Friday 8th March 2013 and I find myself on a cold and wet morning at the Sitwell Arms in Renishaw. It’s an 8am breakfast meeting with our local MP, Natasha Engel, organised by the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire chamber of commerce, and there are lovely bacon and sausage sandwiches on display just waiting to be devoured. I do not disappoint.
Suitably refreshed and washed down with a couple of hot cups of fresh coffee we settled down to start the meeting. There were about 20 people gathered around the table and George Coucher, Chief Exec of the chamber, initially asked everyone in turn what topics they wished to bring up with Natasha.
Most of the topics were current issues such as bank lending (lack of), foreign currency rates, power supplies and the HS2 link. From a Kinspeed point of view I brought up more local problems, why is the only decent mobile reception in Renishaw with O2 ?, when will we be getting a reasonable broadband connection in Eckington exchange ?, and why does the incredible missing 53 bus from Sheffield suffer so many breakdowns and missing service.
The meeting was both informative and well managed by George who let people have as much time as needed to get their points across, without having to cut anyone short or dissolve the topic. Natasha was very eloquent and gave good in depth answers which criticised policies if it was needed. Personally I learnt a lot about why the banks were not lending, how foreign currency rates have eroded over the last 10 years, which is especially interesting to ourselves as we are about to enter the US and European markets with software solutions, and how, as a country, we have no real energy policy, and will probably revert to coal in the not too distant future.
The most startling topic we covered though was kept until the end. This was the HS2 link that is being built from London to Sheffield and beyond. John Selby, the owner of the Sitwell gave us the news that he had a letter saying that it was going straight through the Sitwell Arms and he would be losing his business as soon as 2016. A long way off you think but in his business people are booking weddings 2 years ahead and his business is suffering already. Do you redecorate the rooms ? What do you spend money on ? There has been precious little about compensation apart from that compulsory purchase will be 110% of what the building is worth. Great for residents of Renishaw who cannot sell their homes currently, but not so great for John whose building value is only part of the business. He put his case across with dignity even though he must be burning with anger underneath.
It was definitely one and a half hours well spent and I came out knowing more than when I went in, something that is not always the case !