An unlikely alliance: will our seaside towns unite to save our economy?
- Credit: christaylorphoto.co.uk
Despite the open rivalry between the seaside towns of Sheringham and Cromer, the business community of both joined together (however briefly) to discuss the economic challenges which both their tourist-driven economies face.
The meeting, organised by the Sheringham and Cromer Chamber of Trades was held on September 26, and saw more than a hundred people turn out to the public meeting chaired by North Norfolk District Council Leader Tom FitzPatrick.
The evening at Sheringham Golf Club began by the five members of the panel for the night introducing themselves: Mayors of Cromer and Sheringham John Frosdick and David Gooch, the NNDC's Steve Blatch, Norman Lamb MP, and the New Anglia Hub's Nigel Best.
'This event started off as being something for Sheringham,' the town's mayor David Gooch began. 'But the issues we face cover a much, much wider area than Sheringham.'
Despite raising concerns that Sheringham seems to play second fiddle in Cromer in the eyes of the NNDC, Mr Gooch conceded that: 'It's our differences which make us stronger.'
The first issue raised by members of the public was the question of phone connectivity and broadband.
One member of the audience raised the issue that for his holiday home rental service, his customers could not contact him when they arrived at the property, because he had no signal.
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Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk said: 'This is something which I can lobby central government for, because in a post-Brexit world, whichever side of the argument you come down on, we need mobile reception and fast broadband to be leading against our competitors abroad.
'I was in Italy over the summer and in the middle of nowhere they had phone signal and I had 3G service.'
Steve Blatch of the NNDC supported the idea that they too, could lobby their contractors to decrease the amount of time it would take for BT to install the appropriate infrastructure to support fibre broadband.
Mr Blatch added: 'There are issues that BT may not have enough engineers to carry out the work. But I agree this needs to be improved upon because tourists which drive so much of our economy will expect to have that service and if they don't we'll lose out to other places like the Lake District or Cornwall or Scotland.
The minutes and issues raised in the meeting will be taken to the district council by the Chambers of Trade, to further discuss and implement how these challenges can be combatted.