Agenda item

Market Town Initiative

To receive a verbal update from the Communities Manager on how the Market Town Initiative is working across the five market towns.


The Communities and Environmental Services Manager provided Members with an update on the Market Town Initiative.


Members had agreed £250,000 would be invested to ensure the market towns within the District were economically viable with a unique sense of identity.  The launch of the new Shop-Appy initiative offered residents an easy way to shop locally.  An event had been planned for business communities in Swaffham to discuss how they could work together collaboratively.


Work was underway to support Thetford Town Council who were preparing a Heritage Lottery bid to provide funding to promote the historic features of the town.

In addition, work was underway with both Swaffham and Watton Town Councils who looked to enhance the signage along the Peddars Way walk.


The ‘Glutton’ had been purchased to be used across the market towns and good feedback had been received on how this had cleaned up hard to reach areas within the towns.


The next step involved developing a project to raise awareness within the communities and how to improve infrastructure going forward.  Members were informed that recruitment was underway for a Market Town Initiative Officer, who would aim to work with the market towns to deliver projects. 


Councillor Hewett was pleased to hear about the initiatives, but asked for a fact sheet to enable Councillors to share information with the Parish Councils.  The Communities and Environmental Services Manager felt that communication was important and that communities understood the co-ordinated activities to protect the market towns.  He suggested a monthly newsletter could be sent to Members to share with Parish Councils.  Members supported this idea and he would ask the Market Town Initiative Officer to initiate the work when they were in post.


Councillor Richmond asked for a breakdown on how much the Glutton had cost per household.  It was a suggestion that the Communities and Environmental Services Manager would look into.


Councillor Matthews was pleased to hear of the number of people that used the Shop-Appy within Swaffham and that it was a fantastic idea.


Councillor Turner asked how the App was monitored, as she was aware that whilst a number of shops were listed, products had not been uploaded. Members were advised that Officers were working with businesses to support them in updating their pages.


Members were informed that the Shop-Appy had been operational for just over 2 months, and 98 businesses had already signed up.  A target of 200 businesses had been set. Google analytics was being used to track information that would be discussed with the businesses to improve the usage of the app.  Support was being given to businesses by holding training events.


Councillor Jermy encouraged Members to read the Mary Portas report that  highlighted the local high street should focus on their niche to provide an enjoyable customer experience.  He had sympathy that it was a challenge and felt disappointed businesses in Thetford had not listed their products on the App.  He asked what level of subsidy would be given if all 200 shops signed up.  It was confirmed that if all businesses did signed up for a year it would be a cost of £38,000.


Councillor Richmond asked what support could be given to rural areas to improve transport that would help residents get into the market towns.  It was explained there was ongoing discussion with Norfolk County Council to improve public transport links.