Top awards for market towns

RICHARD BATSON A trio of Norfolk towns have swept the board at regional awards praising projects which have boosted life in local communities. Cromer led the way by picking up the overall East of England crown with its Merchants' Place community and learning centre, and will go on fly the flag in the National Market Town Awards.

RICHARD BATSON

A trio of Norfolk towns have swept the board at regional awards praising projects which have boosted life in local communities.

Cromer led the way by picking up the overall East of England crown with its Merchants' Place community and learning centre, and will go on fly the flag in the National Market Town Awards.

It also won the partnership and strategic working award, while there was another North Norfolk success through the North Walsham-based Griffon partnership, which won the social and community section for its Apple Pip Project, boosting access to social and training courses.

And the Wayland Partnership picked up the business and economy award for the business support being offered in Watton's converted police station.

The Cromer scheme provides a range of training courses, including IT, as well as community facilities from advice to a youth drop-in. It is run by the Cromer Past Present Future regeneration group and the Poppyland Partnership, whose co-ordinator, Catherine Plewman, said they were thrilled by its success - attracting 2,500 people a month, when they had forecast 1,000.

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It would also be the official carnival office this year for the first time, and was now looking for funding to carry on its work when the current grants ran out at the end of the year.

Judges said the project was “exemplary in every way” combining thorough research and planning to produce a “valued and treasured asset”.

The Apple Pip scheme, at North Walsham, aimed to “sow seeds of learning” in a community with low levels of educational achievement and aspirations, by providing courses - and transport to help access them.

Grants helped put disabled access on a touring play bus, and bought a karaoke machine for a special needs group which saw a quiet young man find his voice through singing, said David Gosling, chairman of the Griffon Partnership.

Wayland's Building the Business scheme provides rented starter offices, mentoring, training and boardrooms.

It had helped ventures including desktop design and telecommunications.

The centre also hosts tourist information, learning clubs, youth and health support.

The only other winner in the four regional categories covering six counties, was at Ramsey, in Cambridgeshire, where a waterside regeneration scheme won the environment and culture award.

Cromer will learn whether it wins national glory at the Action for Market Towns convention being held at Newmarket on September 26-27.

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