Research carried out under the auspices of Campaign to Protect Rural England by local volunteers showed that in 2011, shops in the town centre employ over 500 people. Businesses supporting shops and restaurants in town employ a further 700. That’s a total of 1,200 jobs. The annual turnover of shops in Ledbury and its suppliers within 30 miles is around £50 million. There are in the region of 80,000 customer visits to shops in Ledbury each week. Shops in Ledbury support additional jobs in other local businesses and services – such as local accountants, estate agents, stationers, solicitors, window cleaners, tradespeople, and delivery firms. All of these businesses rely upon trade from local shops. It's an economic web.
Tourism is one of Herefordshire’s and Ledbury’s major industries and attracts large amounts of money into the local economy. In 2008 this injection of spending into Herefordshire totalled £411m supporting 8,500 jobs directly and indirectly (Source: Herefordshire Tourism Strategy). If we assume conservatively that Ledbury accounted for 20% of that economic benefit (it is probably more than that), then over £80 million was generated in our town supporting 1,700 jobs. Visitors to Ledbury come here to see the heritage buildings and to enjoy the thriving traditional high street (and they might need to use a loo!), so it is logical to say that the local tourism economy is heavily dependent on an attractive thriving town centre.
None of these figures take into account the enormous upkeep costs of our immaculate heritage buildings, which in turn sustain small armies of specialist workers in buildings conservation and related trades. Nor do they include the engineering industries that service the food and agricultural sectors.
Ledbury town centre is not only a vibrant town, a focus for community spirit, but is an engine of economic activity. We are a country town, based in a rich beautiful agricultural area. Our major industries – and employers – are thus food production and supply, and tourism. We tamper with the ingredients of our prosperity at our peril.