Norfolk, Suffolk towns get cash boost

Emily DennisSeven market towns on the Norfolk/Suffolk border are being given the chance to bid for substantial grants to boost the economy in the Waveney Valley.Emily Dennis

Seven market towns in south Norfolk and north Suffolk are being given the chance to bid for substantial grants to boost the local economy.

Groups at Beccles, Bungay, Diss, Eye, Harleston, Halesworth and Loddon are being asked to submit ideas that would benefit the economies of their towns and the wider area.

Each town is able to bid for a minimum of �40,000 of funding to make its ideas a reality.

The Market Towns Initiative was launched yesterday by the Waveney Valley Local Action Group, a partnership of entrepreneurs and professionals representing interests in farming, rural businesses, community and tourism.

Representatives from each of the towns were invited to South Norfolk Council's offices, where the initiative and bidding process was explained.

They will have until the end of June to submit proposals for "round one" grants under �50,000, with a further round running later in the year, and then until December to submit bids for grants of more than �50,000.

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Although each town is invited to decide what measures would benefit their local economy the most, it is intended that any bids should include ideas which:

Support basic services for the economy and rural population.

Encourage tourism activities.

Prioritise the conservation and upgrading of rural heritage.

A year ago, the action group received �3.3m as part of a successful bid for European funding by the Rural Enterprise Hub at Easton College and Norfolk County Council.

Projects progressing through the application process include creating new micro-enterprises and supporting farmers diversifying out of agriculture, but the new initiative is aimed specifically at the market towns.

Bonnie Robinson, programme manager, said: "Funding has been secured for the whole of the Waveney Valley area, but this new initiative will ensure the businesses and people of the market towns specifically benefit from the programme."

Patricia Holtom, who chairs the local action group, said: "The abundance of small, unspoilt, working market towns with their historic centres has been identified as being of considerable importance to the economy of the Waveney Valley.

"This programme creates an opportunity for them to identify a particular aspect of their town that could benefit from the grants available, or to work together to develop some interesting projects that would benefit the area as a whole. It should prove to be an exciting and rewarding challenge."

Individual applications for funding can be made to the programme n parallel with the initiative.

Funding is available for agri-business development and diversification, sustainable rural tourism, local food and rural business development.

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