Thursday, 6 September 2012

Planning for Disruption Swing Bridge repairs - Meeting for Frodsham Businesses - Forest Hills 6:30pm 13 September

Hopefully as many businesses in Frodsham as possible will by now be aware that I have convened a meeting at Forest Hills Hotel on 13 September 2012 at 6:30pm to consider and discuss the planned repair and refurbishment of the Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge and the anticipated 9 months of delays and disruption we can envisage to traffic along the A56.  The present proposal is to ensure at least one lane of traffic can continue to use the bridge during the works so access along the A56 can be maintained albeit at a reduced flow.  Inevitably a single lane of traffic will have to be controlled by traffic lights.  These works won't start until Spring 2013 at the earliest.

I see the meeting as having 3 distinct elements to it.

First we will be given a description of the proposed works, what they will entail and the anticipated time scales and phasing.  There will be an opportunity to ask questions of the relevant officers involved about the details and explore what the various options are.  The final details of the scheme have not yet been 'set in stone' so there is a real opportunity to influence how the works proceed.  I've also asked the officers to come prepared to answer questions about things such as 'bailey bridges', diversion or alternative routes and what sort of delays and disruption could be anticipated and planned for.

Second we can move on to consider the impact of the works on traffic flows and in particular how they may affect businesses either directly - such as getting staff/goods/customers into Frodsham.  This then will lead onto what to the third phase which will be what can be done to minimise the impact of the disruption on businesses during the works.

I'm sure we all want to encourage our businesses to built their resilience and plan for the potential impacts of the disruption.  However I'm sure we can go much further than this by exploring what we can do together to work around the anticipated issues.  There will be opportunities to explore a number of joint initiatives such as joint marketing and what can be done by way of business support.  However what I can also anticipate is that we will hear a number of great ideas from the businesses themselves.  No one has all the answers!

I'm also sure this will be one of many meetings to help and encourage us all to be creative and to help businesses thrive.  

This meeting is intended to be exclusively for Frodsham businesses - there will be other meetings and events for other groups such as Frodsham residents in due course (stay posted!) - but at this stage I do think that talking and listening to the business community is the most important thing we can all do.

The meeting was originally scheduled to be in the 'Tin Church' - but we have moved the location to Forest Hills Hotel as we anticipate we may need more space if we have a significant turnout.  I have to say a big thank you to Forest Hills for letting us have their conference room for free to hold this meeting - especially after they were going to charge us for the room hire when we enquired previously.

Interestingly I was told by officers at CWaC 2 days ago that this is the first time they can recall CWaC being asked to meet with a local business community about planned disruption well in advance of it.  It is also, apparently, the first time that the business support part of CWaC and the highways teams have been asked to come together.  I know this isn't the first time that Frodsham has innovated and I'm sure it won't be the last.  I raised the importance of this sort of co-ordination at CWaC's Executive last night - and have asked the Leader of CWaC to ensure that it won't just be Frodsham that has the benefit of what we are putting in place.  

Whilst I'm thanking people I do have to thank the officers at CWaC who are helping bringing this meeting together.  As a community advocate I can ask the questions - but it is the officers who hopefully will have the answers or be able to point to where the answers can be found.  I'm also very grateful to Kate Dodgson our CEO of the Frodsham Foundation for all the hard work she is putting in both in the preparation for the meeting - but also regarding what support could be available.

And finally thanks to Nicky at Les Harris Jewellers for suggesting to me that we really ought to convene a meeting to discuss the bridge.  It was her original idea that arose in conversation as I was buying a replacement watch strap in early August that led to this meeting being planned publicised and promoted.