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End of an era approaches for £3m heritage programme

PUBLISHED: 12:58 18 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:30 18 March 2019

The committee behind the Heritage Triangle project in Diss by the Mere back in 2015. PHOTO: Sonya Duncan

The committee behind the Heritage Triangle project in Diss by the Mere back in 2015. PHOTO: Sonya Duncan

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015

The end of March will mark the completion of a £3m five-year town project.

This graph shows the breakdown in spending on the Diss Heritage Triangle Project. PHOTO: Diss Heritage Triangle ProjectThis graph shows the breakdown in spending on the Diss Heritage Triangle Project. PHOTO: Diss Heritage Triangle Project

The Diss Heritage Triangle programme’s official end date is Sunday, 31 March, bringing to an end years of development in the town centre.

Consisting of five separate but connected projects, the programme aimed to develop the town’s heritage assets to achieve economic regeneration.

These projects were the restoration of Diss Corn Hall, streetscape works, a new Mere boardwalk and wildlife gardens, developing historic research, and the creation of the Diss Heritage Triangle CIO, a charity to oversee investment and management of the programme.

The Heritage Triangle in Diss. Picture: Marc BettsThe Heritage Triangle in Diss. Picture: Marc Betts

At a meeting on Wednesday, Diss Town Council will receive the final report, which calls the project a success at £602 under the budget of £3,349,974.

It said when the project launched in 2014, 18pc of shops in the Triangle were vacant. At the end of 2018, this had reduced to 5pc.

Dale Edwards, manager of The Greyhound pub, said: “It seems to have brought more people to the centre of town. The pub has had an increase in trade over the last few years and I can see the shops across the street are busier too.”

Traders of the Triangle book front cover. PHOTO: Diss Heritage Triangle Trust CIOTraders of the Triangle book front cover. PHOTO: Diss Heritage Triangle Trust CIO

Six businesses said the project was their reason for choosing Diss, but three businesses closed during the programme. All cited changing market conditions as the main issue, however one said the extended roadworks in the Triangle was a catalyst for closure.

Sheila Moss King, manager of the project, said: “Increased footfall, a reduction in empty shops, and the general vibe around the streets show that we have succeeded. This is down to the enormous hard work of everyone working together to achieve a remarkable transformation for this small market town.”

The project began in 2011 when the town council, Diss Museum, and Diss Corn Hall submitted an application to the National Heritage Lottery Fund. In 2012 £1.461m was granted, with a programme budget of £2.718m.

This graph shows how footfall at various shopping hotspots in Diss town centre has changed as the Heritage Triangle Project progressed. PHOTO: Diss Heritage Triangle ProjectThis graph shows how footfall at various shopping hotspots in Diss town centre has changed as the Heritage Triangle Project progressed. PHOTO: Diss Heritage Triangle Project

In the following years the total cost rose to £3.418m and there were major delays to the opening of the Corn Hall, resulting in the council underwriting £34,250.

The report said: “There is no question of wrongdoing on any part, and the programme continues to represent excellent value for Diss Town Council.”

A bench is donated to the heritage garden in the Heritage Triangle. PHOTO: Diss MattersA bench is donated to the heritage garden in the Heritage Triangle. PHOTO: Diss Matters

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