King’s Lynn events programme ‘can drive economic growth’ - council

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Lynn’s programme of public events can help to attract new investment and jobs to the town, a West Norfolk Council committee has heard.

A new report has revealed that around £150,000 was spent by the authority to help stage a series of events throughout the spring and summer.

The schedule has been credited with driving substantial increases visitor numbers in the town centre.

And, with officials exploring the possibility of extending the programme further, council leader Brian Long believes it can unlock much wider economic benefits, particularly given the growing importance of business rates to the funding of council services.

Speaking at a meeting of the Lynn area consultative committee on Wednesday, he said: “If we can carry on events like this for this modest amount and keep people coming to King’s Lynn, national retailers and entrepreneurs will see it’s a vibrant town.

“That will attract investment. That creates jobs and wealth and, for a relatively modest sum, we’re doing our bit.

“It’s up to shops and restaurants to benefit on that through their own attractiveness.

“Going forward we’re looking to have additional events with organisations.

“As they come forward, we will look to accommodate them where we can.”

Although figures have not yet been released for the most recent events, last month’s Heritage Open Day and Classic Car Day, the meeting was told that footfall figures in the town centre were up more than 10 per cent on last year for the Hanse weekend in May alone.

The totals were also up by 7.6 per cent for the Mods and Rockers day in August, and six per cent for the Folk Festival and Fairytales and Legends events.

Chris Bamfield, the council’s executive director of commercial services, said: “When you look at footfall figures for town centres, they’re mostly holding their own or down slightly. King’s Lynn is bucking that trend.

“You can’t say thats just down to a programme of events but the feedback we’re getting from traders and residents is that its fantastic to come into King’s Lynn and have things going on.

“We said it wasn’t just about those events but people perceiving King’s Lynn as a better place to come to shop and experience the town.”

Committee vice-chairman Andy Tyler said he would support efforts to expand the programme.

And Thomas Smith asked whether some particularly popular events could be staged on two separate occasions, near the beginning and the end of the main tourism season.

He said: “The return we’re getting is astonishing. There’s no reason we can’t do it more than once a year. It’s not Christmas.”

Planning is already underway for next year and Mr Bamfield revealed that another of the programme’s highlights, the Hanseatic Waterski races which are held on the River Great Ouse, has already developed an international reputation.

He said: “They’ve been given priority in terms of the dates for their event because the European association they’re part of recognises that is probably the best event on their tour.”

Many of the events have been organised in conjunction with the Vancouver Quarter shopping precinct and the meeting was told officials hope to attract the support of other commercial partners.

Mr Bamfield said the proposed King’s Lynn BID scheme could also provide extra financial backing if the plan is approved by traders.

Voting on the scheme opens today and continues until November 8.