New town centre manager floats Letchworth Carnival return
PUBLISHED: 07:03 06 June 2019
Letchworth's new town centre manager has told the Comet he wants to "put the town centre back on the map", with fresh ideas to engage with local businesses and drive footfall.
Chris Wilson, who has replaced Patricia Saunders as the town's business improvement district (BID) manager, has been in the role for three months - with tackling a rise in antisocial behaviour and hosting more events, including a carnival, top of his agenda.
"For the town centre, my plans are to put Letchworth back on the map," said Chris, who will be overseeing the direction of the BID - which businesses pay a levy into which is used to fund events and promote what the town centre has to offer.
"We're quite unique as a town and of course proud to have had the first UK roundabout and be the first garden city.
"I used to run the Luton Carnival, which I did for 10 years.
"Events are my focus at the moment, as a way of driving more people to visit Letchworth town centre to see what we have got to offer.
"One thing I'm looking to change is the way we interact with the independent retailers. Something I've noticed is some of them never got to meet the town centre manager.
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"I want to work on engaging all retailers and setting up meetings to put ideas back and forth to find out what they want - at the end of the day, they're the ones who pay for the BID."
Chris has earmarked antisocial behaviour as one of the biggest issues facing the town, so has organised a meeting with police officers and independent retailers in the town to discuss ways of tackling it, as well as setting up a WhatsApp group for business owners.
"It's working really well," he said. "With the support of the police and the district council, we are able to have exclusion notices for certain individuals which will hopefully deter the behaviour, because it stops people from wanting to come to the town."
Regarding events, he said: "I want to make things more internal. There were a lot of external companies coming along to the Letchworth Food and Drink Festival.
"People come to these events to see what we have to offer. I want to capitalise on that and get my retailers in and hopefully more people come to visit.
"A big thing I'm focusing on at the moment is bringing back the Letchworth Carnival.
"My background is in carnivals and I've been told by one of the councillors that there hasn't been a carnival in Letchworth for 30 years.
"So I created a teaser for it on Facebook to see if there would be any interest. 20,000 people said they would be interested in going. The engagement is definitely there."