North Walsham 'on course' to ride out recession
NORTH Walsham is on course to ride out the recession - defying earlier gloom and doom predictions.But a 'Wake up Walsham!' call has gone out this week, alerting the town to missed opportunities for boosting trade still further.
NORTH Walsham is on course to ride out the recession - defying earlier gloom and doom predictions.
But a 'Wake up Walsham!' call has gone out this week, alerting the town to missed opportunities for boosting trade still further.
Matthew Champion, the town's temporary town centre development manager, said in-depth talks with traders and others in the town had revealed an upbeat mood.
'Most traders are very positive and say business is better this year than last simply because of the recession - it made more people take their holidays in Norfolk.
'There have been more visitors to tourist areas like Cromer and Sheringham and they have also been visiting North Walsham's shops,' said Mr Champion, 43, who is halfway through a four-month post.
But even more would have found their way to Walsham with a bit of encouragement.
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'If you want people to spend their money in your town you've got to tell them what you've got to
offer, make sure there is
parking for them and help them find it,' he added.
Walsham had fewer empty shops than market towns such as Dereham, Swaffham and Fakenham, according to Mr Champion. It also boasted a wonderful collection of specialist independent shops, a weekly market and a rich heritage.
'We have a fantastic tourism opportunity here - one of prettiest market places anywhere in Norfolk and, slap-bang in the middle, one of the finest medieval buildings anywhere in Norfolk - the church is stunning.
'However, as with most of the historic buildings in North Walsham, there is very little interpretation.'
Better signs directing motorists to car parks were also badly needed and the town had no spaces for the growing number of motor homes, as well as caravans and coaches, touring Norfolk.
Mr Champion will produce a report towards the end of the year, detailing his findings and suggestions for projects aimed at securing the long-term wellbeing of the town.
His post, funded by the Griffon Area Partnership, is supported by the town centre development committee which includes representatives from the county, district and town councils, youth, chamber of trade, Griffon and police.
Town mayor Sheila Gadsden said Vicarage Street car park was under-used except on market days and had been identified in North Norfolk District Council's Local Development Framework as a possible site for redevelopment with shops and homes.
But she felt strongly that it should be kept for parking, including badly-needed motor home, caravan and coach spaces.
Chamber of trade chairman Colin Page said his members were also opposed to the possible loss of public parking in Vicarage Street and were seeking data on use of all the town's car parks. They would need to see 'pretty solid evidence' before accepting any reduction in spaces.
Mr Page agreed with Mr Champion that most Walsham shops appeared to be coping in the national economic downturn. He said: 'There was a stage when things looked very gloomy but they are looking up and hopefully it will stay that way.'