Fakenham fights the credit crunch
Chris HillFakenham councillors said positive progress was being made to fill empty commercial premises as the town battles to recover from a string of business closures.Chris Hill
Fakenham councillors said positive progress was being made to fill empty commercial premises as the town battles to recover from a string of business closures.
The recent demise of Woolworths and the impending closure of the central Crown Hotel this Saturday has left the town reeling - but also spurred several groups into action.
Business leaders have called for a public meeting on the future of Fakenham and a group was created on social networking site Facebook, committed to kick-starting the community's spirit.
And at a town council meeting on Tuesday , members were told that more work was going on 'behind the scenes' which could soon bear fruit for the local economy.
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Councillor Ann Chappel said she had discussed the situation with London-based Wildmoor Properties, which owns the Crown and Woolworths buildings and the Miller's Walk shopping precinct.
'Things are not brilliant, but behind the scenes things are really happening,' she said. 'Obviously this will not happen overnight, but if what I have heard is true then we have some degree of progress to look forward to.
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'Of the two empty premises in Miller's Walk, one has already been let to the British Heart Foundation.
'As far as Woolworths is concerned there were several companies which approached Wildmoor with a view to renting that property but they were all of the cheap shop variety and Wildmoor did not want to go down that route. They are instead looking to put a package together to attract significant national retailers.'
The town council also discussed an idea to smarten the appearance of lifeless shops by displaying school artwork in empty windows until new tenants could be found.
Cllr Chappel urged her fellow councillors to make a visible example by shopping in independent town centre stores. She then asked district and county councillors to lobby against planned rises in business rates and consider periods of free parking to tempt shoppers into the town.
'Any measure that can be employed to help local businesses should be used,' she said. 'It is a matter of enormous urgency.'
Before the meeting, a spokesman for Wildmoor said promising discussions were continuing with a potential new operator for the Crown Hotel.