Smart Towns scheme set to receive £450,000 boost
- Credit: Archant
A scheme to digitally transform East Suffolk’s market towns and help them recover from the impact of coronavirus has been awarded £450,000 in funding.
The East Suffolk Smart Towns project is benefiting from £250,000 of government funding, which will be used to install digital town technology – such as free to use WiFi, footfall tracking sensors, analytics and retail apps – in both Lowestoft and Felixstowe.
The Smart Towns project has also received £200,000 from the New Anglia LEP’s Innovative Projects fund to enable the project to be rolled out across 11 market towns in East Suffolk.
This follows a successful trial of the scheme in Framlingham last year.#As part of the Government’s £900m Getting Building Fund, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership was awarded £32.1m in funding to help deliver jobs, skills and infrastructure in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As well as free WiFi and footfall tracking, the Smart Towns project will deliver the digital “springboard” for local businesses.
Craig Rivett, deputy leader of East Suffolk Council and cabinet member for Economic Development, said: “This funding is very welcome news for East Suffolk and for the wider region.
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“Many local businesses have been adversely affected by Covid-19 and the Smart Towns project will help ensure business sustainability during this difficult time.
“As well as offering free to use WiFi in town centres and footfall tracking technology to help town councils and business groups improve services, the project will also act as a digital springboard for local businesses, enabling them to maximise the benefits of the digital economy.”
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Stephen Burroughes, East Suffolk’s cabinet member for customer services, operational partnerships and digital transformation, said: “This is terrific news for the Smart Towns project and will enable the necessary infrastructure to be fully installed in Lowestoft and Felixstowe.
“We are doing all we can to encourage people back to our high streets and town centres and post Covid-19, there is now more emphasis on digital platforms. “We want to help local businesses adapt to this by giving them the tools and support they need to reconnect with their customers, accelerate their recovery and help their business to thrive.”
With work likely to start shortly, the project is due to be completed within two years.
Smart Towns project
Smart Towns will provide free WiFi for visitors in the main shopping areas of each of the market towns.
It will also provide footfall tracking that understands how and when residents and visitors use these areas.
This data will enable the Smart Towns to improve services and offerings to attract more visitors, as well as gauging the success of events and specific promotions.
Businesses will be able to access digital diagnostics, workshops and coaching to help them get the most from new technology, such as improved websites and social media use, contactless payments, online booking systems, or attracting customers through digital vouchers, apps and loyalty schemes.
In addition to Framlingham, the Smart Towns scheme will be introduced in Aldeburgh, Beccles, Bungay, Felixstowe, Halesworth, Leiston, Lowestoft, Saxmmundham, Southwold, Wickham Market and Woodbridge.
More than 300 successful projects in England will receive a share of the £900m Getting Building Fund, to invest in shovel-ready housing and infrastructure projects, creating jobs and supporting economic recovery across the country.
Under the Government’s criteria, projects had to be deliverable within 18 months and link with the region’s Economic Strategy, Economic Recovery Restart Plan, and the Government’s Recovery Plan.
They also need to deliver clear economic outputs, such as jobs, housing, or apprenticeships.
Across Norfolk and Suffolk, the selected projects will create 1,100 new jobs; safeguard more than 2,900 jobs; unlock a further £85m of private and public sector investment; assist more than 500 new learners and deliver more than 1,000 new superfast broadband connections.
Doug Field, chairman of New Anglia LEP, said: “These projects will help us deliver on our ambitions to be a fantastic place to live, work and learn.
“From providing new community facilities and training centres to redeveloping our town centres and supporting our key sectors, the projects will accelerate local growth and support our economic recovery.
“It shows the Government’s commitment to our area and allows us to work with partners to bring forward key infrastructure projects and help us achieve the goals in the new Economic Recovery Restart Plan and Economic Strategy.”