Investing in culture and heritage is key to Norfolk & Suffolk’s destination status

23 November 2021

In this blog, we look at the impact of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership's Growing Places Fund and the importance of culture and heritage to Norfolk & Suffolk's future economic prosperity. 

Quality of life has never been higher on our agendas. The pandemic has caused us to reflect on our personal and working lives, and cultural and other social activities – especially outdoors – can help us unwind and find that balance. Theatres, heritage sites and nature reserves, also make a huge contribution to the economy and are a prerequisite for making a region a stand-out place to live, work, visit and invest. 

The cultural sector is worth a cool £83.6m to Norfolk & Suffolk, employing more than 5,800 people and supporting over 1,000 businesses. Which is why New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, as well as supporting the development of manufacturing and engineering, digital technology and other key sectors, has also invested heavily in the area’s cultural offer since it was established 10 years ago.   

From the renovation of Norwich Castle’s Keep to the tripling in size of the site owned by the Hawk & Owl Trust at Sculthorpe Moor, near Fakenham, the positive impact of the LEP’s Growing Places Fund on the region’s historic and natural world can be seen. As Covid lockdowns caused arts venues to close their doors for months, the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich received around £225,000 from the Growing Places Fund, which was critical to its recovery and plans for future growth. In Saxmundham, the former telephone exchange has been transformed into The Art Station, a creative industries hub, providing affordable working spaces for small businesses and a welcome boost for the town’s economy. 

Several major development projects have come to fruition in 2021 and been able to officially open to the public. The Hold, a £20m archives and heritage centre in Ipswich funded mainly by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, was formally unveiled in September by HRH Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. County records stretching back 900 years are housed in the building beside the Waterfront Innovation Centre, along with seminar rooms and a 200-seat auditorium for University of Suffolk.   

On the same day, The Queen’s first cousin surveyed the famous burial mount at Sutton Hoo from a new 17-metre viewing tower. He also took a tour of a new exhibition in the High Hall, which tells the story of the Anglo-Saxons and includes replicas of items discovered in the 1939 excavation, recently brought to the big screen in the Netflix drama, The Dig.   

The visit of Princess Anne to the new visitor centre at Carlton Marshes in May meanwhile marked the realisation of an ambitious project to make the stunning reserve a gateway to the Southern Broads. Funding from the LEP enabled Suffolk Wildlife Trust to buy former bean fields and transform them into a vibrant mix of wetland habitats where Broadland wildlife such as otters and kingfishers can thrive.   

“Carlton Marshes was the first nature project New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership invested in,” said Christine Luxton, Chief Executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust. “Its strategy was all about developing a green economy and clean growth, and in helping to fund the scheme it was recognising that nature has a real role to play.”  

A total of £35m has been spent through the Growing Places Fund and £300m leveraged through the projects it has supported. In terms of culture, heritage and environment schemes, it currently has an allocation of £3m against a total project cost of £80m, much of it from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council.   

Iain Dunnett, Growing Place Fund Senior Coordinator, said: “The LEP’s support towards the development of cultural, heritage and environment projects recognises the significant part they play in the visitor economy of Norfolk and Suffolk. They provide a key part in the destination development of the counties, with the LEP’s Cultural Board leading the charge on this ‘place making’ development. 

“The cultural and heritage offer in town and city centres post covid will play an important part in the blend of activities required to maintain a vibrant high street and the region’s distinctive market towns.”   

To find out more about the Growing Places Fund and the projects it has supported, visit



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