Free Wi-Fi is being introduced in Seaham next week as part of Durham County Council’s multimillion pound Towns and Village programme, which aims to enhance the vibrancy of towns and villages across the county.
The council have funded the installation of free public Wi-Fi in Seaham town centre as part of their £1.3m Wi-Fi scheme and hopes it will help boost footfall after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
Visitors will be able to log on to the 'Connected Seaham' system via a simple form or through social media and after this will be automatically reconnected on their return to further improve their experience.
The aim is to encourage people to spend more time in the town centre, which in turn will increase the takings of local businesses and support the county's economic recovery following the pandemic.
This will be further boosted by a programme of digital support for retailers to encourage them to increase their online presence, as well as the creation of new local apps providing heritage tours and promoting retail opportunities and offers.
Seaham is the latest location to benefit from the project, following the introduction of systems in Bishop Auckland and Stanley last March.
Over the next few months, it will be rolled out in Chester-le-Street and Barnard Castle, with the latter being delivered in conjunction with Teesdale Area Action Partnership.
The scheme is a key part of Durham County Council’s Towns and Village programme, which strives to ensure that every investment the local authority makes delivers the best possible outcomes for communities across the county.
As well as enhancing the experience of visitors to Seaham town centre, the Wi-Fi project will support the Towns and Villages programme through the anonymous footfall data it collects, including identifying the number of new and repeat visitors, the length of time people spend in specific areas and the routes they take, day and night.
This data will then be used to monitor the impact of high street changes and shape future investment.
Data captured from Bishop Auckland town centre has already been used to support significant funding applications, including a successful £19.9m bid to the government’s Future High Streets Fund.
Commenting, Durham County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economic Regeneration, Councillor Carl Marshall said: "We are committed to our plan to further regenerate and invest in the county's towns and villages to ensure communities can benefit from thriving and sustainable high streets and centres.
"In this increasingly digital age, people are finding more ways to connect with each other. This project will enhance the experience for residents and visitors, attracting more people into our towns, increasing footfall and levels of spend and boosting our visitor economy, particularly as we look ahead to the county's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic."