Fishery visitor centres plan for Cromer, Sheringham, Wells and Stiffkey

A �385,000 scheme to showcase the past, present and future of North Norfolk's fishery in four locations along the coast is among the projects aiming to help the time-honoured industry.

A bid for funding is being finalised for centres at Cromer, Sheringham, Wells and Stiffkey, which would explain the heritage and future challenges for visitors who would range from tourists to local schoolchildren.

Each centre would be different and seek to signpost people on to another one where they could discover something else about the fishery - which stretches from Thornham to Caister and has been at the heart of the area's economy for generations,

It currently employs about 500 people as fisherman, crew, as well as in processing and ancillary industries, dealing mainly with crab and lobster but also handling mussels, whelks, cod, dogfish, herring and sea bass in the summer.

The scheme is part of the North Norfolk Fisheries Local Action group which aims to support and improve the industry through a range of schemes, backed by �2.4m worth of European funding, to fuel projects ranging from infrastructure improvements to marketing and education.

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The North Norfolk group is one of six around the country. Its 'animator' Ian Groves said the heritage and visitor centre project would be careful not to duplicate any existing museums and would 'add to the overall offering.' One ceetre could concentrate on heritage, another on education for instance, he added.

A bid for �230,000 worth of funding towards the scheme was being submitted to the national Marine Management Organisation by the end of the month, with the remaining 40pc covered by private investment which he was confident of achieving.

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Other schemes in the pipeline include a �75,000 Wi-Fi Spires scheme putting broadband masts on up to a dozen churches along the coast to provide better communications to the fishing industry, as well as other residents and businesses.

Research work was also being carried out to provide firm data about the condition of the fish stocks and seabed, which would provide a firm foundation for charting any change.

Mr Groves said people would start seeing concrete results from the bids in 2013, including improvements to fishermen's facilities on harbours and beaches, such as lighting and security, as well as raising the profile of the industry locally and nationally.

In its first year grants totalling �872,000 were given out to 11 projects which included �10,000 to maintain Brancaster's harbour buoys, �7.500 for personal locator beacons for fishermen, �30,000 each for market research and marketing, �40,000 for an online interactive business directory, �48,000 for a documentary, �15,000 for school work, �6,000 for the Coast arts festival, �4,300 to Wells carnival and �200,000 for the overall 'engagement project' spread over three years.

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