Tunstall Chamber of Trade invited the Towns Traders to a town meeting tonight to look at two proposed plans for the edges of Tunstall.
Plans for both Dransfield's phase three Alexandra Park and Norcross Tunstall Morrisons planning application were disccused in depth.
Tunstall Market Trader Richard Tomkinson, who runs the T & M Toys and Hobbies raised his concerns that stores like home bargins or a possible toy store on the Morrions site would have a big impact on his store. Richard's primary market is toys, collectables and models, and feels under pressure from shops like Home Bargains that already sell toys at rock bottom prices.
The owner of Spectrum Services, whose shop is located near to the proposed Morrisons site, welcomed the new store, saying it would save him £60,000 a year in advertising costs. He even welcomed white good retailers to come to the site's proposed retail units as it would only benefit his own shop, because people like to shop around and price compare. Spectrum Services has been able to compete with the bigger brand stores by under cutting them and give the shopper they want. A good deal. He asked other traders if they were afraid of competition?
He asked if the people of Tunstall know about the market, and the stores in there? Everyone seemed to agree, but from my perspective I have to differ. Otherwise I wouldn't be pushing the Tunstall Market stories and sections of the site as much as I have done over the past few years.
But Trades have other pressing concerns along with competition from big household name stores. The number one concern being parking, or rather the lack of parking. Tunstall market has 18 parking spaces, 8 of which are disabled bays. Tony Standfield who runs the fruit and veg market in Tunstall Market says it's his customers number one complaint.
Cllr Lee Wanger said that Tunstall Chamber of Trade and himself submitted their own Tunstall parking plans to Stoke-on-Trent City Council detailing areas in which more parking spaces could be squeezed into town, and proposals to lower the price of parking, introducing more short-short term parking.
But Tunstall, like every other town in the country is suffering under out dated parking models, which aren't been taken serously by the City Council. Pure and simple, shoppers don't want to pay for parking. It puts a stop to just nipping into town. It's detrimental to the small economy of Tunstall, but the council still enforce these money making schemes. It punishes the motorist and the shops a like and is seen as a revenue generator and does nothing but deter people from parking in a town centre.
You have to hunt around the town square for a free short term parking spot, you can't just pop to the shops, you have to stalk your way into a parking space or park in the side streets and hope you can find a free, free space.
The other deterrent the town centre faces that puts more pressure on the older shops when the new shops are built is that some parts of town are rotting and getting worse every year.
Bill McDonald from Tunstall's Chamber of Trade shared his concerns of the state of parts of the high street. As we've all seen over the past four years, certain shop fronts at the top and bottom of Tunstall have rapidly decayed. Seeing rotting shops on the high street has such a negative effect on the town. The one thing you don't want to do in Tunstall is look up. Looking up and you see the decayed shop fronts of the once graceful Victoria and Edwardain buildings.
As printed last week, currently odds are stacked against the approval fo Morrisons Tunstall, with the Dransfield phase 3 Alexandrea Park developement expected to be passed without hiccup if enough residents and traders can be persuaded that it will be good for the town.
As with any development, both the Morrisons and Dransfield builds will be required to provide 106 funding which people wanted to be spent on better access between Alexadrea Park and the Town Centre, to the money being spent to renovate the town.
Who knows what the future holds for Tunstall, but we are about to see it be written in the next few months which will have far reaching implications on jobs in the area and future development and investment. For many they will be jumping for joy at the thought of big name brands coming to town at last. Others are making plans to adapt, whilst others are stuck in the head lights. One thing we do know is the town needs free parking, it needs money to invest in renovating shop fronts like has been done in the dead zone of Burslem, and more than anything else it needs to be marketed better.