THERE was not a negative word to be heard at Herne Bay’s seventh business and projects exhibition.
Developers, charities, organisations and individuals from across the district converged on King’s Hall on Wednesday last week to show what they had to offer and to indulge in that all-important networking.
For the first time, invitations to the function had been thrown open to organisations across the whole district, rather than interests associated solely with the town, and the building was filled with 56 stands in the hall and another 12 in the adjoining Made In Herne Bay section.
Peter Lee, city councillor and chairman of the Herne Bay regeneration working group, opened the event.
He said: “It’s great to see so many people here. And good to see some old faces, along with some new ones.”
“The two main things about this exhibition is that it gives people the chance to talk about what they’re doing and also the opportunity for everyone to do some networking.”
With last year’s total of 600 visitors looking set to be beaten comfortably, Cllr Lee was wholly upbeat about not just the event, organised by the city council’s business development team, but life in Herne Bay in general.
“It’s all absolutely positive for Herne Bay at the moment now we’ve been through a process with the regeneration working party.
“It’s taken 10 years to get to this point. We had to get the building blocks in place for a master plan, while the government kept changing the rules and the way we had to do consultations.”
Peter Vickery-Jones, a fellow councillor and member of the regeneration working group, echoed the optimism.
“People are proud of Herne Bay again,” he said.
Does that suggest belief in the town had dimmed?
“Although people were proud of it, there was always the idea that we could do better.”
Cllr Lee again: “What is really encouraging is the adoption of the action plan, which will see Beach Street open straight to the seafront with a clear view to the clock tower,” he said.
“This had a lot of public support and indeed was the most popular thing that came back from our consultation with people in the town.”
Although business was a big part of the event, there was much more to it than that.
Town interest groups such as those promoting the clock tower and the pier had stalls, as did a number of ‘people charities’.
One of those was last year’s Times charity of the year, SNAAP (Special Needs Advisory & Activities Project).
Carrie Wood, manager of the disabled-children charity based in Herne Bay, stressed the importance of networking at the event and the chance to highlight its presence to people in the town.
“We want to tell everyone we are a local charity so please support us,” said Ms Wood.
As a final note of interest, and contrary to the beliefs of some in Herne Bay, Cllr Lee believes that Herne Bay’s coming under the auspices of Canterbury City Council rather than staying an independent authority has been a big part of the perceived upturn in its fortunes.
“To my mind it’s been a very positive thing,” he said. “There’s more resource and abilities that have become available to us.”
Cllr Vickery-Jones agreed: “There’s a changed perception – people used to think that all good things went to Canterbury.
“We hope the view is now that Herne Bay is making a positive contribution to the district.”
Last word to Cllr Lee: “We’re showing we can stand on our own two feet.”