President's Message - October 2018
Keeping our city alive
St Albans District Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the recent decision by members of St Albans’ Planning Referrals Committee to give the go-ahead to two commercial schemes in the city centre: firstly, the hotel, mixed use and retail redevelopment of the former Bhs site in St Peter’s Street, and secondly a significant new office development within The Maltings. These are the right decisions for St Albans.
In granting permission for the Bhs site members have recognised the changing nature of retailing and of city centres and have seen that the benefits to the commercial vitality of our city outweigh any potential concerns over this scheme. This development represents a significant inward investment into our city and will boost the visitor economy: those who stay overnight spend considerably more than day visitors in our city’s shops, cafés, restaurants, pubs and visitor attractions.
The Maltings’ proposal brings much needed new office space into the city centre. With the government’s relaxation of the planning laws, permitting the change of use of offices to residential, many businesses have been displaced: sadly, a number have had to relocate to neighbouring towns, having been unable to find office accommodation within the city. This is a trend we must seek to reverse. The Maltings’ scheme makes an important contribution to the retention of office workers in our city centre who, like our tourists, support the retail and hospitality sector through their spending.
In what ways could the Chamber help support your business interests? The Chamber is a not-for-profit organisation that exists to promote business and help develop our great city and district. We work with the BID, the City of Expertise, Stanta, the Council and other organisations to encourage and create the best environment we can for businesses to grow and to thrive. It’s been a busy autumn for us already and there’ll be no let-up in activity over the next few months. Our programme of events provides valuable opportunities for business development, structured and informal networking and for socialising (for which, don’t forget our ‘Winter Ball’ at Sopwell House on Friday 16 November – details on our website). And we’re planning some new initiatives too, more of which in due course. If you are not yet a member do get in touch to find out more about the benefits that Chamber membership could bring to you and your business also if you know of firms who aren’t members please put them in touch with us. We are here to represent members and, as such, our members’ input is vital. Please feel free to share your ideas with me or any of our Directors.