Belper has been backed to retain its title of Great British High Street after witnessing a ‘huge boost’ since winning the award.
The town earned the gong last year after judges said it made an “outstanding application” and was an “exemplar in how areas can transform themselves from a successful town centre to a go-to destination for locals and visitors alike.”
The deadline for entries for the 2015 competition is September 1, and officials from the town are putting the finishing touches to its application.
Belper Town Council say that winning the award last year has brought an increase in tourism to the town and that it is ‘busier than ever.’
Clerk Roz Bullimore said: “Following Belper’s success in the Great British High Street competition the amount of sponsorship from local businesses has increased dramatically.
“There is an upbeat feel to the town and more and more people are showing an interest, offering both financial and in kind assistance.
“Footfall has increased, evidence that the town is busier than ever. Meanwhile, usage of Belper railway station increased nine per cent.”
Belper Town Mayor Dan Booth also said the benefits of winning the award are plain for all to see.
He said: “It has given the town a huge boost and really helped create a buzz among people.
“What we need to do now is build upon that to keep Belper on the map.
“We have great events in the town which support local business and the community in Belper is very supportive.
“We have also had representatives from other towns across the country wanting to come and talk to Belper people to get ideas about making their own areas better - that alone is a huge compliment.”
The impact on local businesses has also been evident.
Robin Sly, owner of Sweet Memories on King Street, says the town’s economy has a new impetus about it since winning the title.
He said: “We’ve seen more visitors around the town and it’s certainly had an impact on sales especially on busy days such as Saturdays and Wednesdays.
“I’d say winning the award has had a largely positive effect because it’s created a buzz around the town. There’s lots more going on and it’s given the town more confidence.”
Charlotte Tansley, of Fresh Basil on Strutt Street, says that Belper has ‘been put on the map’ thanks to the award.
“Winning the competition has been fantastic for us and all the other independents in the town,” she said.
“It’s increased footfall and has put us on the map, helping to boost tourism.”
Mid-Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham says events such as the Belper Food Festival have benefitted hugely from the publicity the town has received over the past few months.
She said: “Winning High Street of the Year was a real feather in the cap for Belper.
“Being able to use the title goes a long way in attracting visitors and small businesses, as shown with the large attendance at the Belper Food Festival this year.
“It has been a real source of pride for the local community.”
With entries now being accepted for the 2015 event, Belper representatives are eagerly preparing their bid to retain the title. Belper Town Council confirmed: “Belper will be entering the Great British High Street competition and we are definitely going to try and keep our title ‘Overall Winner of the Best High Street in Britain’ and ‘Best Market Town’.
“The application process for 2014 entrants has been amended and we have been allowed to add supplementary information and new images. We don’t want to release any new information included in this year’s application, but we have a couple of new projects to add to the application.”
Cllr Booth added: “It will be extremely hard to retain the award because not much changes in a year, but we will be entering and hope that the judges will be impressed again by Belper.”
Joanne Bamford, Town Centres Development Officer at Amber Valley Borough Council, added: “The town will be entering the competition again and regardless of whether we retain our crown, we should be very proud.”