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Meet the Cabinet: ‘We need to shout from the hilltops to boost our tourism,’ West Norfolk councillor says

More must be done to promote our area as a tourist destination, according to the borough councillor tasked with achieving that aim.

Cllr Simon Ring is West Norfolk Council’s new cabinet member for tourism, events and marketing, having taken on that role when the Independent group took minority control alongside the Greens and Liberal Democrats in May.

He first got involved in local politics after semi-retiring in 2020, aiming to make a difference to decisions he felt were not being made “for the greater good of the borough and its people”.

West Norfolk borough councillor Simon Ring
West Norfolk borough councillor Simon Ring

A strong believer that national issues should not play any role at the borough council’s level, he has always been an Independent – despite being approached by a party on one occasion.

Now, he is looking at ways to bolster the number of holidaymakers who opt to visit the borough on their travels – an issue he thinks has been left to fester for too long.

This comes as coastal towns such as Hunstanton aim to restore themselves to the heights of the 1980s.

“In my opinion, we don’t do anywhere near enough to promote Lynn and West Norfolk as a tourist destination,” Cllr Ring said.

“We have three strands to our tourism product – coastal, heritage and culture. Hunstanton businesses do a tremendous job of promoting themselves nationally and we need to support them more.

“Our heritage and culture is sadly the best-kept secret in the country and we need to shout from the highest hilltops and reveal those secrets.

“Lynn has the second-highest number of listed buildings per capita in the country, we have more listed buildings by number than York, and we have the oldest working theatre, St George’s Guildhall, in the country. The first performance was more than 300 years before Google’s claimed oldest theatre.

“We need to make significant improvements to our online promotion of all things West Norfolk.”

Cllr Ring has other aims, too. He says he is frustrated by our borough being “largely ignored” in county-wide decisions when it comes to business, distributing funds, and opportunities in sport.

He believes that youngsters in our area have to demonstrate “extra-special” talent in order to be taken seriously by elite sport teams.

And he also hopes to further boost the events industry in the borough, which he admits is thriving at the moment – with Festival Too drawing in record crowds last weekend.

He also praised the Fawkes in the Walks showpiece, and hopes to oversee the return of another popular festival.

“I’d like to see the return of the Hanse Festival, which celebrates such an important part of Lynn and West Norfolk’s history,” Cllr Ring said.

“The council has been excellent at putting on and supporting many public events that are free to attend.

“I would like to see this range of events expanded and a greater level of co-ordination with other events, more business support, especially from those directly benefiting from the massively-increased footfall on event days, and much more marketing of the events to the rest of the country and indeed internationally.”

The new borough council cabinet, under leader Terry Parish, held its first official meeting last week.

Members largely discussed the council’s performance against previously set targets, and Cllr Ring said it was a “one-off” meeting in which there were few objections to deal with.

He admits he was “somewhat surprised” to be invited onto the cabinet, but added: “However, given my self-confessed obsession with West Norfolk, its heritage and its beauty, I suppose this cabinet position was almost made for me.

“I am determined to give the confidence shown in me justice.

“As we largely campaigned on an Independent ticket we were unable to form a manifesto before the election, otherwise we would have just been another political party.

“So, we now have the task of bringing together the ideas from all of the talents within our group and forming the corporate plan for the officers to follow.

“The great benefit of this is that fresh ideas, right across the political spectrum, can be married together to create a completely cohesive approach to local government.”

Behind the councillor: Who is Cllr Ring away from the hustle and bustle of local politics?

“I have always been a lover of sports, with my focus now on rugby and cricket. I can often be found down at West Norfolk Rugby Club on a Saturday afternoon or at North Runcton watching my sons and grandchildren play cricket.

“I am a beekeeper and a member of a project that is trying to help re-introduce the native Black Bee (Apis melifera melifera) across the country.

“I often say that a colony of bees is 65,000 souls with one brain. Wouldn’t that make for a great world, everyone of one mind working for the greater good?”

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