New traders’group wants say on future of cort eigh Street
A STRONG desire for High Street businesses to have a voice on the area’s development was expressed at the first meeting of the newly-formed Fort William Retail Association.
Twenty representatives from High Street businesses met on Monday May 15 to discuss the recent Highland Council decision to ban coaches carrying tourists stopping in town centre bus stops to let passengers off.
After an outcry from town centre shopkeepers, plans to remove signs detailing the dropoff ban were initially opposed by a few Fort William councillors. But, as reported in the Loch
aber Times of April 27, councillors later agreed the bus stop beside the Nevis Sport shop, and at the West End of town, can be used as coach drop- off points temporarily.
It was also agreed a consultation would be carried out with interested parties with a view to improving coach arrangements.
High street shop owner Drew Purdon who started the new retail association, which now has 32 members, was named chairman at Monday’s meeting. Maggie Wilson from Highland Hospice was appointed vice chairwoman and Simon Purdon is secretary and treasurer.
Drew Purdon said: ‘The general consensus of the meeting was that the Highland Council deliberately does not consult prior to enacting decisions which are detrimental to the high street.’
It was agreed the association would request a meeting with councillors as soon as possible to ensure the association’s concerns can be expressed in ‘the strongest possible terms’.
Secretary Simon Purdon said after the meeting he was pleased with the turnout: ‘ We got a real sense of enthusiasm and you can see there is a desire to have something in place that can represent retailers.
‘ We hope to maintain that level of enthusiasm and in the long term have an organisation which has a say on the High Street and a vision for it.’ Speaking to the Lochaber
Times, Ms Wilson said: ‘There was a meeting held in private with councillors about the coaches. To my mind, that is not a consultation. I understand no- one directly affected by the decision to stop buses was consulted. This was all done behind closed doors and this is an inherent problem we have in Lochaber.
‘This coach issue has suddenly galvanized people and there should be a voice for the High Street, because you can't continue to be bypassed, especially on this crucial issue.
‘We need to have an open and transparent dialogue with the council because had we been consulted the outcome would have been very different.’
Ms Wilson said that while there have been ‘grumblings’ about the coach problem, she thinks, in time, there will other matters the association will consult on.
‘ We need to have a vision for the High Street that makes people want to come here and I think that is attainable. When I look at the High Street, I see such potential. But we need to be working together with the council.’