Traffic congestion tops business worries at summit
Nineteen businesses from Diss and the surrounding area took part in a summit to exchange ideas for the future of the area.
MP Richard Bacon, who chaired the meeting, suggested the summit as part of the planning and engagement process for the Diss and District Neighbourhood plan.
Originally planned for March 2, the meeting was postponed due to the harsh weather conditions.
On May 18, large and small companies, including CVS Group, Midwich, Larking Gowen accountants, Chapman Chartered Surveyors and Rooms with a View interiors, were among those taking part at Diss Golf Club.
It is hoped the neighbourhood plan will form the backbone of future planning across seven parishes by demonstrating the wishes of its people and business.
“The creation of a neighbourhood plan gives the local community a real chance to influence future land use, both for new homes and in terms of roads, infrastructure and commercial development, which we need if the local economy is to continue to grow,” said Mr Bacon after the meeting.
“This process is more effective when the needs of local businesses are heard loudly and clearly, so I am pleased that businesses and councillors took the time to explore what a shared vision for the growth of Diss could look like.
“I am particularly grateful to Mike Bootman, chairman of the neighbourhood planning committee, for his hard work in organising the event, which encouraged spirited contributions on the day.
“I have no doubt that the contributions at the summit will help the neighbourhood planning team to build a compelling case for Diss, which will help to attract the investment we all want to see, to make Diss an even better place to live and work.”
The meeting saw presentations by Phil Morris, of Norfolk County Council, Mike Bootman, chairman of the neighbourhood planning steering group, and Ian Dunnett, from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.
The meeting was held according to the Chatham House Rule, with the aim of providing anonymity to speakers to encourage openness and the sharing of information.
Originating at Chatham House, London, the rule is used to aid free discussion and prevents the identity of speakers being revealed.
Business representatives later broke into workshop groups to discuss topics including growth, connectivity, transport and infrastructure and public and private collaborative working.
Graham Minshull, vice-chairman of South Norfolk Council, said: “Diss is a fantastic town with a healthy and growing local economy. It was great to see so many businesses at the meeting and so many people engaged in discussing our future.”
Chatham House Rules
Traffic congestion in Diss became a priority topic at the business summit, with one company saying it may be forced to leave unless the problem is resolved.
Following three workshops – during which the business community discussed issues such as housing and business growth, broadband, transport, infrastructure, services and public and private sector collaboration over funding – the issue of traffic congestion quickly rose to the surface.
One business person felt Diss could “die on its feet” if the problems along the A1066 were not solved quickly.
The Chatham House Rule under which the meeting was conducted and chaired by Richard Bacon MP meant that any statements must remain anonymous to encourage free and frank discussion.
Following the meeting, Mike Bootman, chairman of the neighbourhood plan steering group, said: “The problems around the A1066 are well known and, during the discussions, they, of course, came up.
“The traffic issue is one businesses strongly felt needed addressing, and quickly.”
The summit saw 19 businesses take part. Discussions included the unique selling points of Diss, including its proximity to Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Norwich, the Waveney Valley and its connection to London by train.
Mr Bootman hopes the summit will lead to further forums for local businesses to share ideas and express concerns as part of the neighbourhood plan process.
“I’d like to thank all those who came along and contributed,” he said.
“There were also some very positive discussions such as that to start a skills and vocational training facility locally.
“Currently, those attending such courses in Ipswich, Norwich and Bury St Edmunds can pay up to £400 a year in transport.”