Town centre must be “more proactive” say business academics

Queen Street, Morley
Queen Street, Morley

A five year plan to make Morley Town Centre more sustainable is being devised after consultation with a group of university academics.

The plan includes “shouting more” about what the area can offer as a shopping district, as well as encouraging greater co-operation between high street retailers.

Ideas to improve footfall have emerged after Morley took part in the High Street UK2020 project, which saw leading business brains from Manchester Metropolitan University conduct research into economic trends in 10 town and city centres across the UK, before reporting back with their conclusions.

Morley Executive Board, a newly-formed body designed to track the performance of the town centre, was warned by the researchers on Friday that it needed to meet the “changing needs and expectations of residents and other visitors” to avoid a worse than predicted decline in footfall.

Pedestrian flows to Queen Street, the indoor market and the surrounding areas are expected to drop by around 10 per cent by the year 2020, although this is less than some high street commentators have forecasted.

Professor Cathy Parker of Manchester Metropolitan University said: “In the past most smaller towns have just reflected the retailers that have decided to locate there.

“Now towns need to be more proactive and think about the type of retailers, services and other attractions they need to encourage local people to use the centre regularly.”

An open invitation has been extended to all businesses in Morley to get involved with the Executive Board, which will meet around four times a year to develop ideas and put plans in place to promote the town.

Town events manager Rachael Kennedy said: “We have brought together a number of key stakeholders to form the Board with the main aim of ensuring our high street is sustainable by 2020. The research carried out by Manchester Met has been useful to be able to prioritise our goals over the next five years.

“We need to shout more about what Morley can offer and look for more income streams so we can self-fund