Sowerby Bridge Businesses – what they want from networking events

Following the success of our pilot survey in Todmorden, in October 2017, we agreed with the Calderdale business team to repeat the survey in Sowerby Bridge, another town affected by the 2015 floods but which had no formal business group representation.

The survey was trialed in early January 2018 and fully undertaken in the town in late January and early February and tailored to the local business sectors.

The headline results

What we discovered from Sowerby Bridge businesses was that, when asked to choose three of a list of eight business networking activities that would appeal to them, the top three responses were:

  • Social Media Group (52%)
  • Informal Networking (49%)
  • Town/Group/Joint Promotions & Events (48%)

A social media group was the top choice in particular for the hospitality sector, businesses with shopfronts/retail premises, and also businesses under 10 years old.

When asked to choose three of a list of nine potential benefits of business networking, the top responses were:

  • Promotion of my Business (52%)
  • Support to Develop and Grow my Business (52%)
  • A Stronger Business Community’ (48%)

Comments suggested that respondents felt such benefits could be achieved though better awareness of and connections between local businesses who could collaborate to attract visitors and trade to the area, and also increase trade with each other.

We conclude from this that social media, as a way to connect, is something that businesses in Sowerby Bridge would like to see developed. As with the Todmorden survey, we learned that more informal events are likely to be popular. And again like Todmorden the sense of place is important and opportunities to promote collective benefits would be welcomed. The full report can be read here

A further run of this survey will be undertaken in Elland in March. These insights will help shape the business networks events and group activities.

Posted in UCVR News

Todmorden Businesses – what they want from networking events

In October 2017 we ran a pilot survey in Todmorden, a town which had established a new business network in 2015/16, but it was struggling to grow attendance after an initial successful start. Our research provided interesting insights into the needs that a wide range of businesses had from networking. What we discovered was:

When asked to choose three of a list of eight business networking activities that would appeal to them, the top three responses were

  • Informal Networking (58%),
  • Town/Group/Joint Promotions & Events (57%)
  • Social Media support (54%).

This was particularly characteristic of town centre businesses, and the retail, arts and community sectors. The need for business support, discussion forums and updates varied across sectors and business types.

When asked to choose three of a list of nine potential benefits of business networking, the top responses were:

  • A Stronger Business Community’ (52%).
  • Promotion of my Business’ (46%)
  • Expanding my Network of Contacts’ (44%)
  • New Work/Clients/Leads’ (44%).

Previous events were valued for the opportunity to meet and connect with other similar businesses, peer support, sharing of information (e.g. other events), and specific pieces of business support.

84% of respondents had not attended a networking event in the Todmorden area in the previous year. The most frequent reason given for not attending was: ‘not aware of events’ (66%).

So in conclusion, in Todmorden, we learned that:

More informal events are likely to be more popular. The sense of place is important to businesses collectively, and they would be draw together for events promoting collective benefits to businesses and the town as a whole. There is a feeling that they are behind the curve with social media and peer support would help boost their confidence and use of social media promotions.

Read the full report here

This survey will be repeated in Sowerby Bridge in January and Elland in February as we continue to support the development and sustainability of business networks in the flooded towns, towards a full economic recovery.

Posted in UCVR News

New Era for Bellholme Sports Ground

We are pleased to announce that after a two year process of unraveling a complex legal situation, the long-term future of Bellholme Sports Ground in Walsden has been secured by the ownership being transferred to the UCVR. Todmorden Civic Society (TCS) had owned the site since it was acquired in the 1980s. It was held in trust for them by a group of trustees and leased to another group of trustees for the Bellholme Sports Association (BSA).

The ownership had been in legal limbo after all the members of the TCS trust had sadly passed away in recent years and the BSA had ceased to constitutionally exist. The land could potentially have been lost in a legal quagmire, possibly ending up in the hands of the treasury or even perhaps a property developer. Current TCS members did not have the capacity to manage it, or establish a new trust and so they offered it to the UCVR as a ‘safe pair of hands’ to protect it for the community and to revisit the original vision of the founders.

