The Conservatives are today putting forward proposals to revive and support our local visitor economy, an economy that has been hit so hard during the lockdown. It is crucial for the long term wellbeing of St Albans that we do everything possible to restore vitality to our cathedral city. This is a city with a history dating back to Roman times. Indeed we have so much to offer visitors, but with footfall currently so low we are facing a huge up-hill climb. Whilst the Government has provided much life-support for local businesses there is even more that the District and County councils can do to support and boost a devastated local economy. We fully recognise that our proposals will cost significant amounts of money but this is an unprecedented crisis that requires some drastic and exceptional measures if we are to overcome it. This means considerable investment now for our city`s future wellbeing. Without it our economy will be negatively impacted for many years to come.
Our overall aim is to promote St Albans in every possible way as “Open for business”.
- Provide free public parking of 2 hours at least until 31 January 2021. The car parks are currently virtually empty so there would be little lost income and the cost of patrolling them is likely to outweigh any income received.
- County councillors should use their locality budgets to improve the public environment. Market traders, residents and visitors have noted the deterioration of the city centre and are asking for issues to be addressed to make St Albans a destination of choice. These are simple maintenance issues such a broken/loose paving and the epoxy gravel at the base of trees. Areas of focus are St Peters Street, Holywell Hill, High Street, Waxhouse Gate and London Road.
- Consultations should be made with the St Albans BID team, who concentrate on enhancing city centre services, to co-ordinate similar action aimed at improving signposting, the appearance and cleanliness in the city centre. Action by BIDs is separate to normal district council duties, but should be coordinated. Reinstate the normal market stalls for traders to use.
- Grant a 75% discount on all market pitches until 31 March 2021 to encourage traders to make St Albans their market of choice and provide the widest possible range of goods and services to shoppers.
- Promote visitor attractions on market days with entertainers and musicians as has previously been done for the Christmas market. The aim is to create a vibrant and exciting environment that will encourage visitors. Again there should be coordinated action with the BID team.
- Open the Museum and Gallery and Verulamium Museum with a one-way system facilitating social distancing to provide a cultural attraction. The Assembly Room should be allocated as additional eating and drinking space for the café providing a safe distanced environment for customers.
- All Council leased business properties should be rent free until they are legally allowed to open. Then they should receive a 50% discount for a further 6-month period.
- Market Place should be reopened to traffic on non-market days. This provides convenient short-term city centre parking when there is limited requirement for social distancing. The High Street should be reopened so that traffic can get into and across St Albans facilitating access for shoppers and workers alike.
- Co-ordinate and assist in promoting activities with the Cathedral, BIDs, charitable organisations and others in arranging key events. such as St Albans Day, Pancake Day, Food Festival week etc. with the aim of creating an event every week. In cities where this has been done it has been proven to be a huge visitor attraction.
- Plan a widespread advertising campaign, again involving the Cathedral and BIDs, promoting all the attractions that St Albans can offer visitors, including free car parking and above all in the early stages declaring St Albans is ‘open for business’.
Latest figures show the UK economy dropped 20% in April. The services economy which makes up so much of St Albans business was badly hit according to the ONS. Figures released on 12 June shows a combined 24% drop in GDP from February to the end of April.