COUNCIL bosses have set out their vision to turn around the fortunes of Clacton’s flagging town centre...including free Wi-fi or 5G, extra parking, a raised performance area, a programme of events and pedestrianisation.

Clacton’s main shopping area has been left struggling in recent years and Pier Avenue has seen the closure of Marks & Spencer and Mothercare.

But in a bid to revive the town centre, Tendring Council’s cabinet will next week outline its proposals for the short, medium and long-term...including how to spend £250,000 on short-term projects.

The vision comes following an announcement last week by the Government that Clacton would be one of 50 more towns to receive a share of the £1billion Future High Streets Fund.

It is based on work carried out by the Town Centre Working Party, made up of local businesses and interested parties, which was set up by the council after the announcement that Marks and Spencer would be pulling out of the town.

It will include improved access and more parking, a raised performance area in the town square, discouraging seagulls and pigeons, and groundwork for future schemes, such as a commercial property study and a review of licensing policies.

In the medium-term, proposals include full pedestrianisation of the southern part of Pier Avenue, delivering free Wi-fi or 5G and a programme of events, while the long-term vision will identify the potential for fundamental changes and the possible creation of a Business Improvement District.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

  • Closed - Mothercare closed its Pier Avenue store earlier this year

Mary Newton, cabinet member for business and economic growth, said: “Clacton, like town centres up and down the country, is facing a period of transition shaped by many factors, such as changes to the way people shop and interact with high streets.

“For me this is about transition and opportunity, not decline –if high streets do not adapt, they will die – and I believe this vision and work will enable Clacton to thrive for many years to come.

“We are fortunate to have been included in the extension of the Future High Streets Fund, and the work done with local stakeholders has been invaluable in shaping our response to this.

“We will bring forward a range of exciting proposals for the town centre and engage with Clacton residents and visitors on these.

“It’s understandable that there is public interest in our ownership of the former M&S building when the store closed, and people will wonder about future plans for strategic property ownership.

“I would again reassure the public our business case for the M&S building remains sound, and any further property acquisition will be decided based upon solid business cases and with a long-term vision for Clacton.”

Centred around the Love Clacton brand, the vision will aim to make the area more suitable for residents, visitors and as a place to work, and will also look to continue engaging with town centre businesses as Love Clacton Ambassadors, an initiative that is set to be launched later this month.

The council will now receive a £150,000 grant from the Government to work up a full bid to the Future High Streets Fund, which could be up to £25million – although most awards are expected to be between £5million and £10million.

The council’s cabinet report, which will be debated next Friday, also suggests setting aside £250,000 from the authority’s budget to support the delivery of short-term projects, which could be carried out before any potential Government funding.

Graham Webb, chairman of Clacton Town Partnership, said: “Improving access and parking in the town and having a programme of events are two huge steps that would improve the town centre - it could make a huge difference.

“The town partnership has also been calling for a performance area in the town square for some time, so we are pleased to see that included.

“The town also needs a general facelift, with flowers on lampposts and other such things - it does feel as if the town has been neglected. Hopefully this will be a fresh start.

“But plans for the pedestrianisation of the south side of Pier Avenue could be quite controversial. I hope it is only done with consultation with traders down there.”