Work is to begin on the production of a detailed plan to support the economy of Reepham.
Cambridge-based Ingham Pinnock Associates have been appointed to prepare the strategy, backed by Broadland District Council’s Recession Mitigation Fund. The fund was created at the height of the financial crisis and has been supporting businesses and communities across the district by developing projects to help drive local economic growth and combat the national downturn.
In Norfolk, the consultants have already prepared a strategy for Aylsham and are finalising a similar project for Acle. Their latest brief is to take a fresh look at the economy of Reepham, a traditional rural market town, and identify small-scale projects and programmes that can help the town sustain its important role while retaining its character.
Ross Ingham of Ingham Pinnock Associates said the fund will be used to give practical advice to support the local economy: “While recognising that Reepham is successful, there are challenges ahead, particularly for the independent business sector, which contributes so much to the town.”
On a national level, traditional town centres are vulnerable due to increased competition from the internet and supermarkets, which has been exacerbated by the double-dip recession and contracting disposable income.
This fragility was demonstrated in Reepham last year by the impact of the temporary closure of the HSBC bank on local traders.
“These issues and many others are even more acute in rural areas that lack infrastructure and services and are often overlooked in favour of larger towns and cities,” said Mr Ingham. “Reepham is still a thriving market town with a real sense of community. But there are real trends out there.”
Kate Pinnock added: “You need to make sure you know where you’re going and keep one step ahead of these challenges and opportunities. There are genuine mechanisms, funds and tools available that we can highlight.”
Ingham Pinnock is in the process of setting up a Town Team comprising representatives from local community organisations to help produce a strategy over the coming months. The first meeting of this steering group is planned for January 15 in the Bircham Centre, Reepham.
Also in January, the consultants will start a process of detailed research and consultation, and will be spending time in the town meeting local people, businesses and groups.
It is also proposed to hold some form of wider consultation event towards the end of the month. A Facebook page – Reepham Economic Strategy – has been set up for interested people to feed into this work and keep track of progress. Signing up for e-mail updates is also possible through the Ingham Pinnock website