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13 December 2011, 15:57
Ely has been singled out as an area with 'poor public consultation' in a national review of High Streets.
The review was commissioned by the government and has been carried out by shopping guru Mary Portas.
Prime Minister David Cameron started the review to try and find out why so many shops have closed down during the last few years.
The Portas review is recommending things like free parking in town centres where possible, gyms and creches in town centres and also more markets.
However, Ely features as a case study on how not to do things.
East Cambridgeshire District Council is proposing to introduce parking charges in Ely - at the moment it's free to park there.
A public consultation into the parking charges is now taking place, despite more than 12,000 people signing a petition against them.
Also, during the last few years, a number of out of town shopping developments have been built around Ely, and there are proposals for more in future.
The following is an excerpt from the Portas Review case study of Ely:
Andrew Olley, spokesman for Ely Traders' Association said: "The city's traders are pleased that their campaign has received such a ringing endorsement at the highest level.
Local businesses insist that it is important the councillors begin to take the situation on the high street seriously, or their actions could lead the district into further disrepute.
This is a damning inditement for East Cambs District Council.
It is now under a national spotlight.
We hope that councillors carefully consider the evidence in the Portas Review and look again at the information presented to them by their own local business community.
It is sad that we have to see East Cambridgeshire named in this way."
East Cambridgeshire District Council has written a letter to the government in response, which you can read below:
I was initially excited to hear that Mary Portas had produced a report which highlighted the importance of placing markets and the community at the heart of our city centres.
For in Ely in Cambridgeshire that is exactly what we have done. We have a thriving award winning markets which bring thousands of residents and visitors into the centre of the city selling the best locally produced and crafted goods for many miles.
Two years ago, we worked with the local community and businesses to put together a Masterplan for Ely to ensure the city could grow successfully in the future. As part of this we recognised the centre of the town was essential not just in terms of shops but as part of everyone’s lives.
So we are currently looking at how the city centre can regenerate, develop an evening economy and be a place which is easy to come and visit.
There was no mention of any of this in today’s report, just a damning and misleading case study of recent events in Ely. I was very surprised to learn that Mary Portas and her team had not been in touch with us to confirm the information which was included in her report. Let me answer these now:
I find it frankly amazing that a significant independent report such as this has not further researched information which has been presented to them as fact. Should we as a council act in such a manner we would be quite rightly lambasted and reprimanded by Government.
The real danger of being ‘named and shamed’ in such a way is the damage it can do to a city which is already working hard to ensure it has a centre which is vibrant, thriving and cherished.
Cllr Peter Moakes - Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council.