The state of Fakenham: Projects and goals for 2022
- Credit: Archant/Keith Osborn/NNDC
As the county tries to move on from the coronavirus pandemic and enjoy a new year, we look at the state of Fakenham and its priorities for 2022.
In spite of the last two years, there is ground to argue that Fakenham is one of the most optimistic places in Norfolk.
Despite the disappointment of their failed Community Renewal Fund bid (CRF), and many ideas, developments and improvements to the town either in the pipeline or back to the drawing board, work is well underway to see the town grow over the next 12 months.
A bid for cash from the CRF was unsuccessful, foiling plans for new sports facilities, improved walking and cycling provision, and better public access to the River Wensum.
But it is hoped that plenty of positive projects will begin to take shape throughout the course of 2022.
At the heart of the bid was Fakenham Town Council chairman, Gilly Foortse, who is now in her final term as mayor, and town council vice-chairman, Angela Glynn.
Mrs Glynn is set to replace Mrs Foortse in May.
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The pair, alongside their fellow councillors, hope to continue helping Fakenham to grow.
Together, they said: "As we emerge from the pandemic, we hope that our businesses will thrive and that we can get back to something approaching normal.
“We see the sound establishment of the Fakenham and District Chamber of Trade as being important for businesses in our town. Fakenham is fortunate to have so many independent shops, businesses, and tradesmen.
“Despite the failure of the CRF bid, the town council is actively pursuing other funding to continue our plans to improve sporting facilities in the town.
“Work to improve the state of the River Wensum is a bigger issue that is really beyond the remit of the council, but we will continue to cooperate and support initiatives that will keep footpaths open and usable for walkers.
“Those [coronavirus] years have changed us as a society. With the removal of restrictions, we have to learn to live with Covid.
"Rather than enduring a pandemic, we must accept it as being endemic in our lives."
Another focus of the bid came courtesy of Active Fakenham chairman, Richard Crook.
He has long been a force of good with his community group, hosting events that bring people to Fakenham, support local charities and put the area on the map.
Mr Crook's campaign to reinstate a swimming pool garnered considerable support from residents, but was ultimately unsuccessful.
But he said the campaign is far from over.
“We are reviewing it," added Mr Crook. "Certainly the idea of a swimming pool is not going away.
“We are engaging with enthusiasm for it and looking at the options in the short term, then we will look at what we can do and what looks feasible.”
Active Fakenham has had its fair share of problems during the pandemic, with a whole calendar of events scrapped in 2020.
Some were able to take place in 2021, including the annual Duck Race, which raised vital funds for community charity First Focus.
Mr Crook revealed he is fighting to return to a pre-pandemic approach.
“A lot of it depends on local support from people, businesses and organisations,” he said.
"I am trying to get it [Active Fakenham] back to how it looked two years ago. Whether we can do that I'm not sure."
As with most market towns, the state of the high street in Fakenham is a hot topic for discussion, with many regular punters saying there are too many hairdressers and charity shops.
However, over the past 12 months, a host of new independents have been welcomed and joined a strong showing of self-made firms.
One of the newest business owners is Venetia Strangwayes-Booth, who runs Venetia’s Yarn Shop.
She believes the town is in good shape for 2022.
“Fakenham feels quite positive,” she added.
“I'm a big fan of independent shops, and I like that there are quite a lot here. If you're a tourist and you go to town, and it's got all the same shops as you have in your hometown, you're not going to hang out there.
“The indie shops are what bring people in, and it's a lovely little town.”
Norwich Street - where Ms Strangwayes-Booth opened her store - is, unfortunately, home to an eyesore.
The property at number 9 was declared unsafe back in 2019 and continues to stick out like a sore thumb, covered in cracks and surrounded by fencing.
North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) issued an urgent repair notice in October 2021, but it appears no commitment has been made to undertake the work.
A spokesman for NNDC said: “Notices have been served, with the final notice expiring in mid-January.
“No commitment to comply with the urgent works required has been forthcoming.
"The council has taken further legal advice and is committed to securing actions which enable the urgent works required to the listed building."
A staple in the weekly routine is the Thursday market, which brings traders and shoppers into the town.
Sadly, Fakenham lost its farmer's market last year, and coronavirus has resulted in the absence of several regular customers.
Tony Fields, who has been trading in Fakenham for 42 years, believes the future looks relatively bright.
“The market is holding up quite well," he said. "Through lockdown, people appreciated it a lot more. It is more than buying and selling; it is a place for people to meet.
“It's really important, especially with people who need someone to talk to or just lock eyes with someone. The market can and does provide that.
“I'm sure it will be a good year in Fakenham. With the holiday people coming in and the great locals, I'm sure it will go from strength to strength.
Also in the pipeline is the Fakenham Urban Extension, the biggest development in the town for generations.
The plans will see 950 new homes built, along with a new school, hotel and retail units.
While no bricks or mortar will be laid in 2022, district councillor Christopher Cushing is looking ahead to the development of a roundabout on the A148 - anticipated to start in the autumn - as a key moment.
Detailed planning applications for the first phase of the site are expected to be submitted in 2023 at the earliest.
Mr Cushing said: “After 15 years of discussion and planning, I am pleased that initial work on the urban extension will commence later this year with the building of a roundabout on the A148.
"I will wait to see the plan for doing this from highways. I hope they will manage this work to minimise the disruption to traffic.”
If one thing is for sure about Fakenham, it is how supportive and welcoming the town is when new families arrive.
Look no further than the Fakenham Community Notice Board to see how helpful residents can be to one another. Or at the selfless volunteers who have given up countless hours to ensure the population is vaccinated against Covid.
Fakenham, it would appear, is a town moving in the right direction.