As 2013 ends, I have taken a look back over the past 12 months. Rather than a full review of the year, as that falls to the local press, I want to consider the way Harwich and district has dealt with events over the past year and how that bodes for 2014.
Harwich has an ability to bounce back from trials and disasters and this year has been proof of that. Consider, however, how negative the atmosphere was in the town two years ago? I asked in January 2013 whether Harwich had turned the corner? It would seem that my optimism was correct?
Of course, some issues are still rumbling on a year later, the swimming pool being the obvious one; work starts in the Spring (according to TDC). We had one retailer cancel a proposed discount store near Morrisons but Morrisons itself has submitted plans to extend the store. Then there’s the proposal to build along the A120 at Harwich Valley, jobs yes but a strain on local amenities?
On that subject, several local employers have closed their doors this last year but all is not lost. The Waterfront on Lower Marine Parade finally opened and the Kings Arms re-opened, contrary to many local opinions. We did however lose several High Street retailers which does not help the look of the High Street, as well as employment. The Energising Harwich project continues despite the loss of AJ Woods and the grant money would still seem to be available. Similarly, the Harwich Mayflower Project is training and developing skills necessary for the actual building process.
As ever, the weather caused problems but Harwich shrugged it off and the life of the town continued. The Cafe On The Pier was open just days after being swamped by the sea.
On the sporting front, Harwich & Parkeston FC has announced draft plans for a new ground and facilities, probably on Low Road and a major catamaran competition is coming to Dovercourt Bay in the summer of 2014. Then add the Women’s Cycling Tour in May, this confirms that Harwich is on the national and international stage.
Harwich has also developed as a centre for the arts with the acclaimed Harwich Arts Festival and the Harwich International Sea Shanty Festival being prominent. Both of these festivals grew in 2013 and attendance exceeded expectations. Other exhibitions and festivals took place with increasing numbers of visitors.
So, what does this mean for 2014? If I can be positive again, Harwich has truly ‘turned the corner’ and is pulling itself out of the mire. More support from Tendring District & Essex County Councils would definitely help attract new business and what about promoting tourism and heritage? Time for some joined-up thinking perhaps with all of the tourism providers & enablers? It is also worth mentioning that Trinity House, with its’ Operational HQ on Harwich Quay is 500 years old in 2014, heralding many festivities and a unique £2 coin.
2014 could be the best year so far this century for Harwich & the surrounding area.