The UCVR board are fully conscious of the efforts and tenacity of the founders of Bellholme Sports Ground who fought to secure it from construction and development in the 1980s, and also of their vision for a sporting venue of mixed use. We believe that the time is right for that vision to be revisited. We are looking to work collaboratively with the current users, Todmorden Borough FC, and with the rest of the local sporting community to enhance the use of facilities to meet as much demand as possible whilst maintaining quality pitch standards. There are both limitations on the pitch use but also many opportunities for wider use of the site.

Due to the absence of direct trustee involvement, only the one club has had access to the facility for several years. The UCVR has had representations from junior teams in the area desperately needing more pitches, and has already made provisions for them to use the facilities in the coming season.

Our immediate plans are to ensure that the clubs using the pitches can play out their season with confidence that there are not going to be any major changes affecting their usage. We have formed an interim management group including representation from the clubs and TCS, who we agreed would maintain an interest in the management of Bellholme. This group will work together to ensure the site is financially viable until a more sustainable business plan is devised and implemented.

There is a lot of potential for the site in terms of future improved facilities, and so it is our intention to establish a sports development advisory forum drawn from local sports clubs. That way we can consult, assess realistic demand and research funding for particular sports which may be suitable for the site.

Any club officials wishing to participate in this forum should contact the UCVR on 01422 417286 or email info@ucvr.org.uk

Posted in UCVR News

Todmorden Community College – What happens now?

Following the presentation last week to the Todmorden Development Board, of our Pre-feasibility study into the alternative proposals for Todmorden College, the board voted 7-2 in favour of the Aldi proposal. The Board has thus recommended to the Calderdale cabinet that they pursue the Aldi proposal. It is hard to see the Cabinet rejecting that recommendation, but it may also eventually have to go to full council, according the Director for Economy and Environment.

We were disappointed for the people of Todmorden that the Board did not consider that Aldi will build a supermarket anyway on the adjacent site, and that they were more concerned with short-term savings than affording the community of Todmorden the opportunity to develop further the potentially viable proposals that we put before them in the pre-feasibility study.

Aldi have to eventually get planning permission for the new proposal and so we will watch with interest to see if the people of Todmorden will accept the loss of an asset that easily.

We prefer to work in collaboration with our local authorities, as we do on business flood and economic recovery. It is not our remit to be a campaigning organisation, but we stand ready to work for and to help develop opportunities for our communities to retain ownership of assets, particularly should there be a potential long-term and viable benefit to those communities. In this case we believe our study will support any group that seeks to persuade Calderdale that the Development Board were out of touch with the people who actually live in the town.

Should the Aldi proposal fall, be rejected or be withdrawn, we will remain ready to work with Calderdale, Todmorden council and all interested parties towards a viable use for the site. We would encourage the interested parties to continue working up their alternative plans.

Our report can be found on this website. The Aldi proposal can be found here

Posted in UCVR News

Todmorden Community College – 79% want the educational facility to stay

As promised we delivered our pre-feasibility report to Todmorden and Calderdale Councils in the first week of 2017. The time scale for completing the report was very short for such study but we are pleased to say that our project manager did an amazing job to gather as much information from the community as was possible in the time available.

The result was a 30-page report which reviews the basic proposals put forward by various groups and individuals for the continued educational use and other alternative uses.

The options to be considered were firstly, to sell the college to Aldi for demolition and for them to build a bigger store. Their offer included allowing a stand-alone building to be built on the site to house a replacement children’s centre and youth facility. Secondly there were various community initiatives regarding education, new and existing curricular. And there were commercial proposals: meeting rooms, office space and visitor accommodation.

Our research concluded that there was little support for a larger Aldi store and much more for some combination of a community run asset incorporating various educational and community enterprises.

Our recommendations were that Calderdale Council, rather than opting for short-term savings and a relatively quick development, instead offer the community the same opportunity as they have elsewhere in the Borough, of putting together a business case for running and or owning the College.

