£128k to help Suffolk towns combat fears of decline
PUBLISHED: 05:33 07 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:14 07 February 2020
A six-figure fund has been set up for improvement works in East Suffolk town centres to combat declining business turnover and negative perceptions.
East Suffolk Council commissioned People and Places to carry out research on the health of 10 key towns in the district, following a pilot with Southwold in 2018.
Those studies warned there was a common trend of significantly declining turnover for businesses, issues with parking and public transport availability, and negative perceptions on things like retail offering, food and drink outlets and some leisure facilities.
Following the findings, East Suffolk Council's cabinet on Tuesday agreed to work with each town centre's stakeholder group to come up with more concrete proposals and use £30,000 from the council's reserves - added to £98,000 existing funding - to create a £128,000 seed pot that will fund work to kick-start measures.
Craig Rivett, East Suffolk Council's Conservative deputy leader and cabinet member for economic development, said: "Town centres across the country have seen a decline for a number of years and the research carried out by People and Places helps the council understand the specific issues, challenges and opportunities that our local town centres face.
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"Our town centres play a vital role in the community they serve by providing a range of local services.
"Furthermore, they are also local economic drivers providing employment and enterprise opportunities and contributing to the overall economic health of the district.
"The proposed next phase is to work collaboratively with each town centre stakeholder group to move to the action planning phase.
"This will involve working with the various stakeholders in each town to look more closely at the findings and start developing a plan which can help assess their priorities and develop proposals/projects to take forward with support from the Council to enable greater resilience, sustainability and growth.
"We are committed to strengthening town economies and support local businesses associations, town councils and partner organisations to create vibrant market towns that are attractive to residents, businesses and visitors."
Alongside the pilot that assessed Southwold town centre, the other studies were for Aldeburgh, Beccles, Bungay, Felixstowe, Framlingham, Halesworth, Leiston, Lowestoft, Wickham Market and Woodbridge.
Despite the drive, the opposition Labour group has questioned whether the council needed to spend money on using People and Places as it felt there was enough expertise in house.