Market Towns Programme (for information) (Agenda item 16)
Verbal report by Rob Walker, the Executive Director of Place.
Rob Walker, the Executive Director for Place, provided Members with a detailed and informative presentation. The presentation covered the Breckland Market Town Initiative (MTI), and what it was endeavouring to achieve and what it had achieved already. Information was also provided in respect of the Council’s Community Reserve that was established in June 2018 following Cabinet approval for projects that provided a social return on investment or to address specific local issues. The Executive Director was accompanied by Stephen James, the Communities and Environmental Services Manager and Ryan Baxter, the creator of the BreckWorld App - a demonstration of the App formed part of the presentation.
Members were delighted to hear that in 18 months since Members agreed to the formation of the MTI, under the banner of ‘One District, Five Towns’, the funding had supported the development of:
· ShopAppy – an initiative that supported businesses across the district to help market towns to gain footfall and customers. ShopAppy.com was a fantastic solution for busy people who wanted to shop local but did not have the time. It also provided opportunity for business owners/retailers to promote items and offers to the residents of Breckland. In terms of interest, since it started, there had been just under 400,000 visits to the Breckland pages for this particular app of those, just under 150,000 were classed as unique views - individual people looking at what was happening in Breckland.
· Twelve Elves of Christmas – this encouraged family fun and participation asking everyone who took part to look out and find over 100 elves hidden within independent shops in the five market towns. A reward was offered to residents who found 12 of the elves; some of which had been included on the ShopAppy site. This was a real success over Christmas that attracted 2,500 people visiting the shops.
· BreckWorld – another App, taking Breckland into the 21st century using new and emerging technologies, to put some of the things that everyone already had in the District out there to residents and tourists alike. This Virtual Reality App showcased things to do and places to go in the Breckland District using a 360º video camera. This would give someone an immersive experience of a particular place. The benefits of the App were explained.
· Swaffham Buttercross – MTI had funded Swaffham Town Council to improve the Buttercross, a key central point within the town.
· The Glutton – a machine/large vacuum cleaner that went to all five towns cleaning the detritus and eradicated the old brush and pan methods.
· Butten Island in Thetford – due to it being near the Riverside complex, improvements were being made; the first stage being clearing the space which was still on-going to hopefully lead onto a much larger project alongside the river, making it a pleasant place for people to visit.
· Thetford Murals – supporting the Town Council in funding a second mural making a visible difference to the historic part of the town
· Dereham Town Centre Pre-Feasibility Study – funding the Town Council for a piece of work under consideration to re-design the use of the town centre; in relation to how it looked and how transport flowed through the market place.
· On the Green – these events were held in the summer outside the Riverside development in Thetford funded via the Council’s Asset Team.
· Swaffham and Watton Market Stalls – both towns had made a joint pitch to the Council for investment in their market stalls and location of the current market in Watton.
· Watton and Swaffham Park Runs - park runs are a massive success in attracting significant numbers of people to the towns taking account of the wider benefits these events would have on the towns.
· Dereham Wayfinder – this was all about street furniture/signage and directing people visiting Dereham to places of interest.
The MTI had been and was still both a challenge and an opportunity for the Council to keep Breckland’s five towns moving forward at the same pace and with the same enthusiasm. The Council was keen to see delivery right across the District and improvement in all five of its market towns.
Future projects included car parking enforcement trials in Swaffham and Attleborough, Business Rates Reduction Scheme and Norfolk County Council’s Market Town Transport studies.
The funding allocations thus far for each of the market towns were also highlighted and explained.
Members were then provided with a presentation and demonstration of the BreckWorld App. The BreckWorld App, yet to be publically launched, was available to download from the App Store.
Councillor Wassell congratulated the Team and the Executive Director of Place for this initiative.
Councillor Wilkin mentioned the banks in the market towns that were continually closing and were pushing more and more for people to use their on-line services. Referring to the Breckworld App, he felt that parking in the area should be included and another idea would be to relax the planning policies to enable tables and chairs to be located outside cafes and restaurants in the towns particularly as the summers were getting longer and hotter. The Executive Director of Place said that all ideas would be taken on board; however, the banks were outside of the Council’s control that was the reason for focusing on multiuse town centres.
Councillor Dimoglou was inspired by the BreckWorld App and in response to a question, Ryan Baxter the creator of the App said that it could be viewed from home using virtual reality.
Members were informed that the capability of what Ryan had developed was significant and was a benefit working for the Council.
The Chairman thanked the staff involved for all the hard work that had gone into all the above projects.