Major investment could be on the way for a market town with interest from a “major food outlet".

Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), mentioned the potential development as he talked about what could be done to improve Fakenham’s town centre amid an array of empty units as a result of businesses and banks leaving.

Fakenham & Wells Times: Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk District Council Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk District Council (Image: NNDC)

The remarks come as Sam Papworth, a butcher who has been in the town for the past three decades, hit back at comments made by Richard Crook, Active Fakenham chairman, who said there was an "obvious decline that needs to be addressed" as he launched a new funding bid to help boost the town.

Mr Adams said: "We are aware of some serious interest by retailers to fill some of the vacant units.

"There is currently consideration being made by a major food outlet who is interested in investing in the town – such businesses would not be looking at Fakenham if this significant potential was not recognised.”

Fakenham & Wells Times: Richard Crook, Chair of Active FakenhamRichard Crook, Chair of Active Fakenham (Image: Archant)

Mr Crook’s comments refer to the closure of the town’s swimming pools and three of the five banks since he arrived.

Both of the town’s pools have closed and after HSBC, NatWest and Barclays all left this year, only two banks remain. He branded this as “an obvious decline that needs to be addressed".

Mr Papworth, owner of J & D Papworth Farms butchers, hit back by saying: “We are a vibrant community of people trying their damnest to pull Fakenham up.

Fakenham & Wells Times: Sam Papworth, owner of J & D Papworth Farms butchersSam Papworth, owner of J & D Papworth Farms butchers

“We’ve seen good and bad times here in Fakenham, but I and others have a lot of confidence in the town, for them to say it is in decline is unfair.

“We have to get behind Fakenham, it's why we are still working to launch the chamber of trade, we want people from Fakenham to help show it off for what it is. It is a fabulous town and we need to big it up.

“A lot of people are working very hard to get projects off the ground. Let's not bad mouth Fakenham, because people might start believing it.”

Fakenham & Wells Times: Empty units on Norwich Street, in FakenhamEmpty units on Norwich Street, in Fakenham (Image: Aaron McMillan)

These empty units may begin to decline in number, as interest in some at the town’s shopping centre, Millers Walk, has been reported by Brown & Co, which is managing lettings there.

Liz Vickers, NNDC councillor for Fakenham Lancaster South, signposted the new Morrisons Local opening on Bridge Street, although this has been delayed, and a new clothes shop set to open on Norwich Street.

“For my part, I have been mapping vacant premises and making phone calls to trace landlords and see if there is potential to discount rents for start-up and pop-up shops,” she added.

Fakenham & Wells Times: Liz Vickers, NNDC councillor for Fakenham Lancaster SouthLiz Vickers, NNDC councillor for Fakenham Lancaster South (Image: North Norfolk District Council)

“In addition, there is a constructive partnership forming between NNDC, the town council, county council, the chamber of trade, our MP Jerome Mayhew and others. We will explore all opportunities to fund and develop Fakenham.

“Any plan for Fakenham should of course be built from the ground up with the backing of local people and organisations. It’s vital to consult the community and work with them."

There is a lot to be proud of in the town, with local businessman, Andrew Felton taking over the Red Lion Lounge, and Gatsby’s winning the Best Barber in Norfolk award.

Fakenham & Wells Times: Angela Glynn, mayor of FakenhamAngela Glynn, mayor of Fakenham (Image: Archant)

Angela Glynn, mayor of the town added: “The town council is working actively with North Norfolk District Council to bring some much-needed support to the town from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

“A public consultation will be held very soon to share the plans and get residents' views."

Mr Adams added: "All of this adds up to an exciting amount of change for the town over the next few years, and I’m confident this will translate into positive changes for the town centre."