Aylsham businesses urged to get behind improvement schemes highlighted in �9k report

Businesses in Aylsham are being urged to join forces and forge ahead with plans to boost visitor numbers to their town by following recommendations in a warts and all report.

The �9,500 study, commissioned by Broadland District Council, sets out more than 50 'realistic' and affordable schemes to help improve the market town's tourism prospects and economy, focusing on eight key areas including car parking, 'gateways' in and out of Aylsham and its marketing.

The newly formed Aylsham and Business Enterprise Forum (ABEF) - which was established as a result of the report - is already making headway on introducing some of the suggested improvements, and urged more businesses to throw their weight behind the scheme to get more projects started.

Scores of shop keepers turned out to a meeting last night (Wednesday) to learn more about the report and some of its recommendations.

Deborah Blake, ABEF chairman, encouraged them to join the forum and said: 'As a group you can do a lot more than an individual.'

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Ross Ingham, one of the consultants who wrote the report, led the meeting and highlighted some of the town's weaknesses during his presentation, which sparked some passionate responses from business owners.

He said visitors would find Red Lion Street 'difficult to understand' as it was not clear whether it was a shopping or residential street and suggested re-introducing hanging signs to help give the road an identity.

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Shop keepers on the narrow street said they had always wanted to 'show off' their businesses but when they had tried hanging signs before they had been knocked off by buses and lorries.

Mr Ingham stressed there were ways of getting signs back up however, and believed the 'fit for purpose' projects in the report could be achieved.

Mrs Blake said the study had been positively received since it was first published in March but thought it was important to forget previous failed schemes and plough forward with the new recommendations.

She added: 'We have had lots of things which have been tried in the past; let's draw a line under that, start again and start afresh because the report that's been done has given us a point of reference and something we can work from.

'There's been a buzz going round the town with what's happening and there's a good momentum.'

Mrs Blake, who runs Boxes and Bags of Fun toy shop, said the scheme had been given a further boost by the Mary Portas pilot town project, which could see Aylsham receiving up to �100,000 to inject into its high street.

'It would be fantastic if we got that but we're also really realistic and if we don't we're still going to carry on,' she added.

Each town bidding for a share of the �1m of Portas cash have had to make a video supporting their application and Aylsham's has proved to be one of the most popular, having been viewed more than 3,000 on sharing forum YouTube.

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