Towns 'holding up' against recession

BUSINESS bosses championing some of the county's most historic towns last night said they were holding their own against the pressures of the recession.

Craig Robinson

BUSINESS bosses championing some of the county's most historic towns last night said they were holding their own against the pressures of the recession.

Despite the tough economic climate and difficult trading conditions Suffolk Coastal appears to be faring well.

A number of schemes have been launched in recent months to help traders weather the storm and towns are working closer together to ensure high streets remain as busy as possible.

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The Heritage Coast Market Town Initiative run by rural charity Suffolk Acre has been promoting better cooperation between Aldeburgh, Leiston and Saxmundham to improve the local economy.

As well as business workshops and a number of projects in the run up to Christmas it has also teamed up with the Coastal Accessible Transport Service (CATS) so people can travel between the three towns.

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Jonny Newton, chairman of the newly re-established Leiston Business Association, said: “I think the town is in a really good situation at the moment.

“Leiston has a fantastic community spirit and people support the local shops - not just here but in other nearby towns as well.”

James Stacey, vice chairman of Aldeburgh Business Association, said: “Generally I think it has been pretty good. Premises in the High Street get snapped up straight away.”

Bob Foyers, chairman of Saxmundham Business Association, admitted that times had been tough and although the town had been affected by the recession it was not as bad as compared to some other places.

“I think Saxmundham is doing remarkably well,” he said. “The biggest effect we have seen is in the interest rates and the way that has influenced pensions - Saxmundham is not a tourist destination and we rely in those people so when they are being more careful with money it does have an effect.”

However he said the opening of a new Waitrose store in the town had had a positive influence - attracting more people to the High Street.

But Richard Smith, former Saxmundham Town Council chairman and owner of Sax Books, has decided to close the second hand bookshop when its lease runs out on October 31.

“I don't want to down play the town but you have to be realistic,” he said. “Saxmundham is having a difficult time at the moment. People are being very careful with what they spend.”

But elsewhere the picture continues to be one of optimism.

Stephanie Bennell, chairman of Framlingham Town Council, said although market traders on a Tuesday and Saturday had noticed a dip in numbers the rest of the businesses were bearing up well.

“We have quite a few individual, specialist shops that people find interesting and enjoy to visit,” she said.

Mary Skelcher, of Woodbridge Town Centre Management, which has been running a “Keep Calm and Carry On” campaign to encourage people to shop locally, said there were still new businesses opening.

“We have had a number of events going on throughout the year to bring more people to the town and these have been successful,” she added.

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