Local economy in good health

Before too long we hope to return to face to face meetings, but for now we’re keeping in touch through Zoom. Our latest session revealed that whilst there are many challenges ahead, many members are reporting positive news.


For example a member involved in the recruitment sector said they’d been very busy over the last six months as companies are looking to hire new staff. Similarly, a printer was in great demand and a book keeper was almost at full capacity. All that sounds very promising, although our Vice President gave an accountant’s warning that there were a range of financial issues looming, such as repaying loans and satisfying the tax man.


We were joined by Chew Valley Ward Councillor and Leader of the Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council, Vic Pritchard. He outlined some of the topics being discussed, including the lack of lorry drivers which was impacting on waste collection. He conceded that Brexit may have had an impact but he claimed that the Council was a relatively low payer of such staff and they may need to increase wages to attract enough people.


I raised the issue of the Bristol Clean Air Zone which would affect people driving from the Chew Valley if the Cumberland Basin and the A4 Portway were included as was the current proposal and asked Vic to ensure the Council was fully aware of the potential problem. One of our members had highlighted the situation to farmers and hauliers who could face charges in the future.


We heard that the Planning Enquiry into Bristol Airport’s development proposals has begun and is due to run into October with a decision made late this year or early 2022. In the meantime more routes are being started which will give people the chance, when they are allowed, to fly from their local airport rather than having to travel further afield to the likes of Heathrow or Gatwick.


Members asked about the Airport’s commitment to local procurement of goods and services and they were told it was a fair point which would certainly be taken on board and looked into further.


One member asked whether Carlisle would be an available destination since there is a big Livestock Market there that holds a lot of pedigree Cattle and Sheep sales which attract a lot of interest from the South. After the meeting we heard that Carlisle Airport has been shut for most of the time since the pandemic hit and its owner’s aviation wing, Stobart Air, recently went out of business. If they ever did happen, flights would probably be through LoganAir, who do already operate from Bristol to various locations in the UK. Who knows, the “Farmers Express” might become a thing !


Back on terra firma Vic said he had been very supportive of a shuttle bus service being created for the Chew Valley, not only linking with the main arterial routes to Bristol, Bath and Wells, but providing a public transport link for people wanting to move from one village to another.


I strongly agreed with his view and explained the Chamber had been making that case for some years, including inviting First Bus to our meetings in the past. Other villages, such as Wellow, had set up their own mini bus service, but that relied on volunteer drivers. I said I had always thought there was a case for some of the buses from Bath to Bristol Airport to travel through the Chew Valley rather than to exclusively go via Keynsham and South Bristol.


If you’d like to join us in Chew Valley Chamber of Commerce please email tintinna@aol.com or have a look at our website – www.chewvalleychamber.co.uk


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