A team of enthusiastic volunteers are making good ground in ensuring that Chippenham becomes a vibrant and socially successful town again.
Cherish Chippenham CIC, a Community Interest Company, is made up of a wide variety of business owners, independent and national retailers, developers, community support groups, members of the public, the town and county councils, along with the Wessex Chamber of Commerce; all with a common goal – to improve and regenerate Chippenham town centre.
Cherish Chippenham was borne out of the team who developed the initial bid for the first round of the Portas Pilot – the regeneration fund set up by Local Government Minister Grant Shapps, in conjunction with retail expert, Mary Portas.
Unsuccessful in both rounds of the Portas Pilot competition, the team has been undeterred from the task of breathing new life into Chippenham town centre. Taking a project by project approach there have been some major successes already chalked up.
On one of the few sunny days in July 15,000 people turned out to the Cherish Chippenham launch event which showcased the town through music and art, displays from local clubs, groups and schools, artisan market stalls and local company stands.
The event was organised by Ben Gregory of Chippenham-based DigiPrint who heads up marketing and communications for Cherish Chippenham. He said: “Putting on this event has shown what can be achieved in a short period of time, four weeks, with a team of willing volunteers. Importantly the event was in the main square of the town bringing about a major uplift in the numbers of people coming into the town centre and seeing what is on offer from shops and business. Following on from the success of the launch day, we are already planning next years’ event which will be on Bank Holiday Monday May 6.”
The next project for Cherish Chippenham is to open a Community Café. The town centre, like many market towns across the country, has its fair share of empty shop units with a recently vacated unit still fully fitted out as a café. Working with the owners and lease holder, the Cherish Chippenham team aim to re-open the café providing meeting space for youth and other groups in the town that currently have no ‘home’ or poorly serviced facilities.
The café will be run as a social enterprise providing local people with the opportunity sell their wares and help run the café. Melody Thompson, director of 24-7 Staffing and chair of Cherish Chippenham is helping to manage the project together with Ed Deedigan from Kandu Arts another professional board member.
Ms Thompson said: “The café is in the main square in the town, being able to keep it open will ensure that footfall is maintained in area supporting the existing shops and businesses. Being able to provide opportunities for local start-up businesses is a key objective for Cherish Chippenham; the community café is an excellent platform providing an outlet for local people who want to work in the catering industry as well as providing facilities and space for local groups to meet. We are hoping to open in November, so interested people and groups need to get in touch via our Facebook page/website.”
The group has also secured funding in principal for the new role of Town Centre Manager and are planning for the introduction of Business Improvement District (BID) for Chippenham. For further information on Cherish Chippenham see www.chippenhamtownteam.co.uk