Proud so far but a lot more to come, vows business boss

A signature dish, link-ups with bus tours and a new website are just some of the schemes in the pipeline for a town’s business group.

Alnwick Chamber of Trade (ACT) was formed two-and-a-half years ago and currently has around 80 members.

And the group’s chairman Carlo Biagioni has been looking back on the achievements and the projects in which ACT has been involved over the past 30 months, as well as hopes for the future.

One of the key concerns for the group has been parking and the discrepancy between the north and west of the county and the south east.

ACT was involved in collecting 3,000 signatures on a petition against the current parking system and some progress has been made.

Last year, Northumberland County Council announced both the shoppers’ parking permit and free Sunday parking for the county’s market towns, including Alnwick.

There were also late-night shopping on Thursdays in the run-up to Christmas in 2011 and the week’s free parking in December last year.

Mr Biagioni has vowed to continue the fight for equality of parking across the county.

In 2011 and 2012, members were also involved in efforts to clean up litter, grafitti and dog mess from the town centre.

Their efforts have earned them the thanks of Alnwick’s Mayor Alan Symmonds, who said: “ACT has proved to be an effective lobbying group on behalf of the businesses in Alnwick, notably with regard to its tenacity in seeking free parking for Alnwick and in its role on the Northumberland County Council working party re the future of the Market Place. Their commitment to the town was further illustrated by the activists that took part in a clean-up operation in the town centre.

“ACT also supports the various festivals within the town and consistently shows a strong commitment to the people and town of Alnwick.”

But it’s not all about looking backwards. there’s a number of current and future projects that ACT is working on currently.

Mr Biagioni said: “I can tell you I am very excited about the future.

“We have gone from strength to strength in the last two years. I believe the best is yet to come.”

First up is a website for the town, which Mr Biagioni expects will be ready this month.

Discussions are ongoing to try to develop links between bus tour operators and the town, using a central location as a drop-off point. There is also work being done on a signature dish for the town as well.

Members of the group all recognise benefits from being involved with ACT too.

Estate agent Richard Sayer said: “This long recession has hit market towns hard, ACT came at the right time to help draw the town together, we have a special place here and many people really care to see it thrive and continue.

“The town needs energetic enthusiasts in business like last year’s amazing sports stars, we have to build a place people want to visit and stay in.”

Nigel Meredith, of Alnwick Studio, said: “The chamber of trade ensures that a spotlight shines on the issues that affect traders in the Alnwick district.

“Residents assume that someone is looking after Alnwick on their behalf, so that they have a town that they can use, enjoy and be proud of. We do that in respect of shopping and local services.”

Mark Dawson, manager at The Tower Restaurant and Rooms, said: “ACT is taking a practical, sensible and achievable approach to maximise the benefits of tourism within Alnwick and the surrounding area.

“Tourism is now a key local industry, and although Alnwick should never be entirely reliant on this one sector, it’s a key area to grow. I’m delighted to offer my support and experience to a project that I believe in, knowing that ACT are looking to make change now, rather than just firing out surveys.”

Norry Davie, of Alnwick Holidays, said: “I see ACT’s future as it growing, becoming much stronger and continuing to improve the quality of Alnwick and provide an influence on political organisations so they understand and listen to what business needs actually are.”