HOTSEAT: inSwindon's Rebecca Rowland answers your questions
YOU'VE been sending us your questions related to the town centre all week, and today, inSwindon BID manager Rebecca Rowland took to the Hotseat to answer your questions.
Here's what she had to say -
Q. Is it part of BIDs desire to see the town centre continue to become a primarily 'night time economy' zone?
A. I wouldn’t say this takes precedence over the town centre’s day time economy; I view the both of them as equally important.
With the new Regent Circus development, it is with hope that the night time economy will be boosted with the likes of a brand new cinema and new restaurants within the town centre. This may also lead to customers carrying on their evening within the town and visiting other night time economy venues.
It would be fantastic to see Swindon’s town centre bustling at night as well as throughout the day; which I believe will begin to improve.
Q. What kind of architectural and environmental legacy do you think developments like the troubled Regent Circus have, say, in 25 years’ time?
A. In an architectural sense, the work has been pioneered and carried out by Forward Swindon; which I believe will become extremely aesthetically pleasing. I believe this will be a thriving development and will continue to change, as many developments do, over the years; I believe it’s popularity will keep it thriving.
Q. Why can’t we limit the number of charity and pound shops? It lowers the tone too much. Can we get in more unique stores to make Swindon stand out?
A. The businesses that come into the town centre are agreed by external parties. A great deal of work is being done by Forward Swindon, First Investments, The Brunel and The Parade management to encourage more unique and quality high street stores. Therefore, we actually do not have any control over what businesses come into the town centre; we accommodate them within our area.
Q. Could you outline what you are doing to get more foreign visitors to shop in Swindon and specifically the Outlet Centre. Lots of tourists go to the Bicester one yet we are better located for Heathrow and have more of interest to see.
A. We are currently working on different themed markets; including markets that will contain elements of many different cultures and niche products.
The events that we have planned for the year also would appeal to many visitors; such as our traditional St. George’s Day celebrations, our summer sport activities around the Commonwealth Games, Wimbledon and the World War Commemoration.
All visitors to the town centre are invited to take part in our events completely free of charge; which we hope will encourage visitors to explore the rest of the town centre, also.
Q. Do you think pop-up shops have a part to play in the regeneration of the town centre?
A. Bringing ‘empty shops’ back into use is a strategy that has been pioneered by many towns that have been hit by the recession. The motion has been brought to attention by the council and the implementation of pop-up shops, or markets, have many advantages for a town, and I think it would be fantastic for Swindon’s town centre.
Firstly, it allows for the support of the local economy - in the way that local small business owners and stall holders can promote and sell their wares in their own area. Shopping experience for customers is also heightened by the addition of unique and bespoke products within the town centre; plus the atmosphere of a market adds to a great tradition that some shoppers enjoy.
It also adds a bit of a buzz and vibrancy to the town, culminating in a great atmosphere for shopping.
Q. What are you doing to get Swindon in the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet guidebook. Just the rail museum should be enough to gain inclusion.
A. As we have a set BID area, which encompasses the town centre as a whole, certain places are not within our remit; such as the rail museum. However, with our ‘Better Promoted’ KPI within the inSwindon business plan, we aim to maintain a well promoted town centre, with the likes of our website, social media, email campaigns and print such as advertising in the local paper or on other websites.
We also put on events throughout the year; of which our main coverage is our St. George’s Day event, which is covered nationally each year, and our Christmas Light Switch On which is covered by many outlets, including BBC Points West.
Approaching companies such as the Lonely Planet Guidebook has proved to no avail in the past, yet we strive to get Swindon recognised and hope that one day we can boost our town centre and have it appear in national guidebooks.
Q. What does the BID stand for?
A. Business Improvement District. inSwindon BID Company is one of 174 BID’s throughout the UK.
A Business Improvement District “BID” is a precisely defined geographical area within which the businesses have voted to invest collectively in local improvements to enhance their trading environment. A BID is initiated, financed and led by the commercial sector, providing additional or improved services as identified and requested by local businesses, to the baseline services provided by the local authority in that area
Q. What, exactly, does InSwindon do?
A. InSwindon is a Business Improvement District (BID) company, in charge of managing the town centre. We are mainly financed by our members – the businesses based in the centre of Swindon, who voted to establish a BID in Swindon in 2007. In February 2012 inSwindon were successful in the renewal of the ballot which will allow us to deliver our five-year programme to support and increase visitors, footfall and spending.
Our goal is to help Swindon realise its full potential as a town.
Positive changes that have already been established through the BID include:
The work done to secure a competitive car parking tariff, establishing and managing the Street Team, our team of professional ambassadors who help make the Swindon town centre experience feel safe and pleasant.
The introduction of a saving scheme which users group buying power to secure preferential rates on utility costs.
The introduction of a bio-monthly Town Centre Business networking event, plus the many events including the Torch Relay, Christmas Light Switch-On, Armed Forces Day and the Olympics and Paralympics.
We want to help build Swindon's economic prosperity for the future by creating the right environment for all Swindon town centre's businesses to perform better.
Q. What is the annual budget (or grant) given by Swindon Borough Council
A. I am not in a position to disclose a monetary figure, however I can tell you it is generally around 12 per cent of our annual income.
Q. Well done for the past events at the Big Screen in Wharf Green, e.g. the Olympic Torch, Xmas lights switch on, Wimbledon etc. I am disappointed that some other big sporting events are neglected e.g. The Football World Cup. Will games from Brazil 2014 be shown live on the screen with dedicate supporting events? If not, what is it about football that ends in Swindon missing out?
A. The timings for the scheduled World Cup matches make it difficult to put on an event that will benefit the town centre, a selection of our night time economy venues also benefit from promotions during the finals.
We work with STFC and have previously supported events and activities, most recently their new kit launch and hope continue this work next season.