The Development Board will meet on Tuesday 10th January 2017, at 5pm to decide the future of the College. The meeting is open to the Public.

You can read our full report here.

Posted in UCVR News

“Harry and the Flood” children’s book project hosted by UCVR

This is the story of Vanessa Guy’s cat ‘Harry’ which alerted her to the Mytholmroyd flood alarm on Boxing Day 2015. Vanessa suffers from narcolepsy and might well have slept through the alarm as her home flooded, had Harry not jumped on her!

As a thank you to Harry, Vanessa has created a children’s book that tells the story of how she and her cat were affected by the floods. Some of the proceeds of Harry and the Flood will go to the Watermark flood resilience fund, set up by the Community Foundation for Calderdale.

“Harry helps me know what alarms are real or not in the house. He alerted me to the flooding by jumping on me,” said Vanessa

“It was a time of loss for so many people in the Calder Valley, but also lots of community spirit and people came out to help each other.

“I wanted to share Harry’s story because it’s hard to explain to children why one day you’re having Christmas and the next you’re homeless.

“I hope it shows how being close to someone – or even to your pet – can help you through times of trouble.”

Vanessa and Harry

Harry has been with Vanessa since he was a kitten. When her health took a turn for the worse because she could no longer take narcolepsy drugs, Harry stayed by her side day and night.

“When I couldn’t work anymore, I started to draw,” adds Vanessa. “I think my art has been a lifesaver too.”

Vanessa was helped bring the book to publication by volunteer Paula Sutherland and the UCVR are pleased to provide fund hosting and the admin to support Paula’s work.

Harry and the Flood, published with funding from Community Foundation for Calderdale, will be launched at the Blue Teapot café in Mytholmroyd on Tuesday, December 20 from 6.30 to 8.30pm.

Vanessa will be there to sign copies. She’ll also be at Legacy Comics, Westgate Arcade, Halifax, on Friday, December 23 at 12.30pm.

Local shops, tourist information centres and Hebden Bridge Town Hall will also be stocking the book, which costs £3.99.

Posted in UCVR News

Parking Joy for Christmas Shoppers and Traders in Hebden Bridge

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In a joint initiative with Bridge Mill owner, David Fletcher, we have secured to reopening of the former car park at the old fire station site in Hebden Bridge. We hope that this project will continue for at least six months.

We will fund part of the rent from our strategic fund for business recovery following the 2015 floods. This initiative will, we hope, help the town to recover some of the economic losses of 2016 as a result of the flooding and prolonged recovery period.

Stephen Curry, Chair of UCVR said “we have spent almost all our time this year on strategic support for business recovery along the valley since the floods, it seemed entirely appropriate to end the year supporting such a smart economic initiative. This will boost the trade in Hebden Bridge at just the right time. Businesses there made up 30% of the total devastated by flooding along the Calder Valley and this will help in their ongoing recovery process”.

Val Cryne of the Cook & Coffee shop, and Vice Chair of the Hebden Bridge Business Forum, said “This is great news, what a fantastic early Christmas present for both the traders and shoppers. And just in time for ‘Small Business Saturday’ and Hebden’s late night shopping on 2nd December. We would like to thank both David and the UCVR for making this happen”.

The car park will be opened on 24th November. David said “because this is a short-term project it can’t be run like the pay and display carpark it was, it will need to be a manned car park, so only open during the day, except for the late night shopping event. We want to encourage people to stay longer in the town, so the charges will be simple, £1 for up to two hours or £5 for all day. Those using Bridge Mill café and shopping at Innovation will get a refund of parking charges.

Stephen Curry added “as a not for profit company the UCVR would be happy to cover its cost, but any share of a surplus will be used to support our work in the community. The main purpose of this initiative is that the local economy gets a real lift for the festive season and beyond”.

Posted in UCVR News

Expert free help on offer to local businesses

Businesses affected by flooding in Todmorden can now get free help to make themselves stronger and more successful.

The UCVR Business recovery team, with funding from Todmorden and Calderdale Councils, has launched a mentoring scheme that offers one-to-one support for any local business affected – directly or indirectly – by the floods.

