Town centre businesses to benefit from Covid recovery fund

A montage: Left - May Dunmow Prosper notice board; Right - Saffron Walden Market Square

Market traders and businesses in Dunmow are both earmarked for funding in Uttlesford District Council's latest Covid-19 recovery plan. Pictures: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

Small businesses in Uttlesford are set to receive a Covid-19 recovery boost as part of a new £347,770 package.

Uttlesford council's cabinet members agreed to introduce the package to support economic recovery as restrictions ease.

Councillor and cabinet member Neil Reeve said the scheme would help stimulate struggling local businesses and jobs after an "exceptional" year.

At last Thursday's meeting, Cllr Reeve said: "Up to 140 businesses a week have contacted Uttlesford's Economic Development Team over the last year.

"Two years ago, this would be one business per week.

"In May, we had 1,930 residents in the district claiming Universal Credit.

"This is exceptionally high."

Councillor Neil Reeve of Uttlesford District Council

Neil Reeve is UDC's Portfolio Holder for the Economy, Investment and Corporate Strategy - Credit: Residents For Uttlesford

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Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the package, which supports five district "priorities".

The first priority is to support businesses with a £183,570 cash injection.

Of this, £20,000 will be invested into a long-term plan for Great Dunmow town centre.

Cllr Alexander Armstrong, town and district councillor for Great Dunmow North, welcomed the investment.

He said: "Traditionally, it has felt like we haven't had money down in this area - Saffron Walden has been the focal point in the past.

"It's great to see some specific relief for Dunmow."

Cllr Armstrong said Dunmow needs a "facelift" to encourage shoppers to stay local rather than support larger centres such as Braintree and Bishop's Stortford in the recovery process.

"We have got to learn how to work with these places rather than work against them," he said. "Our focal point must be on smaller, independent businesses."

The Freeport Braintree retail complex

The Freeport Braintree retail complex - Credit: Archant

On top of town centre funding, Dunmow, Saffron Walden and Stansted will see a £10,000 boost for artisan and pop-up traders with UDC supporting a new market in each town at least once during the next year.

UDC has reserved £15,000 for a "Visit Uttlesford" campaign and website which will be launched by July 31.

The council's other priorities include support for information and advice (£21,450), skills and training (£45,750), inward investment and jobs (£85,000), and creating a greener economy (£8,000).

As part of the green economy programme, UDC challenged Cambridge University students to produce a report which is yet to be released.