STOCKTON-on-Tees Borough Council is stepping up its support for businesses in Yarm as part of its town centres fightback.
The Council has been working alongside the recently-formed Yarm Business Forum (YBF) to pursue a series of ideas to boost trade in and around the High Street.
Changes to short stay parking were introduced on the High Street in October and have received a warm welcome from traders.
And last month the Council confirmed that it is including Yarm alongside Stockton in a bid for a slice of the national £675million Future High Streets Fund.
Now, in another show of support, the Council has agreed to provide the Forum with a full-time member of staff, Sara Fellows, to assist YBF in delivering its ambitions for the town.
Councillor Nigel Cooke, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing, said: “Town centres across the Borough are changing like never before. They need help and we’ve made it very clear that we’re ready to give it.
“We’ve been working closely with Yarm Business Forum for months now and we’re very impressed by them. They’re a positive group of ‘can-do’ businesses and they’re absolutely committed to ensuring the town prospers.
“We’re doing everything we can to help them. After all, they know what’s needed better than anyone. They’re looking at things like events and stepping up the marketing and promotion of the town, and improving infrastructure.
“The Stockton Business Improvement District (BID) has shown what can be achieved when traders get round the table and work together and the hope is that they can achieve something similar.
“We’re delighted to be providing a member of staff to support them in developing these ideas. This comes at a time when we’ve secured a long lease on Yarm Wharf, which gives us a huge opportunity to maximise the potential of the town’s riverside location.”
YBF’s Joint Chair, Rachel Dodd, added: “We’re delighted that the efforts and intentions of our business folk in Yarm have been recognised and supported in this way. Yarm businesses are rolling-up our sleeves and taking on the challenges our High Streets face – and collaborating with organisations keen to help.
“Whilst there are obvious national trends in traditional retail, Yarm has many positives: a higher occupancy rate than much of the UK, longstanding mix of independent and national businesses and a fast turnaround bringing in new business opportunities.
“That said, we’re keen to evolve the High Street to deliver what our residents and customers want in the future. Our ears are open to suggestions – which is why we are shortly launching a public Facebook page to share ideas and gather feedback.
“Having a full time member of staff will make a significant impact in our ability to operate – by speeding up business collaboration, promoting and marketing Yarm more effectively and developing Yarm for a future market. We’re really grateful to Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council for providing this.”
Meanwhile, the Council is continuing to work to bring forward proposals for long-stay parking to service the High Street.
And in a recent visit to the town, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling offered to “help unlock some of the potential sites”, saying they could be fixed “on a national level”.
To keep updated on the work of Yarm Business Forum, follow the Forum’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/YarmBusinessForum