‘Help our businesses’: Town residents say how they want £25m spent
PUBLISHED: 11:32 19 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:32 19 March 2020
Up to £25 million could be spent on regenerating Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth’s town centres - but how do town residents want it spent?
In September 2019, the government set aside £3.6bn for a Towns Fund initiative which would see up to £25m awarded to East Anglian towns including Norwich, Kings Lynn, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
Some 101 places across England were chosen to receive the funds, which were put aside to breathe new life into areas which could do with a helping hand, with a focus on improving transport, broadband, skills and culture.
The government had hoped to receive “ambitious plans” from communities, businesses and local leaders on how to improve the economies of their towns, and as of Wednesday, March 18, 90 people have left suggestions for how the money could be spent.
With ideas ranging from policy measures such as reduced business rates and grants, to ideas including an indoor go-kart track and water park, many voiced their opinions on what could help two of East Anglia’s most deprived towns.
More support for businesses:
While Great Yarmouth was selected to receive a share of a £675m high street fund in July last year, Lowestoft narrowly missed the opportunity, leaving many residents of the town calling for urgent support for businesses.
“Help with new businesses,” Luke Irving said. “Lowestoft lacks in the support for business grants. How do we expect to increase employment if the majority are struggling to get a business started?”
Mr Irving added: “If every new business start-up has a £2,500 grant, you can support 10,000 people in Lowestoft.”
Another resident said reduced business rates would help to bolster the town’s economy.
“Lowestoft, as the most easterly town in England is, by definition, off the beaten track. We need a long term and non-seasonal reason for people to visit. Reduced business rates would help shops and restaurants to thrive so that there is a purpose to visit our historic town,” they said.
In Great Yarmouth, residents also believed businesses were in dire need of more support in the form of grants and loans for innovative businesses.
“Reduce the lease on town centre shops, give free two-hour parking, and encourage big-name shops to open in the centre of town,” one person said, adding: “Give people a reason to visit the town centre instead of the bottleneck of traffic at retail parks.”
Another town resident said Great Yarmouth would benefit from a “Camden Locks style of multi-national market style eateries, [with] stalls selling retro, vintage and antique.
“There needs to be a reason to come to the town,” they added.
Better transport links:
Another key concern was setting up better transport links to the rest of the country, with people calling for the urgent dualling of the A47 in Great Yarmouth and progression on the Third Crossing in Lowestoft. One person even suggested a passenger ferry to the Netherlands.
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“The transport links [in Great Yarmouth] are archaic with no direct rail link to Lowestoft and a sporadic bus service that doesn’t run to accommodate working hours to those who may work in Norwich or further afield,” Kim Russell said.
Another resident added: “A passenger ferry crossing to our overseas cousins in Holland would open up a whole wealth of financial and cultural exchange. This could be funded privately by Liverpool port for example, who own the outer harbour. Opening a route to Europe would send out an important message to our neighbours and friends and the amount of boost in local tourism would confirm that.”
A Lowestoft resident noted similar concerns, suggesting the money should be used to “build the third bridge that’s been promised for ages, and fix most of the roads in Lowestoft as nearly every one has major potholes.”
If you want to leave suggestions for how £25m could be spent in Great Yarmouth or Lowestoft, take part in the government’s consultation here