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Businesses want Doncaster to develop itself as a culture and leisure destination

Lee Tillman addresses the Doncaster Business Insight meeting
Lee Tillman addresses the Doncaster Business Insight meeting
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Businesses want Doncaster to focus on developing itself as a culture and leisure destination, a survey of firms has revealed.

Doncaster Chamber's latest quarterly economic survey included the result of a survey into what firms believe the next big idea for Doncaster should be, which was posed to firms at its conference earlier this year.

The findings were revealed at the Doncaster Business Insight breakfast briefing at the Mount Pleasant Hotel, compared by chamber chief executive Dan Fell, an event sponsored by the insurance services firm ProAktive and attended by nearly 100 business men and women.

Lee Tillman, assistant director of strategy and performance at Doncaster council, presented the results of the survey, which attracted 150 responses - around double the previous one.

He revealed 37 per cent of the businesses who took part in the survey had said the town should focus on being a leisure and cultural destination,.

That figure was nearly double the numbers who had backed the next most popular choice, which was improving infrastructure and education.

Mr TIllman said: "There is a huge amount going on in Doncaster. But the priority was found to be for Doncaster continue to develop its leisure and cultural offering. There is a lot of activity going on, but there is huge potential to do more.

"That seems to be a priority that businesses want."

Improving culture and leisure has been seen as a way to make towns more attractive to potential workforces, making towns more appealing as places to live.

Kate Stowe, head of marketing and communications at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, who was one of the keynote speakers at the briefing, said there were opportunities for Doncaster to take advantage of inbound flights to the borough, and it could help the town centre..

She said: "There are opportunities for routes to attract inbound traffic - our inbound potential is enormous. We need to have a place to sell. We tell of places beyond Doncaster because we feel the need to. If we secure a low cost carrier and bring people from Paris or Vienna, we would like them to see Doncaster as a place to spend their money."

Sian Dudlley, head of marketing and communications at the Cast Theatre, at Waterdale, said she thought people should not diminish the importance of the art and cultural, and there was a tendency to regard it as the gravy, compared to steak of other businesses.

With reference to Hull s time as the UK Capital of Culture, she added: "It was arts and culture that helped transform Hull. We need to take it more seriously. Businesses need to invest in culture and get involved.

The survey also revealed backing for plans for a rail link at Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

It found that 97 per cent of firms in the borough felt it would be beneficial to the economy. But a smaller figure, 65 per cent, predicted it would have a positive impact on their individual businesses.

Ms Stowe explained the rail link proposals to the meeting, stating it would involve a link to the airport terminal from the East Coast main line, rather than a parkway station near to it.

She said the estimated cost of £170 million was a tiny fraction of other high profile transport plans such as the expansion of Heathrow, and told the meeting officials at the firm believed the project could be delivered within five to six years.

"It would involve 4.5 miles of track and we have been told it would be technically easier then the construction of the airport link road," said added.

The survey found 60 per cent of respondents rated Doncaster as a 'good' place to do business. Another 33 per cent rated it as fair, while seven per cent said said it was poor.

Mr Tillman told the meeting this was an overwhelming figure saying the borough was good or fair. "There are a phenomenal amount of things going on and real momentum about the place," he said. "We want to know what we can do to make it better."

Other findings of the survey revealed 87 per cent of businesses agreed with an ambition for Doncaster to become a university town or city.

It also found 70 per cent of businesses did not have a strategy or plan to address or improve mental health in the workplace.

The survey found quarter on quarter, there had been a 17 per cent fall in domestic sales, and a 30 per cent fall in overseas sales.

.Employment growth was down four per cent quarter on quarter.

Only two per cent of firms were more concerned about Brexit than the previous quarter.

But planned investment was up four per cent on the last quarter, and the number of firms expecting increased turnover in the next 12 months was up two per cent.