The Work of the Chamber of Trade and Commerce in Lichfield

The work of the Chamber of Commerce in Lichfield was the subject of a talk given to the Civic Society by Colin Ablitt, a former president of the Chamber, on 23rd October. Attendance was disappointingly low. However those members who were unable to be present missed an informative, entertaining and lively evening enjoyed by all including the Speaker.

It was surprising to learn that the Chamber of Trade and Commerce had been in existence for over 100 years. Colin Ablitt brought to the meeting the impressive chain of office that was made for the investiture of president Bamford in 1896. Since then the fortunes of the Chamber have ebbed and flowed but the objectives have remained constant - the improvement and protection of Lichfield as an important trading centre. Throughout its history that is what the City has been, although economically it has passed through periods of prosperity and decline. In recent times it has remained dormant - in Colin Ablitt's own words "a sad annex to other competing centres". It is against that background that the public activities of the Chamber need to be assessed and appreciated as it has strived to inject new vitality into the centre. It was the Chamber's money and initiative that gave Lichfield its Christmas Lights and encouraged the increase in the number of hanging baskets. The Chamber also had much to do with the establishment of the popular Christmas Fayre. Apart from such matters, it is represented on various groups dealing with such issues as tourism and crime; it comments on planning proposals, of which pedestrianisation is the most recent and controversial.

The ensuing discussion was refreshingly provocative, frank and expansive, covering such things as: the problem associated with the restrictions on the times of delivering goods; bicycle racks; late night shopping; the proliferation of restaurants and above all parking. Colin Ablitt's view is that there is not enough car parking space, that they are badly sign posted and that the pricing regime is not conducive to shoppers. Disagreements abounded but the value of the exchanges was that they gave a realistic measure of the difficulties to be encountered in any attempt to persuade people to leave their cars at home.

Colin Ablitt is probably right in saying that we all support restraints on the use of the car provided it is someone else who excercises that restraint.

Mike Tole
October 1997