Market town maintains charm thanks to friendly community
- Credit: Archant
As part of the Your Town series, we are casting a close eye on life in some of our biggest towns. Reporter Greta Levy takes a look at the charming market town: Beccles.
From the cobbled roads to the quaint aesthetics, friendly locals and safe streets, Beccles has maintained its traditional market town charm as it celebrates sustainability, creativity and diversity.
However, some residents have described it as a place in which to retire because of the lack of an active nightlife, a steady supply of restaurants or entertainment for young people and families.
The community also raised concerns the high street might close, or that a lack of police presence might cause a spike in crime.
When we asked Beccles residents what it was they loved about the town, they emphasised the beauty of the riverside, the small community and the indie shopping.
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But despite listing it as a benefit to the town, our survey, answered by 160 people, found 71.9pc of people were concerned about businesses closing down on the high street.
'The town centre needs to have more draw for visitors, too many charity shops, barbers and estate agents at the moment,' one resident said.
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Another agreed there were 'too many charity shops and hairdressers', while another said 'cruddy cheap shops' were an issue on the high street.
Despite the concern, only 23.3pc of residents claimed they do all their shopping on the town's high street, with 55.8pc saying it is dictated by what they need to buy. The other 20pc said they only buy food locally or go elsewhere completely to shop.
Business owner Richard Rose, from Chambers Meat Services, said: 'We have a good variety of shops and a bank – a lot of people come to Beccles now to do their banking.
'It is worrying about online shopping, but it doesn't affect us much – we have customers from Lowestoft and Norwich come in.
Christine Pinsent, vice-chair of the Beccles Business and Tourism Association, said: 'I think we do have a good mix of multinational, national and independent retailers and will be okay. I think if you have good customer care you will be OK. As for people being concerned about the high street, all I can say is if you don't use it, you will lose it.'
In 2018 the town was stripped of their Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs). Since then, 57.7pc of locals say they are concerned about crime in the area. 'Our standard of living has decreased in recent years with the decline of our police presence in town,' one resident said.
But Inspector Elizabeth Casey, who oversees Beccles, Bungay and Lowestoft, said: 'Beccles is a safe town with no crime trends or concerns to be highlighted in the community. Beccles is a beautiful, safe town in which to live, work and visit.
'We have seen across Lowestoft, Beccles and Bungay a recent increase in motor vehicles being targeted and broken into.
'We have the SNT team in Beccles, the SNT team in Lowestoft – who also cover Beccles and Bungay – and we have the Response teams who cover the three areas. We respond to the current demands as and where they are.'
As well as crime in the area, another concern for the town was the growing population without medical, leisure and education facilities expanding.
According to the Waveney Local Plan, which was adopted in March, more than 1,500 new homes are expected to be built in Beccles and Worlingham, with 1,335 expected to be completed by 2036. Plans have been proposed to make improvements to Beccles Medical Centre, add schools in the area, improve the library and create a new community centre.
An excerpt from the plan read: 'This Local Plan seeks to plan for the development in a more strategic way to ensure a greater range of infrastructure and services are provided to support the growth.'
A rich history for the quaint market town
Beccles is believed to date back beyond AD 960, when its name was first mentioned in the granting of its manor to St Edmundsbury monastery by King Eadwig. It is rumoured Beccles means 'pasture by the stream' but others believe it comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'Clisson', meaning an enclosure.
Sue Alderton, 41, who moved to Beccles as a 'getaway from Lowestoft', said despite the minimal options of places to eat and the lack of nightlife she enjoys the town.
'I do love Beccles,' she said. 'At first it was so weird because people talk to you. You have to check your watch to see whether you need to say 'good morning' or 'good afternoon' back to them.
'They also wear wellies all the time here and never, ever, leave their bins out after 9am.'