Here is the reply I received to my open letter to our MP Dr Sarah Wollaston;
My response to Sara’s reply is printed below:
Whatever your political persuasion maybe we must all congratulate our MP for the efforts made on the Slapton Line, for one I was fearful that no one would come to the rescue on the decline in footfall every elected member of the House of Commons face the same challenge for their constituencies and as Dr Wollaston MP as right said Social Media has had a challenging impact on footfall, why have so many big retail companies gone into receivership its simply down to online shopping and there is your Footfall pitfall problem, for our wonderful town the majority of the all year population live up at Townstal and they have two major retailers within easy walking distance, no parking problems, no parking charges and again Online Shopping, I have been here since 1959 and have seen many retail changes when we had a selection of Supermarkets,Butchers, Bakers, Fruit retailers, today we are faced in Dartmouth that we no longer have a strong population as out of season most live elsewhere, I am eluding too the 648 second homes that Dartmouth has second highest in the South Hams the first being Salcombe which we recognise as a community is closed six months of the year and I personally dread that Dartmouth may in future fall into this statistic, many blame Dartmouth Town Council for not pushing forward on this sadly all retail outlets have private landlords and in business to survive they will accept the highest rents that may not improve Footfall figures because there retail wares are not on the weekly shopping list, my icon past councillor Richard Rendle MBE told us a few years ago that sadly Dartmouth was no longer a Market Town but a Day Visitor Town and like it or not that’s where we are today in 2018, as an elected member of Dartmouth Town Council I would love to be able to give an answer to make the situation better for all but I am at a loss toi see where we can and I think Dr Wollaston will be in the same situation.
Always for Dartmouth, Always supported the “Good Old Days Slogan” though I know we will never see the likes again, so where do we go from here aside from bashing your head on the wall…Team work and working together though the end result maybe back to square one.
With kindest regards with his ongoing battle,
Cllr Stephen Smith
(Townstal Ward) and proud to be.
Steve, The problem is that we are mixing the decline in retail footfall with the decline in tourism, i.e. visitor numbers. I agree retail is suffering across the UK because of the online shift in shopping but Dartmouth is also a tourist destination and tourism is not displaying the same decline in the UK. In fact tourism is on the up because of the exchange rate. Dartmouth must not confuse the two. By that I mean we must not look for retail trends as an excuse for visitor numbers declining. For me a significant factor in the visitor decline is the loss of our Discover Dartmouth website, the most important tourism asset the town has had. Now the dramatic loss of subscribers has left it a shadow of what it used to be so it is not effective in driving visitors to Dartmouth. It appears to show a town without businesses in it. Sadly few people involved with the DVC seem to understand how much of a loss this was. However like you I will keep on battling for the future prosperity of the town that I love.
Paul. Whilst the decline in content in the Discover Dartmouth website and brochure is unfortunate, you mustn’t forget that there are plenty of other websites that do a lot to promote Dartmouth and, in aggregate, attract a substantial amount of traffic which I suspect has grown hugely in the past few years. Many accommodation and letting agency websites e.g. Coast and Country Cottages do an excellent job of promoting Dartmouth. Our own By The Dart website has a huge and growing amount of content about the area, what’s on and what to do and details of over 2,000 local businesses. It attracts traffic from all over the UK at a level that I believe is significantly better than Discover Dartmouth. Traffic this year is already up 20%.
There is a danger that we “talk the town down” and these footfall figures do not have universal credibility. If we are to understand the true state of Dartmouth’s economic wellbeing then businesses need to be surveyed in detail. Only then can a proper debate be had about the real trends.
Accept your point Mark but the level of footfall decline is hard to explain. The figures are accurate but there are a multitude of reasons why Dartmouth is struggling to attract visitors. We must first accept there is a problem before we can solve it. Too many people are arguing the footfall figures are flawed, rather than thinking how do we respond to this challenge. I cant sit quietly while Dartmouth’s streets are so quiet. I feel a responsibility to the businesses of Dartmouth particularly my previous business. People say there is no money available but the Council has just spent the BID’s 5 year marketing budget putting a lift into the Guildhall and lowered ceilings. Is that the right priority?