Taste Cheshire

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Taste Cheshire's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Taste Cheshire is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


CEO Stephen Wundke
A view of the Taste
Cheshire website
Following the financial crisis crash of 2008, Stephen Wundke
was entrusted with the job of getting footfall back on the
streets of Chester after what had been years of serious
decline with substantial year-on-year losses. Through a series
of big-scale city centre events, better communication between
stakeholders and council and by addressing and listening to
the serious issues of both visitors and locals, Stephen and his
team achieved their goal with great success. They created “free
after 3pm parking” and raised footfall by more than 25 per
cent. Stephen explains how they managed to get things back to
where they should have been for a leading city like Chester but
reflects on whether the work is complete.
Almost ten years after we began work in Chester and, if you believe the media, the
high street is once again collapsing. Large retail chains fall week after week and
lay bare our once shiny, sparkly window displays, replacing them with for sale and
rent boards. I may no longer be doing the job at Chester City Management, but
I still think I have a good handle on what is going on at street level through our
Taste Cheshire network of stakeholders. Rather than panic, what I am seeing is a
very real opportunity for towns and cities to re-establish what is important to their
success and get back their identity, which for too long has been missing.
Second revolution in shopping
Cities and towns were created through trading, as a place to swap goods – such as
foods you’d grown or reared for building materials you needed; drink you’d created
»CEO: Stephen Wundke
»Founded in 2012
»Based in Chester
»Services: Hospitality
»No. of employees: 5
Taste Cheshire
Highlighting best practice
for machinery you used. Each place
across the UK had its own unique
identity. Livestock in one place, grain
in another. With mechanisation and
increased productivity came shops and
shelves bulging with goods, better
houses and all that we now know on
the high street. Surely it would live
and flourish forever, but then along
came the internet. No longer was
there the need to fight the traffic, pay
the exorbitant car parking fees that
fed council pockets or traipse through
shop after shop only to find they
hadn’t got what the advert on the TV
said they had. Now we could sit back
and let our fingers do the walking and
wait for it to be delivered. Bizarrely,
most of the big retailers didn’t see
It was the second revolution in
shopping. The first was the continued
sprawl of out-of-town centres, with
free parking that eroded footfall, but
the second was even more devastating
and that is where we are now. The
big problem for many towns and cities
is that landlords have created such
high rents and are demanding huge
covenants, leading to the high streets
starting to look the same everywhere.
Landlords turned their back on the
small and independent retailer, the
ones that made the city centre unique,
in the belief that the big boys would
always survive and were a far safer
financial proposition. In fact, the small
independent retailer and artisan,
family-owned business has always
fought harder to survive. The large
chain just collapses the shell and moves
on, leaving carnage,both personal and
material, in their wake.
While these huge, empty edifices may
well be ugly and a blight on our high
street, they serve as a reminder to
landlords that tenants can only pay
what makes the business work. You
either pay a higher rent to have footfall
go past your door on the high street or
you pay less and become a destination
to attract people away from those
high-footfall areas. Businesses can’t
survive when the high rent they pay for
footfall isn’t delivering customers.
Finding response
Right across the UK, the third
revolution in retailing is starting to
take shape, however, providing hope.
A co-operation between landlord and
tenant, an understanding of each
other’s aims and common sense has
emerged, and it just might be the
answer. The challenge is to find a
way to populate the high street with
businesses that are internet proof, and
I have heard many theories on this.
Some say that it’s personalised shoe
shops that will save us, but more and
more the answer revolves around
food and drink. Cafés have sprung up
like daffodils and maybe they will last
longer as the coffee republic seems a
strong one. Restaurants and bars are
multiplying and rightly so because, you
see, the one thing you can’t do on the
internet is have a meal out, meet for
coffee face to face or drink a pint of
bitter with your friends.
There’s more, and this is where it gets
truly exciting. As we start to think
Lifestyle businesses bring
vibrancy and passion
turned their
back on the
small and
retailer, the
ones that
made the city
centre unique
about what we eat, what we drink
and its provenance, with this comes
the return of the artisan. Bakers who
make real bread without preservatives,
butchers that know the farmer, the
herd and the process from farm to
fork, and fruit and vegetable shops
with the right produce in abundance,
at the right time of year and price.
Produce that tastes of something
because it spent time in UK soil
developing flavour. Now there is
something special. Asparagus in April
and May, tomatoes in summer, berries
in autumn and lamb in spring. They all
taste better and are cheaper in season
and while it hasn’t quite happened
yet, the small retailers are starting to
reclaim the high street.
Capitalising on opportunity
Landlords with sensible rents and
banks who have begun again to lend
to real people are starting to make
it possible. These are the things you
just can’t get, with integrity, online:
real people, selling real produce, who
understand their products and deliver
them with honesty and passion.
Wesee more farmers’ markets back
in towns and cities and relationships
developing between customer and
vendor. The weird thing is, this is
what used to happen, and it worked
brilliantly for a good 400 years. In
life terms, the big retailers and their
huge shops were just a blip on the
retail radar. Our town centres are the
supermarkets of the future. The little
guy has learnt from the big chains:
how to display their produce, how to
simplify the supply chain and how to
be a better retailer, and now they are
reclaiming their crown.
It is an exciting time and people have
never been as concerned about the
provenance of goods as they are now.
They want to know where it’s from
and its route to market. People are
spurning volume for taste and they
understand that time and effort costs
a little more. It’s a slow process but it
is happening. The third revolution is
underway, and we can all be a part of
it. This is what made us the nation of
shopkeepers we once were and what
will once again deliver the great in
Great Britain.
Real people,
selling real
produce, who
their products
and deliver
them with
honesty and
Markets are the proving
ground for small


This article was sponsored by Taste Cheshire. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster