There is no doubt that, as a result of this awful virus, Wells next the Sea is going to change. At the moment it is looking likely that the town, which relies on its visitors, will not have much of a summer (if we even have one at all) and the repercussions of the Coronavirus outbreak are going to be felt for a very long time.
In the short term, business owners can look to the government, to North Norfolk District Council and to Norfolk County Council for help but I am concerned about what happens to all the businesses in Wells - large and small, whether they are shops, sole traders, B&Bs, cafés etc - as this drags on and, even more importantly, as we start to come out of it.
The businesses in Wells are vital to the town. The range of little independent shops is an integral part of the "Wells experience" – people come here to wander up and down Staithe Street and the surrounding shops, to look, to touch and hopefully to buy. They make use of many local suppliers, from trades people to food providers. If our shop owners and other businesses can't survive, the beating heart of Wells dies and the town may lose its individuality. But it's not just the shops, it's all the independent traders who will struggle. We need to set aside our
individuality and think altruistically about trying to get "Wells"through this crisis and out the other side.
So, I have set up a "Wells Helping Hand" fund. My idea is to invite all businesses, individuals and the wider public to contribute to the fund by way of this Crowdfunder page. Any money, from anyone, would be fantastic, whether it's £10 or £100 or £1000.
A board of business owners and others will be recruited to invite businesses in genuine need to ask for a helping hand – grants of money to help with a rent payment, or help pay a utilities bill. If a bit of money, given with no strings attached, would make the difference between someone hanging on for another few weeks or going to the wall or giving up, then I think it's clear where the Helping Hand fund might assist.
I know money is going to be really tight and the instinct of everyone is to hang on to what they have, but we need to do some creative thinking here to try and get us all through this. None of us have planned for this, we are experiencing a situation beyond anything we have known before and the business community needs help and support. And we need to be here once this horror is over - many people will almost certainly visit the town once free movement is allowed again. We need to
have full shops, welcoming cafés and pubs, and traders available to greet them and assure them that Wells has survived.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Editor of The Quay (the local community magazine for Wells and the surrounding district) and Director of The Natural Soap Company, a Wells-based handmade soap manufacturer