Which two Norfolk shopping destinations have earned praise from English Heritage?

Views of Holt. Fish Hill.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Views of Holt. Fish Hill.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

English Heritage has singled out a picturesque Norfolk market town and a Norwich shopping mall among top British examples of historic areas successfully adapting to the changing world of retail.

Intu Chapelfield mall, in Norwich.

Intu Chapelfield mall, in Norwich. - Credit: Archant © 2007

Holt in north Norfolk is praised for 'punching above its weight' with its varied independent shops while intu Chapelfield is highlighted for the successful way it fits into the surrounding historic cityscape.

Byfords shop and cafe, Holt.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Byfords shop and cafe, Holt.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The two are listed among 'good practice' case study towns and cities across the country which have used innovation and imagination to adapt to modern retail conditions, against the backdrop of a tough economic climate.

Findings are published in new English Heritage research into the latest retail and property trends, and their implications for historic town centres over the next few years.

Now English Heritage - the government body which advises on caring for the historic environment - plans to spread the good news about Holt and Norwich among local authorities, retailers and developers nationwide.

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It wants to tell them what has been achieved in case study areas, in the hope of encouraging others to 'raise their aspirations for the future of their much-loved high streets.'

The research gives a special mention to the conversion of Byfords in Holt, which it says has helped bring visitors to the Georgian town with its café, and 'very high quality' boutique-style bed and breakfast accommodation.

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Owners Iain and Clair Wilson, who took over the former Paige's café in 2000, invested £3m converting the grade two-listed 17th-century building, which is believed to be the oldest house in Holt. The conversion was carried out over more than a decade.

Today it boasts an award-winning, 16-bedroomed 'posh B&B', self-contained holiday flat, café and restaurant, delicatessen, a pizza takeaway service, and outside catering business.

Mr Wilson said they had worked closely with North Norfolk District Council's planning department towards a common goal which benefited not only Byfords and its customers, but the local area.

'Byfords has helped keep Holt alive, while Holt has helped keep Byfords alive - it's a thriving business which draws people in, with customers then taking a look around the town's art galleries and shops and spending money in the local community,' said Mr Wilson.

Similarly customers visiting Holt's galleries and shops often stopped off at Byfords for a coffee. Byfords also employed local people and used local suppliers, which had a positive impact on the area.

Mr Wilson added: 'Customers appreciate this and like to frequent the place because of this, and so it's a self-fulfilling circle.'

Mary Alexander, vice chairman of the Holt Society, said the town was 'on-trend' with many people seeking it out because its shops were not homogenous.

'Because the properties are small in the main, they haven't suffered from the blight of chain stores and those we do have - Joules and Fat Face - tend to want to work with us. Fat Face went out of its way to modify its windows and corporate signage to fit in with Appleyard,' said Mrs Alexander.

'Holt has a distinct identity and in the main shopkeepers respect that sense of place. The Holt Society has always been of the view that good design is good for business and the majority of businesses understand and embrace that.'

A spokesman for Chapelfield said since opening in 2005, the centre, which contained more than 90 shops, cafés and restaurants, had become a major attraction in the region, helping to cement Norwich's ranking among the UK's top 10 shopping destinations.

Baroness Andrews, chairman of English Heritage, said people were increasingly looking for more to their shopping trips and the success stories showed how investing in historic buildings created successful 'destinations': 'places which attract people because they make shopping a much more pleasant and enjoyable experience.'

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