Ampthill's Market Town Regeneration Fund initiatives
Under the banner of ‘Experience Ampthill’ the town’s initiatives are aimed at helping to draw more people to the town with associated benefits to local businesses.
Development of a heritage trail
Ampthill has been an historic market town since 1219, but the unique elements of the town and its links with important people and events are largely hidden. There is virtually no heritage interpretation but an opportunity to use heritage tourism as an economic driver is underexploited. Developing a heritage trail would have the potential to encourage the movement of visitors around the whole town centre.
Similar heritage trails have been developed successfully in other market towns, such as the Talbot Trail from Sudbury in Suffolk, which comprises 14 key heritage sites, each marked with a numbered sculpture. A map is available in hard copy and online, which contains interpretation about each heritage site and the town in general.
In Ampthill, the town council car park in front of Waitrose could be the start of a similar trail. This would encourage people to leave that area and walk through the whole town centre, stopping at sites of historical interest, with a choice of distances.
Businesses would benefit from the extra footfall and dwell time would increase, especially if copies of the trail leaflet are also available in certain businesses.
The town council will be developing a strategy for interpreting and marketing Ampthill as one of the most unique historic towns in the region, with this made obvious on attractive town entry signs and tourist signs.
The aim is that Ampthill could attract more of the annual 350,000 visitors to Center Parcs Woburn Forest, as the local economy would be boosted by £70,00 if just 10% of Center Parcs visitors spent £20 in the town.
Annual events programme
Ampthill has some varied and professional annual events which are delivered by different stakeholders in the town. These include the live rock music event AmpRocks and Proms in the Park, held in a vast open area where a temporary soundstage is erected to entertain thousands of music lovers; the Ampthill Festival (Gala Day, Ampthill Park Proms, AmpRocks), Ampthill Fireworks, Ampthill Literary Festival, Aragon Day and regular food and drink fairs, including a beer festival.
It is proposed that new events and activities are added to the programme and that all events are delivered in multiple sites across the town centre. This would mean visitors are encouraged to move around the town and spend money in other establishments.
The food festival, for example, could include the participation of local restaurants and cafes and the pubs could play host to some acts to increase the capacity of the live music event.
An annual antiques street market is another option, but all events would be promoted together either in physical promotional material or online.
Installation of lamp post banners
Lamp post column signage is proposed to promote businesses and events, such as those explained above in the annual events programme and at Ampthill Great Park, plus also to hang Christmas decorations.
As an essential and popular service centre for surrounding villages, Ampthill town centre has pubs, restaurants, many niche businesses – including interior design, antiques, retro cafes and second-hand shops – and a Waitrose supermarket in the centre.
Ampthill faces competition for shoppers from the larger competing towns and shopping centres of Bedford, Milton Keynes and Hitchin, while the town is also well-linked to London with a nearby mainline rail station in the neighbouring town of Flitwick.
Center Parcs Woburn Forest, is located on the edge of Ampthill, so there is an opportunity to attract more of its annual 350,000 than the town does currently.
Ampthill is an historic Georgian market town with a growing population of nearly 7,000.
The town is steeped in history, as King Henry VIII was a frequent visitor to Ampthill Castle, and it was there that one of his six wives, Katherine of Aragon, lived from 1531 until divorced in 1533. Houghton House was built in 1621 and may have provided the inspiration for 'House Beautiful' in John Bunyan's 17th century literary works, The Pilgrim's Progress.
Ampthill Town Council has been successful in securing over £606,800 in Heritage Lottery funding in respect of Ampthill Great Park with its Capability Brown Landscape ‘Parks for People’ Project that will bring in more than £600,000 of investment into the town, attracting visitors to the area.
It is estimated that an additional £100,000 of tourism expenditure can be gained if current footfall in the town can be increased by just 2 per cent.
Plus an additional £70,000 if visits from Center Parcs users can be increased by just 5%.