Local Businesses List Cleanliness, Safety and Retail As Their Top Priorities For Improvement in South Yorkshire’s Civic Centres

Safety, cleanliness and the quality of retail have all been cited by South Yorkshire businesses as top priorities for their local urban cores. This is according to the recently-published findings of the Town and City Centre Survey.

Conducted by the three regional Chambers of Commerce (covering Doncaster, Sheffield and Barnsley & Rotherham), this questionnaire ran from mid-May through to early June and, as its name suggests, gave respondents a chance to articulate their views on the civic centre that is closest to them. Among other things, it asked them to rate the various aspects of their urban core, to highlight its greatest strengths, and to conversely identify those areas where they think investment is needed most.

Now available to read in full, the survey results indicate that businesses are deeply invested in their respective civic centres and regard them as being critical to the economy. Yet there are also mixed feelings about what the future holds here.

Of those businesses that were polled, 73% say that they visit their nearest town or city centre on at least a monthly basis. Furthermore, the general consensus amongst respondents is that these urban cores are indeed beneficial to the wider region, playing a big role in: generating tourism; attracting investors; retaining young talent; and developing civic pride.

However, despite valuing town and city centres so highly, a third of firms expressed that they are not optimistic about where their nearest hub is heading over the next five years. Indeed, there is a real split in confidence over whether there will be any discernible improvements in that time span.

Reacting to the insights from the South Yorkshire Town and City Centre Survey, Carrie Sudbury, Chief Exec of Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber, said:

“It is heartening to see that businesses do actually believe that their local civic centres are important and that many of them back up that sentiment by visiting frequently. 

“Yet we cannot ignore the fact that respondents also flagged a number of deep-seated issues too. Most notably, less than 15% of firms answered positively when asked to rate the cleanliness, retail offer and safety of their nearest civic centre and the vast majority of them told us that these areas must be prioritised going forward. 

“Similarly, other characteristics — like the availability of business collaboration spaces and the quality of both our residential & leisure offers —rated quite low as well. Recognising that these challenges and concerns may not be unique to South Yorkshire, it is still clear that a lot of work remains to be done.”

Expanding upon this point, Louisa-Harrison Walker, Chief Exec of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry, added: “These insights allow us to gauge what organisations think is working well in our civic centres, as well as highlighting areas for improvement that will help impact their growth and success.

“As representatives of South Yorkshire’s business community, we will be sharing these findings to praise progress and advocate for the changes that organisations would like to see.  We will continue to ensure that their voice is heard by those with the power to make a real difference in our town and city centres.

“It’s vital that we continue to support and collaborate on improvements to our civic centres, because that will enable the region as a whole to thrive. We have seen the positive impact the Heart of the City investment has made in Sheffield, particularly around the new high quality, sustainable offices, Europe’s largest purpose-built food hall and the beautiful new green spaces. We look forward to seeing the planned further developments and investments come to fruition. ” 

Reflecting on how the survey results chime with the recently-published Doncaster ’35 document, Dan Fell, Chief Exec of Doncaster Chamber, said:

“The future prosperity of Doncaster City Centre is a major focus for our new manifesto, as our ambition is for it to become a vibrant, welcoming, and beautiful space that has made a dramatic comeback. Indeed, by 2035, we envision that it will be a hub for young talent, that its high street will be bustling and that it will draw in visitors from far and wide.

“To get to that point, however, we need to take care of some of the hygiene factors like safety and cleanliness. This is a point that was broached time and time again in the consultations that fed into Doncaster ’35 and so it is not surprising to see that businesses have reiterated it once more in the Town and City Centre Survey. We are grateful for the efforts, thus far, of our public sector partners in addressing these challenging issues and look forward to working with them – as per the commitments laid out in our manifesto – to ensure that the priorities of local businesses are well-understood and addressed.”

In addition to asking South Yorkshire firms for their views on the nearest town and city centre, the poll also fed into the nationwide Quarterly Economic Survey and, as such, contained a number of more standardised questions pertaining to general business conditions and the wider economy. More information about the QES can be found here.

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