Rallying call for people to support Fakenham traders as town recovers from major fire

Scenes from the emergency meeting about the Fakenham Town Centre fire, discussing the way forward for the town. Picture: Matthew Usher. Scenes from the emergency meeting about the Fakenham Town Centre fire, discussing the way forward for the town. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Thursday, May 29, 2014
12:42 PM

A rallying cry has been made for people to come out and support Fakenham’s business community as the town starts its recovery from the biggest fire it has seen since Tudor times.

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Scenes from the emergency meeting about the Fakenham Town Centre fire, discussing the way forward for the town - Shelia Oxtoby. Picture: Matthew Usher.Scenes from the emergency meeting about the Fakenham Town Centre fire, discussing the way forward for the town - Shelia Oxtoby. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Fakenham’s popular markets, which are synonymous with the town, will continue, despite much of the Market Place remaining closed to the public and determined efforts are being made to help businesses affected by the fire reopen as soon as possible.

The rallying cry was made at a meeting of stakeholders, held at the Fakenham Connect building yesterday, where short and long-term priorities for Fakenham’s recovery were outlined.

Immediate goals identified were to keep the Thursday markets running, help affected traders to reopen quickly, promote the message that Fakenham is open for business and to support those who lost their homes - a need being relentlessly championed by the EDP and the Times through our joint Let’s Fight For Fakenham campaign.

Today’s market will be held at the Bridge Street car park after Fakenham Town Council accepted an offer from North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) to hold the events there free of charge.

The scene in Fakenham town centre, after the fire in the town at the weekend. Picture: Ian BurtThe scene in Fakenham town centre, after the fire in the town at the weekend. Picture: Ian Burt

The long-term need to ensure the redevelopment of the Original Factory Shop site, which was completely gutted by Sunday’s blaze, is in-keeping with the town centre was also emphasised.

Yesterday’s meeting was organised by NNDC and attended by the council’s chief executive Sheila Oxtoby, leader Tom FitzPatrick, district councillors and council officers, Fakenham town councillors, Fakenham Area Business Community (FABCOM) co-founders Steve Hall and Keith Osborn, Broadland MP Keith Simpson, the rector of Fakenham, rev Adrian Bell and EDP editor Nigel Pickover.

Mr Osborn said: “It is vitally important to get the message out there that Fakenham is open for business.

“This is a positive opportunity for people to come out and support the town in a time of need.”

‘It will not be another Gray’s Arcade’

Council leaders are confident Fakenham residents will not experience similar frustrations to people in Wells who endured an eight-year wait for the Gray’s Arcade site to be redeveloped after a major fire in 2005.

At yesterday’s meeting, concerns were raised that Fakenham could, like Wells, be left with, “a chargrilled gap” for years.

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) chief executive Sheila Oxtoby said: “I am very confident that we will not have the same situation in Fakenham, as we are dealing with two very different scenarios.

“In Wells we were dealing with one property owner who did not want to do anything with his property and had to use the threat of a compulsory purchase order to move things along.

“That is not the case here.”

The meeting also heard that civil issues, rather than planning issues, were behind delays in redeveloping the Wells site.

A steering group will be set up from those who attended yesterday’s meeting to drive forward the priorities identified and deal with issues that arise.

Mr Pickover said: “One of Norfolk’s great market towns has taken a huge blow which is why we stepped in to help right from the start.

“The EDP and the Dereham and Fakenham Times is in this for the long-term.

“We will be your oxygen of publicity to drive people to your markets and promote all kinds of things you can do to help rebuild the town.”

He added: “This is your time, whether you know it or not. This horrible thing has happened, thank God nobody died.

“Let’s work together to build a fantastic future for this fabulous place.”

Mrs Oxtoby, who told the meeting that 27 businesses and residential properties have been affected by the fire, said: “The town needs to be given the confidence that all stakeholders are working together.

“People need our help now and many businesses and individuals simply cannot afford to wait months and months for their insurance claims to be sorted out.

“Through FABCOM we have a direct link to Fakenham’s business community and it is vitally important that we keep that communication going.”

Mrs Oxtoby said NNDC is working hard to rehouse those who lost their homes in the fire and to find alternative premises for businesses which have been forced to close.

One example of the community working together is at Barclays bank in Fakenham.

With Fakenham’s HSBC bank currently closed, Barclays branch manager Sarah Thacker is welcoming HSBC customers to use various banking services in Barclays, Fakenham and has also said traders hit by the blaze are welcome to use Barclays premises in the short-term.

For more information, call Miss Thacker on 07500 891585 or visit Barclays in Fakenham.

Meanwhile, it was also revealed at the meeting that the Original Factory Shop is looking to find an alternative premises in Fakenham.

Have you been affected by the fire? E mail adam.lazzari@archant.co.uk

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