NORTH WALSHAM TOWN TALK
by Jack Maddison
Secretary of the North Walsham & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.
At long last the shopping precinct in Vicarage Street is coming to life, this new trading area should tend to infuse new life into the town's business sector. A pleasing feature is that several people with businesses in other parts of the county have decided that North Walsham is a good place in which to open out, we welcome them and wish them "good trading". The idea of a supermarket was received with mixed feelings. "It might be a good thing but would it fit into the intimate pattern of our market town?" No doubt supermarkets help to keep prices down and provide stiff competition, this should benefit the customers. I am afraid the next decade will bring even tougher times for our small independent shops, as the power of the supermarkets and multiples increases. We were once called a "nation of shopkeepers"; if shops continue to grow we run the risk of becoming a "nation of shop stewards". Perish the thought! I am convinced our small shops will survive if they continue to provide the personal service which many people value. Surely our womenfolk enjoy being served and waited on, after all, they spend most of their lives serving and waiting on their families.
We are sorry to have lost Mr. and Mrs. Charles Brookes from the village shop and sub-post office at Spa Common. After an active business life in the London area they came to Spa Common to spend their semi-retirement, and now, after serving that small community for over 24 years, have decided to try full retirement at Cliftonville. We wish them good health and happiness in their new surroundings.
The new Community Centre is to be officially opened shortly. Percy Rackstraw and his committee did a grand job organising the various fund raising efforts over the past few years. A Community Association has now been formed and a Council of members will be responsible for the policy and general management of the Centre. The first object of the Association sets them a very high standard: "To promote the benefit of the inhabitants of North Walsham and neighbourhood without distinction of sex or of political, religious or other opinions by associating with the local authorities, voluntary organizations and inhabitants in a common effort to advance education and to provide facilities in the interests of social welfare for recreation and leisure time occupation with the object of improving the conditions of life for the said inhabitants." It is now up to the people of North Walsham and district to use the Centre and so ensure its success.
The new extension to the War Memorial Cottage Hospital was opened in July. Our thanks to the Friends of the Hospital and to the anonymous donors who made it possible, true community spirit this.
The County Council proposals for conservation in North Walsham have been made public, it is going to be difficult to preserve the character of the old town and at the same time accommodate the ever increasing volume of motor traffic. The new by-pass, when it is built, will take a lot of traffic out of the town and make the task of the conservationists easier. The plan to make the Market Place a complete paved area, with trees in the middle and seats dotted about, while a pleasant enough prospect, will not appeal much to the shopkeepers on the north side when they have to trolley all their goods from an unloading bay at the end of King's Arms Street. Thanks to our Urban District Council another free car park has been made available opposite the shopping precinct in Vicarage Street. Together with those in New Road and Bank Loke thev have now provided between 300 and 400 places, all free and all within 200 yards of the shops. Can any other Norfolk town of comparable size beat this? It is so much easier to shop when you can park your car so near, and for nothing—come and try it some time.
Another welcome piece of news is that our Council can now go ahead with plans to buy some land and provide roads and sewers on a site it wants to develop as an industrial estate. It now remains for small industries to show an interest in coming to North Walsham, the large number of houses being built should produce the necessary labour force.
All these improvements in the town remind me of the Alaskan old timer who said "Before the missionaries came we lived underground in snug, warm sod houses and laid our dead out on the tundra. Now we bury our dead and live in houses above ground. I haven't been warm since." I feel sure our reactions to the improvements will be different to that.