Town Manager Update
To receive an update from the Town Manager.
Paul Roach, Town Manager, informed the Forum that security training, previously called Project Griffin, was now called Act and the annual session had taken place in May 2019 which looked at terrorism and hostile reconnaissance. The training was ongoing and another session was planned for the end of the year.
The Windsor Horse Trail was due to end on 31 July 2019 but, it might possibly end sooner as there had been a request to present the horses at Royal Ascot in August. The Horse Trail went very well with over 600 maps issued and over 250 activations for each horse; over 4,000 people used the app.
On 4 June 2019 the Steam Dreams Train was launched and would continue to run every Tuesday for three times per day until September 2019.
On 9 June 2019, the US Bands Programme began and it finished on 14 July 2019. The programme saw 200 bands perform in churches and 200 bands perform on the grass moat. The programme consisted of 16 dates with 16 States and included bands and choirs. The event was very well received and dates had already been set for 2020. The Town Manager added that there had been requests from local groups to perform on the grass moat.
The Town Manager stated once the Horse Trail was removed, the Windsor Lions would be installed. There was a pop up shop where residents and visitors could go and see the lions being painted and the final locations for the lions to be placed had been agreed and would cover the both Windsor and Maidenhead, some of the horses would use the same locations as the Horse Trail with the exhibition running till October 2019.
The Windsor Defibrillator Project was started in 2017 and was set up following stories in the national press about sudden heart failure and the project wanted to address that. There were now up to 12 defibrillators across the Town with most of the funding for them from third parties and businesses. An app was available to locate the nearest defibrillator and anyone can suggest a new location where they feel a defibrillator could be useful.
Between May and September 2018, there had been a boost to footfall but, between September 2018 and June 2019, footfall had dropped by 33%. Car parking was down from April 2019 by 5% but, coach parking was up.
Shop unit vacancy rates were up 6% due to a number of high profile closures; Dorothy Perkins and Crabtree & Evelyn had closed and other businesses had chosen to go into voluntary receivership. The White Company would take the Dorothy Perkins Unit on and they were currently fitting out the unit. Windsor Yards were in talks with a high profile retailer so there would be two or three additions to the Windsor Yards area.
The Harte and Garter were handing over their restaurant to the Ivy in August 2019 and that would be open in time for Christmas 2019; and an application had been submitted to change the Morrisons shop sign to a Tesco Express sign. There had also been a number of enquiries regarding the Shakeaway unit and there were three interested parties wanting to take that unit on.
The unit next to the theatre has been instructed to carry out works on the unit. A new company has bought it and the Council were establishing what they intended to do with the unit.
Councillor Davey asked if the coach park would be moving. The Chairman confirmed the coach park would remain where it was for the foreseeable future and the Council regularly reminded coaches to turn their engines off to help the environment.
Councillor Price asked if the Better High Street Fund bid had been made. The Town Manager confirmed he did not apply for the first tranche but a bid was being submitted for the second tranche; however, the Borough could only bid for one Town Centre so a decision needed to be made whether it would be Windsor or Maidenhead that received it. Councillor Price responded that if Maidenhead had already had one bid, and Windsor was struggling then it should go to Windsor. She was seeing social media posts stating negative views on Windsor saying parking was awful and people were going elsewhere. She had mentioned at the last meeting about holding a Christmas market and enquired what was being done about that. The Town Manager confirmed a tender had gone out for a Christmas market and one person had asked for more information.
The Town Manager confirmed some work had been carried out on encouraging overnight stays in Windsor. The castle were looking at changing their protocols so that it could benefit the Town Centre such as staggering entry times to the castle so visitors would need to spend more time in the Town. Councillor Price commented that the ending of the Tourism Development Forum needed to be revisited. The Chairman said there would be an overhaul of visitor forums and business forums.
Councillor Knowles asked if the US Bands programme could be played at Alexander Gardens. The Town Manager responded that Alexander Gardens was his first choice of location for the programme but, it wasn’t big enough. It had taken nine years to get the bands to visit Windsor. Bands usually had over 250 members so the bandstand was not big enough and the dates given for performing were midweek and so Alexander Gardens was not particularly busy whereas the castle had more footfall. The Town Manager added that there was a programme of performances for the bandstand starting 22 July 2019 which would run throughout the summer.
Councillor Rayner informed the Forum that the Eton Visitor Centre had now opened next to Cote’s Brasserie by the Eton Bridge. She added she was always happy to talk to residents and resident groups about any local issues and she was going to ask Cabinet for funding to start a consultation to find out what can be done to make Windsor better. £1m had been granted from the LEP so there would be a consultation on how the Council spent that money. Councillor Price asked how that fit in with the work being done by Windsor 2030. Councillor Rayner responded Windsor 2030 were a Neighbourhood Plan Group and they would form part of the consultation. The consultation would look at traffic and parking among other areas. Councillor Rayner added the bid from the LEP had to meet several criteria and the funding had been earmarked for the Borough so the Council had to submit a proposal and business plan. The funding was just for Windsor Town Centre due to the limitations of the bid. Councillor Davey stated the Windsor Town Forum was very Town Centre focused and there should be focus on other areas too. Councillor Knowles echoed Councillor Davey and stated traffic issues started way before they reached the Town Centre so, if a bid was put forward, it needed to look at infrastructure of a wider area. Chris Joyce, the CIL Manager stated his role was a new post and the idea was to look at infrastructure priorities and issues to get the best value from CIL. He said he would come to the next Forum meeting to address some of the issues raised.