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Community comes together

PUBLISHED: 05:20 23 February 2015

Regenerate community group in North Walsham led by Rob Scammell and Jenny Harmer.  Photo by Mark Bullimore

Regenerate community group in North Walsham led by Rob Scammell and Jenny Harmer. Photo by Mark Bullimore

Archant Norfolk

Regenerate North Walsham has a simple plan – to transform the town into a thriving community where people want to live, work and play, explains Rachel Buller.

A group of passionate North Walsham residents and business people are spearheading a new initiative to transform their town into a thriving community boasting great shopping and entrepreneurial opportunity

Regenerate was set up in the autumn and has already made an impact, with a successful programme of events that took place over the Christmas period, thanks to the hard work of its volunteers.

Now it is preparing for the first of its new monthly farmers’ markets, which it is hoped will be the next step in attracting more people into the town and boosting footfall.

The organisation was the brainchild of businessman Rob Scammell, and his energy and enthusiasm has seen it quickly gather pace. Rob, who runs Café Kitale and The Furniture Hut, says: “I felt that whenever people talked about the town centre on local forums it was always very negative, a complaint. So I put my head above the parapet and suggested if we all worked together we could make a really positive change. So many people got behind me that I sensed that it was a feeling we all shared. As well as those on Regenerate committee, we have got 350 members on Facebook and a fast growing Twitter following already, which is fantastic. It is all about the community, the more you can regenerate the community, the more people will want to stay in the town and the more they will want to get involved, talk about it and bring it to people’s attention.”

The town has a population of approximately 13,500 people and there are hundreds of new homes in the pipeline.

“It is still a very affordable for families in this area of Norfolk and we don’t want that to change, but we want to make it in to a fantastic place to live and to visit and stay, and to challenge perceptions. There are more buildings listed in a conservation area than any town in north Norfolk, yet you don’t hear people referring to that.

“We also want to break away from the idea of it just having an older population. It is not the case, there is a huge youth population in the town, with the high school and of course Paston Sixth Form College, which itself has this incredible history.”

Among the ideas earmarked for the town by Regenerate are the regular farmers’ markets on the last Saturday of every month starting in January; incentives for shops and businesses to smarten up their buildings’ exteriors, and to launch regular events and festivals. It will also be working on grant applications to fund new projects for the community.

Jenny Harmer, who runs Chimney’s bed and breakfast in North Walsham, is one of the group’s founding members.

“Regenerate aims to bring fresh ideas to the town, to get everyone working together, to build that feel-good factor and to make people want to come here. We want people to be proud of their town.”

She says the farmers’ markets are a simple way to attract visitors and residents to come into the town.

The group has enlisted the help of chef Charlie Hodson in his role as a Norfolk Food and Drink Festival Champion. Charlie, who is executive chef at The Great Hospital in Norwich, has helped attract a range of suppliers and stallholders to the monthly market and it is hoped it will also play a part in this year’s food festival.

“The idea of the markets is to bring people into the town regularly - which, in turn, benefits shops and cafes - by offering them something new. We also want people to start thinking about North Walsham as a food destination long term,” says Jenny.

“If we can promote the excellent businesses we have here and all the different things the town has on offer to the community, it will help encourage entrepreneurs and new businesses to consider moving here. People want to be part of a winning team and that is the momentum and mentality we want to create. I am confident that we will put North Walsham on the map and that it will become a destination where people want to live and visit.”

The North Walsham farmers’ market will be held on the last Saturday of every month, starting on January 31. See www.facebook.com/groups/471124013030823.

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