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Vision for Walsham's future takes shape

PUBLISHED: 09:32 24 January 2008 | UPDATED: 08:49 13 July 2010

A VISION for the future of “under-achieving” North Walsham will be thrashed out at a series of meetings expected to get under way next month.

Business men and women, councillors, young people and others with a stake in the town's well-being will be invited to take part.

A VISION for the future of “under-achieving” North Walsham will be thrashed out at a series of meetings expected to get under way next month.

Business men and women, councillors, young people and others with a stake in the town's well-being will be invited to take part.

It is hoped the think tank's decisions will eventually lead to the appointment of a town centre manager to promote the town's shops and attractions and encourage projects aimed at making North Walsham more appealing.

The move follows a public meeting earlier this month to discuss the results of a feasibility study into town centre management for North Walsham, commissioned by the town council and regeneration group the Griffon Area Partnership.

Consultant Nigel Boldero identified his most overriding finding as: “the feeling by most people that North Walsham… lacks an overall sense of 'vision' - a positive, collective view of what the town is currently, and what it is trying to become, especially economically.”

Mr Boldero also highlighted a “significant leakage” of spending away from the town, despite its ever-increasing population.

Unless the trend was halted and more local jobs created, North Walsham would become a dormitory town, he warned.

The loss of manufacturing plants, a lack of higher quality shops, parking charges, traffic problems and “general dowdiness” were among negative features noted by Mr Boldero's 35 interviewees, who also felt the town under-played its tourism potential.

Speakers at the meeting included Steve Peters, town centre manager at Bury St Edmunds. The town had used regular events, including continental markets, to attract shoppers and generate cash, he said.

Traders also decided which businesses they wanted in Bury and approached them directly. As a result Lakeland and Fat Face would both be opening there.

Mike Jones, partnership development manager with Griffon, said those at the meeting had all been: “very positive about taking ideas forwards to improve the town.”

Colin Page, chairman of North Walsham's newly-formed chamber of trade, said the study's findings were “quite good” but success would ultimately depend on appointing the right person as a manager.

He believes tempting people to linger in North Walsham by offering a rich mix of shops is crucial and said there were currently opportunities to “inject new life” into the heart of the town with a number of vacant premises, including the former Country Mutual Insurance offices and Edwards bakery, both in Market Place.

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