Follow Swaffham's lead, Breck towns told

PUBLISHED: 15:11 30 December 2008 | UPDATED: 11:08 08 July 2010

The future prosperity of Breckland's market towns lies in the hands of the people who live and work there, the district council's economic development chief has said.

The future prosperity of Breckland's market towns lies in the hands of the people who live and work there, the district council's economic development chief has said.

As the credit crunch continues to bite and high streets across Norfolk see big name stores such as Woolworths close, Mark Stanton, head of economic development at Breckland Council, has urged towns to develop their own vision for the future to help them rejuvenate.

He has held up work done by Swaffham Town Council and its partners as the example other towns should follow in order to attract the money needed to thrive into the future.

He said: “If market towns can come forward having devised a way to save themselves then Breckland Council can help by coming forward with expertise to make things happen.”

Like other market towns, shopping in Swaffham has declined in recent years with a number of shops in the market place and surrounding streets now vacant.

The closure of Woolworths, which will take place tomorrow is yet another blow.

The large Market Place shop was the town's only department store of any kind and it leaves another big whole in the town centre which has no immediate hope of being filled.

But Mr Stanton said that along with the immediate gloom there was hope for the future.

In November, after 18 months of work, Swaffham Town Group, a committee coordinated by the town council and the town's development partnership, unveiled a major in depth study of the town.

Four documents now offer a comprehensive analysis of everything from details of the people who live and work in the town to its economy, history and built environment.

The documents will act as a basis for Swaffham's new town plan. This will be published in spring and provides a solid foundation from which the council can pursue funding bids and attract inward investment.

Mr Stanton said: “What Swaffham has done is they have got themselves together and they have created a vision for the town.

“They have done some really good evidence based research and they have placed themselves in an excellent position so they can bid for funding to improve.”

Mr Stanton also urged shoppers to play their part in keeping their market towns alive.

He said: “People also have to be more responsible in the way they shop. The trouble is that culturally we are supermarket shoppers and we are not supporting out independent traders.

“People may say they would like to see a butcher and a deli in the town but then they go and buy everything from the supermarket.”

Copies of Swaffham's four reports can be viewed at the town council's website

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