Yarmouth's push for economic boost

STEPHEN PULLINGER A senior council officer has voiced fears that Yarmouth's regeneration could be held back if a regional economic strategy is approved that places the emphasis for growth until 2030 on the greater Norwich area.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

A senior council officer has voiced fears that Yarmouth's regeneration could be held back if a regional economic strategy is approved that places the emphasis for growth until 2030 on the greater Norwich area.

Tim Howard, the borough council's regeneration officer, was disappointed that while the 164-page draft strategy set out by the East of England Development Agency (Eeda) identifies the greater Norwich area as one of the region's “seven engines for growth”, earmarking it for 35,000 new jobs, there appeared to be “no specific economic strategic proposals for coastal towns”.

Despite receiving millions of pounds of European and government funding, and the success of such new schemes to help business as the Local Enterprise Growth Initiative that supports start-up companies and young entrepreneurs, Yarmouth's continued dire needs are shown by a new economic study of Britain's coastal towns.

The research by The Local Futures Group, a consultancy that helps local authorities in strategic thinking, shows that while many towns on the south coast have managed to diversify and attract new business - exemplified by the case of Brighton with its cultural and creative industries - other coastal communities, including Yarmouth, are facing a much tougher economic struggle.

Assessing towns over a number of indices, on an A to E scale, Yarmouth scores Ds for the size of its economy and its average earnings.

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And it only scores Es for the number of businesses in the area, the level of education of people of working age, the proportion of residents in employment, the percentage in knowledge-driven - skilled - jobs, and the level of deprivation.

John Fisher, a director of The Local Futures Group, said coastal towns like Yarmouth could not depend on tourism - even if it remained strong - because it generated only lowly paid jobs. “They need to work hard at getting the economy working,” he said.

But he emphasised that Yarmouth had positive assets in housing affordability and its natural environment (scoring Bs) and in the longer term the “quality-of-life card” was an important one to play.

People were becoming increasingly disenchanted with commuting to the office, and advances in technology would increasingly allow them to work remotely and spend less time in cities.

In preparing the council's response to Eeda's draft proposals before the end of November, Mr Howard said the arrival of the outer harbour would be the catalyst for substantial growth in the Yarmouth area - but the fact it was not identified in the strategy as a growth area raised fears it might not so readily receive grant assistance in the future.

He said: “The market does not have the momentum yet to be self-sustaining and we still need help to get a head of steam up sufficient to get us over the hill. We will be putting our case to Eeda so we don't get left in no man's land.”

Attempting to ease the fears, an Eeda spokesman said: “We see both Yarmouth and Lowestoft as the region's primary regeneration area and would expect funding to be prioritised accordingly. This is reflected in Eeda's wholehearted support for the Yarmouth and Lowestoft Urban Regeneration Company and the development of the outer harbour.”

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