Sarah Moss (left) with Rosemary and Mike Holcroft, who run the Water Street Gallery in Todmorden

Sarah Moss (left) with Rosemary and Mike Holcroft, who run the Water Street Gallery in Todmorden

Sarah Moss, of our lead mentor, said “It’s a great chance for local shops, manufacturers and other companies to share some of their problems and work on solutions with an experienced businessperson “They’ll get new ideas and practical advice to make them more resilient and to help them grow and prosper.”

Sarah visits each business to talk through their needs and matches them with a mentor. The mentor and business then meet at least once a month for a minimum of six months, working together to tackle challenges and come up with action plans. Those plans could cover anything from making premises more flood-proof to improving marketing and publicity to win customers.

Rosemary and Mike Holcroft, who run the Water Street Gallery, are one of the first businesses to take part.

“It’s so helpful, after six months’ hard work refurbishing the gallery, to know we have business and moral support available in the next six months,” says Rosemary.

“Having a mentor is an opportunity to talk over business aspects with someone impartial and who has had business experience,” says Tansy Dyer, one of the businesspeople helped in the previous programme. “It’s having someone to give advice and support.”

As well as the benefits for businesses, the scheme offers mentors the satisfaction of sharing their expertise and often helps them in their own careers.

Todmorden councilor Diana Tremayne said: “We recognised that our town’s flooded businesses were going to need longer-term assistance. We were happy to respond by supporting this initiative of the UCVR business recovery programme.”

And Coun. Barry Collins, Calderdale Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said they were pleased to be supporting this scheme.

“It will make a real difference to businesses affected by flooding and help to build resilience in our communities.”

There’ll be chance to find out more about the scheme at the Todmorden Business Network meeting at the Fielden Centre on Tuesday, July 26 at 6.30pm. People interested in taking part can also call 01422 417286 or email info@ucvr.org.uk

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OUT NOW: Economic Impact Report – Boxing Day Floods 2015

At the UCVR we said we would not let up in the pursuit of long-term economic support for flood affected businesses in the Upper Valley.

We said that when the welcome, but short-term crowdfunding and social media support had dissipated, we would still be there fighting the corner for those businesses who face an uncertain economic future and or long recovery period.

The Economic Impact Report you will find on this website here is a direct result of the UCVR brokering a joint study between University of Leeds, Calderdale Council and the UCVR. It is a comprehensive report which will serve to inform the case for regeneration and recovery investment for the whole borough. As the report highlights the fact that the majority of businesses directly affected were in the Upper Calder Valley we will be lobbying for a lion’s share of any such investment.

Since Boxing Day our volunteers have put in over 600 hours to make the case for inward investment and this report will support that work over the coming months, as we continue to make efforts to keep the plight of our local economy in the media and political eye.

Our thanks go to Dr. Paola Sakai, University of Leeds. Fiona Thurlbeck, Anne Holdsworth, Luke Doran and Chris Whitaker, Business and skills team at Calderdale Council, who all played crucial roles in bringing this significant report to the Calderdale Flood Commission and other bodies reporting to Government.

We would also like to thank all those businesses affected directly, and indirectly, who took the time to complete the comprehensive survey. It was vital to have your co-operation. Our special thanks to those businesses that allowed us to include them as the ‘face behind the business’ case studies.

UCVR Business Flood Recovery Team

Posted in Flood Recovery, UCVR Business Flood Recovery Team

93% Say NO! to £1 Parking Fees

Thank you to all those who completed our survey to gauge a response to Calderdale council’s announcement that they were considering significant increases in the parking fees in the Upper Valley. Having worked so closely with Calderdale since the floods, on behalf of the businesses in planning a long-term recovery, we were extremely surprised at the timing of the announcement. Our concerns about this effect on recovering business (economically and on morale) are reflected in the comments of some 200 respondents.

Nearly 500 of you responded and the results are a massive rejection of the proposals by businesses, shoppers, residents and visitors.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Posted in UCVR News