Future’s looking bright as town launches initiative

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THE business community in Stowmarket has launched an innovative new scheme with the aim of boosting the town’s economy.

Representatives from the private and public sectors gathered last Thursday at Barnards VW showroom to launch Stowmarket Town Centre Partnership.

The project aims to bring together the private and public sectors to advance, promote and improve the town and to increase Stowmarket’s revenue and investment.

The partnership also aims to create a prosperous and attractive town centre that encourages residents to shop locally and visitors to return to the town.

Peter Down, chairman of Stowmarket Chamber of Commerce, said: “We want residents and tourists to spend money in our shops. We want to encourage visitors to come to our town not once, but time after time.”

The project also aims to create an easily accessible and safe town centre with a sense of community. It is hoped that the partnership will enhance the potential for tourism in Stowmarket, attract inward investment, support self-help initiatives and encourage development that is sensitive to local priorities.

Mr Down acknowledged that Stowmarket faces a challenge competing with Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.

“If we want tourists to come here we have got to somehow find a niche,” he said.

Backed by Stowmarket Town Council, the ultimate goal is that the initiative will lead to an increased footfall and an increase in economic activity in the market town.

The partnership will also see the launch of the StowCard, a loyalty card for shops and businesses.

Poppy Robinson, Mayor of Stowmarket, said: “This partnership is very significant.

“Business is really important, it’s the life blood of the town. If we have got good business then we have got people coming into the town, moving in and living in the town.”

David Ruffley MP gave a speech at the launch event and said he was ‘full of optimism’ for the future of Stowmarket.

The MP described the town as a ‘deeply attractive place to live’ and said it was ‘a great community’.

“It’s still got a great population. It’s a warm and welcoming town,” he said.

Mark Strachan, Stowmarket town centre manager, hosted the event and introduced the partnership to local people and businesses.

Mr Ruffley and Mr Down both gave speeches to those who attended along with Joanne Rogers, Forest Heath town centre manager, and David Blackburn, Stowmarket town clerk.

Mr Blackburn said: “We’re absolutely delighted to support the launch of the town centre partnership. We see it as a tremendous opportunity for the town.”

The scheme, which will be private sector led, is part funded by Stowmarket Town Council, Mid Suffolk District Council and Suffolk County Council. It is hoped that the partnership will be self-sustaining after three years.