Fate of Beccles tourist information centre to be discussed

Beccles tourist information centre.

Beccles tourist information centre. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The future of a tourist centre promoting Beccles is at the heart of a debate after its funders warned it is no longer financially viable to run.

The tourist information centre at Beccles Quay has been jointly funded by the Beccles Business and Tourist Association (BBTA) and Beccles Town Council for the past five years, after the Broads Authority and Waveney District Council withdrew its funding.

Open throughout the summer season in conjunction with a tourist information point at the base of Beccles Tower, the centre is run through a mixture of paid and volunteer staff.

However the business and tourist association has said it is no longer financially viable to keep the centre going in its current form.

Christine Pinsent, vice chairman of BBTA, said: 'The town was very lucky when the business association stepped in with the town council to keep it going, but it is not economically viable to run it the way it has been, so we are looking at alternatives. We are very passionate about this and it is very important to Beccles and the local economy for the community and the businesses.

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'People are using the internet a lot more and visitor numbers are not as high as they used to be.

'Other towns across Waveney are introducing visitor information points (VIPs) into businesses in the town centre to increase footfall and that's what will probably end up happening in Beccles.

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'There will still be an information point in that area but it just won't be manned as it has been.'

A visitor information point was set up at Beccles Books in Exchange Square in December as a pilot project launched by Waveney Business Forum and BBTA to provide information for visitors during the winter months. And last month Waveney District Council announced plans to close the tourist information centres in both Lowestoft and Southwold and create visitor information points through businesses and voluntary organisations.

But Adrian Simpson-James, Suffolk publicity organiser for the National Gardens Scheme, which has its leaflets on display at tourist information centres, said: 'I feel that a manned centre somewhere in Beccles is necessary. It means that there is someone there to restock the leaflets and point people in the right direction.

'If the information is moved into businesses, how do people know where to go when they pull up at a car park in Beccles?'

Mrs Pinsent said the new VIPs would have all the same information and leaflets and that staff would be trained and have local knowledge. She said the new points would be advertised on websites and local signboards and would be included in a Waveney wide leaflet.

The future of Beccles' Tourist Information Centre will be discussed at Beccles Town Council's assets and environment committee meeting on Monday, with input from the BBTA.

Beccles mayor Hugh Taylor said: 'I consider the provision of easily accessible information about the town and the surrounding area to visitors and residents alike is really important and makes a vital contribution to the economic well-being of the town and, as ever, we must be prepared to adapt and update how this information is provided.

'I am confident that both the BBTA and the town council will do all that possibly can be done to play their part in ensuring that visitor information in Beccles is readily available, user-friendly and up-to-date.'

Mr Taylor said the council would be looking at whether the building, which belongs to Waveney District Council, can continue to operate viably in its current form.

•What do you think? Write to Beccles and Bungay Journal Letters, 20 Blyburgate, Beccles, NR34 9TB or email bbj.letters@archant.co.uk

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