Interview: Ben Shearn – Chairman Association of Barbican Businesses

Ben ShearnCan you tell me a bit about yourself?

Opened BITES my first business on the Barbican 19yrs ago, expanded into bigger premises and opened venue on North HIll few years later, started the B-Bar with help of Lottery and Arts council grant, opened Treasury in 2003, bought the Ship Pub on Barbican and rebranded it the Watering Hole in 2007 recently sold this to regional brewer. I’ve lived on the Barbican for past 15 years.

What is the ABB and how was it formed?

Association of Barbican Businesses has been running for some thirty years in different forms, chairman have included John Dudley founder of Capn Jaspers, Mr King of Blackfriars Print and more recently Richard Smith of Plymouth Gin before I was asked to step up in 2007 and subsequently voted in. The ABB is a communication sharing group who meet monthly to share positive ideas to promote the area and drive footfall.

What is your role within the ABB?

I am the Charirman and lobby the PCC (Plymouth City Council) on issues that arise from members concerns. I chair the monthly meetings and try to keep them positive and upbeat so members enjoy the experience and we are always proactive.

How do traders join the ABB, what benefits do they receive from membership?

Members apply to join and their application is circulated to existing members, if there are no objections within two weeks they are invited to the next meeting and they pay £25 p.a. the benefits of membership is knowing that your voice and opinions are being echoed at the right level in the PCC and business community. The ABB is governed by its constitution and is recognised as the only official business group on the Barbican. The council and MPS listen to our views and regularly attend our meetings if requested.

What are the ABB’s plans for the future?

I have been working with other business groups in the waterfront areas to create a Business improvement district. This will allow funding through a rates levy for the aspirations of the ABB to materialise. The group is continuing to grow and through its recognition at high level has become a strong voice.

Where can people found out more about the ABB?

Through myself or our secretary Kathy Lingard adt Davies Johnson solicitors.

What is your view on the Barbican today?

It’s on the brink of something big, it’s about to turn the corner and throw itself forward into the future as a must visit destination for the west country. In five years time it could be the St Ives of Devon as opposed to being possibly the Newquay of Devon as it is now, very affected by seasonality.

Is there anything you’d like to see changed on the Barbican?

I would like the areas conservation status to be enforced and those principles adapted by PCC.

How did you think Wales and West Utilities handed the recent roadwork’s on the Barbican?

I’ve been very vocal as to my opinion on this, they have miss managed our expectations and their promises but we are over the worst now so its all about positive marketing and PR now and looking to the future.

Finally, what would you say about the Barbican to locals / tourists who have never visited it before?

It is so unique you must visit the area, we have galleries, jewellers, restaurants and bars as well as a plethora of antique shops that are as much museums as they are fine retail units! It has so much history from the pilgrims to Raleigh and Drake… it has more cobbles than any other area in the UK and each one could tell a story!

Be sure to read more interviews with local Businesses and the people who make the Barbican what it is today.