�3.3m investment into Waveney Valley economy announced today

An ambitious three-year scheme to invest �3.3m to boost the economy and tourism in Waveney was launched today.

The Waveney Valley Identity Project aims to re-brand the area by encouraging businesses, farm diversification schemes and green tourism, to attract greater trade and visitors to the area and deliver a new identity.

Pat Holtom, chairman of the Waveney Valley Local Action Group (LAG), officially launched the project and said: 'It was decided that the Valley required a distinct identity to promote itself as a destination. The Norfolk Broads, North Norfolk Coast and the Brecklands are well known brands and it was felt that Waveney needed to be better known.'

The development of a logo has been key to the project and the three local district councils have jointly worked together on the design, which represents the various aspects of the Valley; the wildlife, the round churches and the river.

Mrs Holtom added: 'It is hoped that this will be used widely, not just by the businesses that have been funded, but also as a stamp of identity by existing traders and tourist attractions.

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'The LAG has put together a Local Development Strategy to identify local and rural needs. It is through the priorities identified in this strategy that the LAG will consider projects for funding.'

The project will primarily help to develop links between Beccles, Bungay, Eye, Loddon, Harleston, Halesworth and Diss to encourage tourists to extend their visit by touring each of the market towns. One project to encourage this will be the introduction of audio trails throughout the network of walkways between the towns.

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The money will also be used to assist in the funding of new businesses and to develop horse, bicycle and canoe trails.

The launch event at the Black Swan in Homersfield, near Wortwell, was held at the site of the first concrete bridge built in England, which crosses the Waveney forming the link between the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Special guest, author Louis de Bernieres, addressed the crowd and spoke passionately about the area which has become his home.

Now residing in Denton, he said: 'I originally came to this area because I had a writer friend in Bungay and I spent many happy weekends fishing in the Waveney.

'The Waveney really is beautiful and one of the nice things about this area is the way local people haven taken it into their own hands.'

He also praised the wealth of talented artists in the area, from writer Roger Deakin to artist Miles Fairhurst.

A series of display stands also accompanied the event to highlight some of the already successful applicants of the funding.

The programme has already helped to support local businesses Clinks Care Farm in Toft Monks, Happy Hens in Hoxne, and the Old Bakery Bed and Breakfast in Pulham Market, which will be linked into the development of the signage and subsequent promotion of Boudicca's Way which runs through the Valley.

Mrs Holtam added: 'We are delighted at this co-operation which should lead to further projects being jointly developed and leave a lasting legacy of collaboration after the Programme has finished in 2013.'

The project is being led by the Waveney Valley LAG in association with Mid Suffolk, South Norfolk and Waveney District Council. It is being funded by the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), which is turn is funded by Defra and the European Union.

The LAG oversees the RDPE in the Waveney Valley and is made up of representatives from the farming community, the district and county councillors, the market towns, art representatives, community officers, local people and individual traders.

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