In April 2021, Thanet District Council was allocated up to £191,456 from the European Regional Development Fund’s Welcome Back Fund. The money was specifically to help local businesses and the visitor economy to bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic. It is designed to help councils attract people back to town centres, seafronts and high streets.
This funding builds on the £50 million Reopening High Street Safely Fund (RHSSF) allocated to councils across the country in 2020.
The above funding allocations paid for a number of different activities in Thanet. We have worked in partnership with Town and Parish Councils, Town Promoters and business groups. The Welcome Back Fund focused on six areas; Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Margate, Northdown Road in Cliftonville, Westgate-on-Sea and Birchington-on-Sea. Some of the things that were made possible through this funding are listed below:
Public Information Campaigns
There have been several themed public messaging campaigns: Hands – Face – Space, Shop & Eat Local, Shop Local this Christmas 2021, Respect – Protect – Enjoy and in 2022, More to Explore. This is a new campaign to support local businesses in town centres and shopping areas by encouraging people to discover what our towns have to offer, beyond the beaches. A local designer was commissioned to produce the artwork to support two of these campaigns. Local photographers were commissioned to provide destination photography for our towns and villages.
The public messaging campaigns were publicised through:
- Thanet District Council’s own website, newsletters and social media channels
- Adverts, leaflets and editorial coverage in a local newspaper
- Signs at entrances to and throughout town centres to remind the public to socially distance and shop safely on local high streets. This included banners across the streets, on railings and lampposts, posters, shop window decals, vinyl window wraps in empty shops, bollard covers, pavement vinyls and more.
- High street ambassadors in town centres and visitor hot spots in peak periods, making members of the public and businesses more aware of the campaigns.
Broadstairs and St Peter’s Town Council shared the below quote:
“Broadstairs and St Peter’s Town Council fully supports any initiative to welcome people back to our High Street businesses after the last two disruptive years.
The Respect, Protect, Enjoy logo is everywhere, it’s attractive and sends out a positive, strong message.
The Fiver Fests have been very good and were well promoted on social media, in the press and on local radio. There were also two pre-Christmas late night shopping events which we understand were well supported and provided a much needed boost to pre-Christmas sales.
I know your business support sessions and breakfast meetings have been well-attended and have ensured businesses know how to make the most of the resources available to them and encourage people to shop locally.
The planting at Albion Street Car park has been well-received and provided a boost to the volunteers who tend to the area.”
Business Support activity
To support the local business community, Thanet District Council has:
- Set up a dedicated Thanet Business Support Facebook group to share information.
- Provided specific online help and guidance for food and licensing premises, with links to frequently asked questions.
- Shared information about practical and financial support for businesses (e.g. available grants etc).
- Sent letters to retail businesses to highlight the need for risk assessment and signpost them to available support.
- Created free business support toolkits and printable resources containing posters, signage and messaging for businesses to use.
- Conducted business / high street audits.
- Promoted new measures introduced by government (e.g. mask wearing in shops, continued social distancing, queuing, Track and Trace etc).
- Monitored and reported on footfall.
- Hosted training and networking opportunities for local businesses.
- Signed up to the Maybe Tech platform which provided all businesses with an opportunity to promote themselves for free and get support on using social media to boost business.
- Offered Google My Business training sessions.
- Appointed a business support consultant to liaise with business and manage a dedicated firstname.lastname@example.org email inbox.
- Opened a telephone support line for businesses during the first lockdown and easing of restrictions.
- Led Totally Locally and Fiver Fest initiatives to encourage people to support their local businesses and high streets.
The following quotes have been shared:
“Feedback from the local community was incredibly positive, and the small group who organised this event say they are hoping to run more Totally Locally focused events in Westgate in future and are looking for volunteers to join them.
The mentoring was very helpful and has provided much needed support for the local businesses involved.
The digital workshops were informative and explained the concept perfectly which encouraged involvement from other businesses in the town.” – Westgate-on-Sea Town Council
“The Welcome Back Grant was crucial in enabling our Thanet towns to start to recover following the lifting of pandemic restrictions in 2021. Access to this through TDC with terrific support from [dedicated business consultant] has enabled independent traders to access training, tools and mentoring from Totally Locally and to introduce Fiver Fest into the towns which strives to get businesses and residents to work together to make their areas vibrant and desirable places to shop and visit. Access to the grant has allowed for the purchase of marketing posters, banners, bunting and street furniture covers as well as guidance (as and when needed) to support all the initiatives introduced from TDC and local councils.” – Retail business owner, Broadstairs High Street
“The support from TDC has been brilliant, the town has really benefited from the Welcome Back funding with on-going support and training in the lead up to spring and the recovery from Covid. The sponsorship of the Margate Totally Locally initiative has been excellent and should bring many benefits to the town and help with recovery. Let’s hope there is continued business support. Everyone should play a part to make Margate a great place to visit and live and the funding has helped.” – Accommodation owner, Margate
Town centre beautification
Thanet District Council arranged for additional street cleaning to pressure wash pedestrianised areas, mechanically sweep high streets and high footfall seafront areas.
The council also had selected coastal shelters repaired and repainted. A winter planting scheme was introduced across the town, including Christmas trees. This was followed with a spring planting scheme.There are now ongoing maintenance agreements with local businesses for certain town centre and high street planters.
Temporary net lighting was used to light up unsightly alleyways in Ramsgate town centre.
“Ramsgate Town Council was delighted to work with Thanet District Council in supporting their projects through the Welcome Back Fund to ensure it benefitted the whole of Thanet.
We have collaborated and enjoyed working with the team at TDC to support the successful Totally Locally campaigns, social media training, planting schemes and temporary lighting projects to name a few and are sure that the variety of projects will be appreciated by the towns and visitors alike.
The alley lights have been well received by town centre patrons and businesses.” – Town Promoter, on behalf of Ramsgate Town Council.
The council initiated temporary road closures and adaptations in Margate Old Town and Harbour Parade in Ramsgate to improve pedestrian friendliness and promote social distancing.
Several new litter picking stations, cigarette butt bins and dog poo bins were also installed.
Other activities paid for by the fund
Design and printing of Visitor Information maps and a new film to promote the Thanet Visitor Ambassador programme, to help support the visitor economy.
Find out more about the Welcome Back Fund on the gov.uk website.
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