A CUTTING edge project to help Morley’s town centre thrive is making progress, six months in.
Business experts from Manchester Met University (MMU) chose the town as one of ten nationwide to take part in a pioneering £250,000 project to breathe new life into high streets.
After hosting a workshop with retailers in the town, they’ve come up with a list of priorities on what Morley should focus on to see it thrive. Changing opening hours, improving the “walkability” of the town, better marketing and promotion and more effective collaboration between retailers and the town centre partnership will all be tackled.
Professor Cathy Parker, chair of retail and marketing enterprise at MMU said that although high streets will continue to be affected by forces outside of their control, like the state of the economy, they need to look at what they can influence.
She said: “What Morley has to concentrate on is being a town centre for their local catchment. It’s not just about retail - you can get married in the church, socialise in the pub. People need to feel an attachment. If people say they are from Morley, they need to visit their town. Otherwise it’s just an address and postcode.”
Prof Parker said at most of the town centres they were working with, retailers were not involved in the decision making, but in Morley, strong partnership work meant that wasn’t the case, with traders, Morley Town Council, Leeds City Council and the White Rose shopping centre among those working together.
She said: Even if a town is facing fairly serious difficulties, if you have people ready to roll up their sleeves, you can tackle them. Some towns have become complement - it only takes one major employer to shut down and it falls apart, but Morley is in a strong position. There’s a real commitment to doing things properly.”
Rachel Kennedy, Morley town events manager, said the findings offered “a blank canvas to work from.” Other schemes that will be looked at include providing free WiFi to make it easier for businesses to set up, shoppers’ loyalty cards and tying in promotions with town events.
She added: “We already have a strong culture as a visitor destination. It’s a really busy place, with everything here. You don’t have to leave Morley for anything, and it’s all about getting retailers to realise that and capitalise on it.”