to the Council.

It is the Parish Council in Alderley Edge which is saving the Medical Centre - at no cost to the taxpayer. When a Councillor complains that her car was urinated on - as she drove past - the A3 lobby swings in and says it was because the village operates pub watch.

Actually, that instance was youths, but on a regular basis, residents, who live within walking distance of London Road, complain that late night revellers returning from A3 premises to their vehicles, actually use the driveways of residential premises to urinate. And they have only just left licensed premises which had a toilet.

It is time for the A3 lobby to settle down and accept that the village is funded by Council Tax, and not by A3 money. The Council taxpayers have a democratic right not to agree with people who want more facilities provided, whilst not contributing to the local exchequer.

It provides local jobs! Actually, the jobs all come in by car, which is why our on street parking has become a nightmare, so there are very few local jobs provided.

If the A3 premises closed down, what would happen? The market would adjust, and the market would find new uses for London Road. The rental values would not be as high as A3, but only the landlords benefit from excessive charging.
Catherine Booth
Friday 26th April 2013 at 8:40 pm
I thoroughly agree with the sentiments that our village is a thriving, vibrant place to be and I love being out and about of an evening. I have rarely seem the anti social behaviour complained of by some and think we are very lucky to live in such a pleasant community. As for the litter debate, in my opinion only one person is to blame for it - the selfish idiot who choses to deposit it on our streets. Any efforts by others to clear it up are very welcome - but should not be taken for granted.
David Hadfield
Monday 29th April 2013 at 11:29 pm
I don't think I've met Vince Fogharty whilst being in or around the village, but his article seems very much "from the heart" and very true. Much of what he says I personally agree with.
I think Frank Keegan's comment about it being patronising is just damned rude, indeed !
The "Victoria Wine Shop" Mr.Keegan refers to was actually a "Wine Rack Shop" for a number of years before it closed down completely and from what I understand, the "Council" (whether Local, Parish, County, or whatever) put up so many barriers that whoever considered the site mentioned, became so exasperated that they decided not to proceed any further with the possibility of making the site a successful venture once again, so now we're left with a building right in the heart of the village, looking a complete eyesore !
Whose fault is this ? ..............The "Council" (whichever one responsible) must take much of the blame for this fiasco, because it is they who placed so many silly and pathetic restrictions on it's use.
Pizza Express were considering the site but the "Council" decided it was best left empty.
What a blinkered attitude some people have for this village ?