March 12 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
A project to enhance the economy of a mid-Norfolk town has been hailed as making exceptional progress in its first year.
The help for market towns was identified by Broadland District Council as part of its recession mitigation programme set up in response to the economic downturm. Funds were allocated from a shortfall in expenditure from a European programme and the council ring-fenced it for rural development.
As a result the council has been able to begin regeneration projects in the towns of Aylsham, Acle and Reepham.
Head of economic development Hamish Melville at Broadland said the issues identified in Reepham ranged from the big project of finding a new owner for the Old Brewery House to the smaller simpler details of washing road signs.
“There is still work to do,” he said. “But from our point of view the willingness and enthusiasm of members of the town team has been brilliant. We can oil the wheels but if you are pushing against a closed door it is very difficult.”
He said the council was now putting together a new economic development strategy for Broadland and hoping to unlock some more cash for extra work.
“Economic success is dependent on how we move forward. There is a lot more positivity around and if we get the economy right everything else will fall into place. A little money goes a long way in a market town.”
From late night shopping events to social media training and improving signage, a newly formed steering group for the town of Reepham has begun to focus on ways of improving and enabling businesses, tourism and residents to thrive in difficult economic times.
The Reepham Economic Strategy was formed a year ago after Broadland District Council commissioned economic development and regeneration consultancy Ingham Pinnock Associates to work with local stakeholders, business and community groups.
A Town Team (steering group) was formed including representatives from Reepham Chamber of Commerce, St Mary’s Church, Realistic Reepham, The Reepham Society, The Salle Estate, Reepham Green Team, Reepham High School and College, Reepham Town Council, The Bircham Centre and Broadland District Council. They have met on a regular basis throughout the year to help guide and produce the strategy.
From baseline research, a public consultation event and meetings with key individuals and businesses, three key issues were highlighted as affecting the economy of Reepham - consumer leakage, a constrained business base and poor recognition and perception.
As a result 23 projects to counteract the issues were drawn up which will be reviewed and published by Broadland in the New Year.
A spokesman for Ingham Pinnock said “The Town Team has already made exceptional progress with delivering a number of projects in the strategy and indeed a number of additional projects that span out of the work, including securing a new owner for the Old Brewery House, holding late night shopping evenings to encourage more local residents to support and reconnect with their local shops and businesses, and attending free social media courses for local businesses.”
He also highlighted a new ‘Like Reepham’ social media campaign and the development of new branding for the town that new businesses and local organisations can use for free if they wish to do so. This includes the development of a number of marketing slogans such as ‘share the secret’.
New signs direct visitors and residents in to the town centre from key locations along Marriott’s Way while there has been extensive research and promotion for Reepham to get improved mobile and broadband connectivity.
Brenda Gostling, chairman of Reepham Chamber of Commerce, said the project had been really helpful.
“It has helped us focus on what the issues are in the town and what we need to do about them,” she said. “We are a small community so it is small steps at a time.”
She highlighted the importance of finding a new owner for the The Old Brewery House which closed in the summer. It was bought in November by Iain Wilson, whose company also runs enterprises including Byford’s cafe and B&B in Holt, The Pigs pub, at Edgefield, and part of the Norwich Assembly House Mr Wilson, who said the former hotel was in a “sorry state”, is drawing up phased development plans which could see £3m invested during the next five years.
Mrs Gostling said: “The Old Brewery House issue was one of the major things that happened to the town and when Iain Wilson was contacted and came on board there that was one of the best things to happen to the town and was the best possible outcome for that building.
“The formation of the Town Team has also enabled a better dialogue between different organisations such as heritage with retail and hospitality.
“The project really has helped us to focus on the important issues and the town feels more positive as a result with greater enthusiasm and energy to get on and do stuff.”
If you would like to know more about joining the town team or about the strategy contact either Ross Ingham or Kate Pinnock by email at ross@inghampinnock or kate@inghampinnock or telephone 07827 240059 or 07974 363991.
*Do you think Reepham has benefitted from the economic strategy? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your views.