Emergency covid-19 funding ring-fenced for businesses
A £20k emergency covid-19 budget has been ring-fenced to support high street recovery in Congleton.
The money will be allocated by the town council to be spent on projects with the aim of boosting footfall on the high street.
Some ideas already put forward by the town's business collective include a revival of 2011's Bearmania, which saw more than 60 bear statues erected across the town, fake shop fronts for empty lots, and LED lighting for the town centre.
At a town council meeting on Thursday, Independent Coun Russell Chadwick asked for members' support in ring-fencing some of the available budget.
The Chronicle has previously reported that he set up a business support group to work in conjunction with the autonomous Beartown Business Collective, established by traders.
Coun Chadwick said: “Since we pulled together the business support group, we have been working as a council to help the Beartown Business Collective.
“It has got its own independent constitution and is coming up with really good ideas, so we want to support it.
“One of those is a revival of Bearmania. They have also said that they would like to see improved lighting in the pedestrian area.
“The other thing we're looking at is how we can mitigate empty shops in the town centre with fake vinyl fronts. They could be made to look like a delicatessen, a butcher's shop, a dress shop or a shoe shop.
“This is not an exhaustive list because the business collective is still working on the plans, but we would like to consider a budget of £20,000 that would be administered by the chief officer to help traders with tactical marketing ideas to bring people back into the town.”
Coun Chadwick added: “It's very difficult for traders at the moment - the cafes seem to be doing quite well but when you speak to the shops, people aren't buying anything.”
As an initial step towards signposting residents and visitors back into the town centre, the council has circulated a promotional video made free of charge by local production company ID2 Media.
Lib Dem Coun Robert Douglas said that it was within the town council's means to ringfence the money because a number of factors, including the fact that the paddling pool remained closed this year, meant that “substantial losses” to income had largely been offset.
He said: “We are all seeing in the news about the difficult situation faced by businesses and traders across the country, and Congleton is no different. Without thriving businesses, we do not have a thriving community.
“There are a significant number of initiatives that are being developed to encourage footfall in our town, but of course they require funding. I support the reallocation of the £20,000 that is available to specifically fund these projects and other future plans.”
The town's mayor, Conservative Coun Sally Ann Holland, said: “I wholeheartedly endorse this. It has been a really tough time, and particularly tough for small businesses.”