Agenda item

Cabinet Member Economy and Development

Councillor Atherstone, Cabinet Member Economy and Development


Objective:Understand her priorities for the coming year – what does she hope to achieve?


The Chairman welcomed Councillor Atherstone and reminded the committee that she had been invited as the newly elected Cabinet Member Economy and Development, to outline her priorities for the coming year and what she hoped to achieve.  A paper had been circulated with the agenda, which set out her ambitious plans to support the development of her portfolio, which were particularly relevant due to a number of key priorities for the borough, including Cheltenham’s COVID-19 economic recovery growth plans and development of sustainable and affordable housing, among others. 


A member felt that the term ‘reimagining the high street’ captured exactly what was required and whilst he had no doubt that the Chamber of Commerce and BID would represent the views of the town centre high street, he queried if and how the cabinet member planned to engage with and support shopping centres, including the Princess Elizabeth Way shopping centre.  Members were assured that the Cheltenham economic recovery task force and plan included all retail centres and high streets, but the 18 month programme had been broken down into manageable and workable work streams, with the town centre high street being the starting point, but with all being considered at some point in the programme.


Asked if and how councillors could get involved, the Cabinet Member encouraged all members to access the business plan via the ‘Moving to Cheltenham’ website, as this document not only set out the 9 key priorities, but also expanded to demonstrate the scope for community engagement.  She asked that any members or residents contact her in the first instance, in order that she would direct them to the relevant officer. 


The term ‘Counter Culture’ was new to her too, but in essence meant taking different approaches and encouraging creativity as a means of repurposing the town centre to aid economic growth.  She would ensure that members were made aware as soon as the plan had been published.  In terms of eco-tourism, there were many aspects that she felt could be looked at which were well suited to the town, including, encouraging visitors to access the town by train, on foot or by bicycle rather than by car, promoting tourism within our parks and ensuring recycling facilities were widely available and there was also an opportunity to bring more green technologies to the town.  Admittedly there were more adventurous options but she did not feel that these were all particularly well suited to Cheltenham.  She stressed that this work was at a very early stage and would again ensure that members were made aware once the plan had been published.


Asked about whether she felt that the LEP had different perspectives or priorities to those held by the council, she explained that she was not in a position to be able to answer that that question as she had not yet had an official (virtual) meeting with the LEP leadership, though she had been in contact, informally, with the Deputy Chief Executive (xxx).  She reassured members that the lead officer at CBC, the Director of Planning, Place & Growth was meeting regularly with the LEP on the skills, jobs and apprenticeships sub-group, which had only convened in September 2020 and she was confident that the roll out of the roll out of the strategy would mean that a formal meeting would soon be arranged.


Each of the plans that were being developed, would include clear and measurable objectives and she encouraged members to tune into Cabinet meetings and/or read reports in order to stay informed on these issues. 


A number of members congratulated Councillor Atherstone on her appointment and commended her clear enthusiasm for her new role.  They wished her well and looked forward to future updates on progress.

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