A COMMUNITY initiative that transformed two buildings in Walton has been named the region's best market town project.

The Walton Forum's "Triple Whammy" - saving the town's post office, refurbishing the derelict sorting office and setting up a children's centre - scooped the top prize at the East of England Best Market Town Project competition.

It was also picked up the social and community award at the ceremony in Histon, Cambridgeshire.

Brightlingsea's Community Reach Partnership won the environment and culture accolade for transforming a wasteland into a green oasis - The Lozenge.

Harleston Information Plus in Norfolk won the businesses and economy award and The Iceni Partnership in Swaffham, Norfolk, took the partnership and strategic workshop crown.

The Walton Forum's project will represent the East in the national contest in Skipton, Yorkshire on October 1.

A PIONEERING project to safeguard Walton's future has "put the town on the map".

The high street was floundering when the Walton Forum stepped in a year ago.

Three building societies, two banks and the town hall had closed in the previous 25 years, the post office had been on the market for six months with no buyers and the sorting office was for sale.

The forum launched the scheme to save the community post office by turning the redundant sorting office into a nursery.

A band of volunteers pulled together support from the private, public and voluntary centre, raised £633,000 and got the scheme up-and-running in less than a year.

Chairman Roger Evans said: "The award is really good news for the town.

"Representing the East of England in a national competition will put the town on the map and recognise all the good things going on here.

"A £500,000 project for a voluntary group is a massive undertaking and it has bought so many advantages.

"The building is owned by the Walton Forum for the good of the town, the post office is a vital facility for the older people and a nursery making use of a redundant space."

Most of the funding for the scheme came from the East of England Development Agency and Essex County Council.

The Walton Forum receives an income of £6,000 a year from sub-leasing the post office and £5,000 a year, which will increase to £20,000 a year, from the nursery - run by Nanny Jo's Nurseries.

It will allow the forum to employ a town centre manager.

Any cash bought in by the two ventures will support the town's regeneration.

A MARKET town's new nature reserve is proving a valuable community facility and a tourist attraction.

The Lozenge in Brightlingsea, created by the Community Reach Partnership, has been named the best environment and culture project in the East of England.

The partnership spent £33,000 on transforming five acres of inaccessible wasteland in Lower Park Road into a wild flower meadow.

Residents have been involved in planting at the site and schools and youth groups have used it for educational visits.

The eco-friendly site even has information boards and seats made out of recycled material.

Chairman Darren Barrenger said: "I'm delighted with the project in respect of the community involvement.

"Schools, scouts, brownies, woodcraft folk and lots of other groups were involved in planting and Brightlingsea Infants School have already held a couple of field trips.

"A number of ornithology and wildlife groups have put the Lozenge in their diaries, including some from outside the town so it is an example of how we get more people to visit all the great things we have here in Brightlingsea."

The Community Reach Partnership, which also covers Alresford, Thorrington, St Osyth and Frating, obtained cash from the East of England Development Agency (£28,000) in January.

It also got £3,000 from Brightlingsea Town Council and contributed £2,000 itself.

Crowds queued to see television presenter Roger Tabor open the site, which is managed by the town council, in May.