Tom FitzPatrick on the sustainability of the region

North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick.

Norfolk County Council Councillor for Fakenham, Tom FitzPatrick. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

In his latest column, Norfolk county councillor for Fakenham, Tom FitzPatrick, explores sustainability in the area and how we continue to grow by offering people the chance to try their ideas out. 

Every one of us wants where we live to be pleasant, but also offer good employment and prosperity at the same time and these things are really important.

Sustainability allied with growing the local economy are of course things we hear about more and more these days. They can mean different things to different people. For some, it is building on what we have already, such as extending the tourist season by adding events at either end of the season. For others, it is adding value to what we produce in order to maximise the overall return.

A big contributor to the economy is tourism, but when it is being promoted too many people still think of the North Norfolk offer as being only around the coast.

Blakeney scored highly for its incredible scenery.

Blakeney on the North Norfolk coast - Credit: Archant

This perception is changing as people are realising that there is a huge amount on offer inland in terms of scenery, historic buildings and other attractions, all of which strengthen our local economy.

A lot of visits to this area are day trips by people staying in places such as Norwich or King’s Lynn, so getting just some of them to stay even one night would increase the benefit they bring to our local economy.

As well as the traditional accommodation on offer, we are now seeing new offers appear such as “glamping” at Raynham. I suppose it’s really camping with the mod cons, but hugely popular.

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People don’t just come though, there have to be events and attractions to bring them here. Everything from the cycling events put on by Active Fakenham to art, music, and other festivals in the surrounding area.

Cyclists ride around north Norfolk in 2016 PICTURE: Active Fakenham

Cyclists ride around north Norfolk in 2016 PICTURE: Active Fakenham

The Thursford Christmas Spectacular brings a huge number of people to the area and helps boost the wider economy. Coaches stop at Fakenham to take in the Christmas tree festival on their way to the show, visitors and seasonal staff stay at B&Bs and other accommodation out of season, so there really is a wide benefit to the economy.

Building on what we have locally to make them value-added products has always been positive. A selling point in local hotels and restaurants lies in offering locally sourced food.

Eggs and meat reared locally, local produce from nearby farms and sea fare such as lobster and crab from Wells or even from somewhere further up the coast! The recently opened lobster hatchery in Wells is a move to make the fishing off the coast more sustainable and ensure its future in coming years.

Agriculture remains hugely important, both for this area and Norfolk as a whole, and processing as much as possible locally brings further benefits to our economy in terms of jobs and local spending.

The Maris Otter 50 Beer Festival, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Maris Otter, the Norfolk malti

The Maris Otter 50 Beer Festival, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Maris Otter, the Norfolk malting barley. Andrew Dougall of the Cerveza Dougall's Brewery in Spain, with some of his beers. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

One good example is Maris Otter barley, reckoned by many specialists and craft brewers as probably the best barley in the world for making beer, it was developed in East Anglia and it is grown right here in Norfolk.

We even have local malting right on our doorstep at Great Ryburgh, malting this and other varieties for home and export.

This local capability is something that allows the fifty-plus craft brewers in Norfolk, as well as the larger brewers, to source their most important ingredient using a local supply chain right here in Norfolk.

We have two excellent breweries right on our doorstep in this area and I must confess that I do enjoy the occasional bottle of Pilgrim’s Pale Ale from Barsham.

I am of course very aware that chocolate production and meat-free foods are hugely important in terms of providing employment in Fakenham and the surrounding area.

Encouraging entrepreneurs to take the chance to try out their ideas is recognised as essential for the future prosperity of the UK and a lot is done to help develop ideas. Both the county council and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership will provide help and advice to people with ideas.

I have done a snapshot on just some of what is already happening locally in terms of sustaining the economy. If we can keep encouraging people to try ideas and enterprises which further boost the existing economy and provide jobs, there really will be the secure and sustainable future we all want to see for this area.