The Big Debate 2020

The Big Debate 2020 | Highlight Reel

Another year, another afternoon of discussing key topics concerning Norfolk’s future.

Friday 7th February saw the opening of The Big Debate 2020, one of our high-profile events that brings together Norfolk’s business community from across all industries to be part of change for the county, both in 2020 and beyond.

The event was held at OPEN on Bank Plain, Norwich, and saw just shy of 150 delegates to the afternoon – our largest turn out to date!

Opened by our wonderful Head of Policy here at Norfolk Chambers, Nova Fairbank, who welcomed everybody collectively and went through what’s what for the event (and where to run in case of an emergency!), she started the afternoon on a high celebrating a big year ahead for Norfolk Chambers. Nova went on to make the big announcement about our exciting new project at Norfolk Chambers, known as Norfolk’s Voice. This is a platform for sharing critical knowledge, understanding, ideas, best practice and thought leadership through the medium of video, audio and written blogs.

We then welcomed to the stage Johnathan Denby from Greater Anglia, to talk about the milestones achieved last year on the counties rail service and to announce some exciting new projects and developments both currently happening and on the horizon for the company.

A special thank you to our sponsors, Greater Anglia and Broadland Business Park, to our exhibitors Barnham Broom, Howes Percival LLP, Maids Head Hotel and WLP, for supporting the event this year. And, of course, a special thank you to our fantastic host David Powles from Eastern Daily Press & Norwich Evening News, for directing the flow of questions to the panels and keeping the afternoon diverse, positive and exciting.

David Powles has been a journalist for 20 years, working for the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News for the last 13 of them. His previous roles have included News Reporter, News Editor, Investigations Editor and Assistant Editor and he was made editor of the daily newspapers and websites in 2017, fulfilling a lifetime's ambition, making him a perfect fit for hosting our event.

Aimed at discussing and debating the most pressing issues that our region is facing, Chambers members were given the opportunity to question this year’s brilliant panel consisting of three Norfolk MPs, an Independent Trade Expert and local business leaders coming from a wide variety of industries.

The afternoon consisted of four debates, each with a mix of panellists who covered topics identified by Norfolk Chambers that have been at the forefront of the business community. The topics, their respected panellists and some of the discussions that took place within each debate are as follows:


  • Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk
  • Lisa Collen, Flagship Group
  • Corrienne Peasgood OBE, City College Norwich

Kicking off the debates with the topic of Skills and People, the three biggest themes from this panel were around; the general skills shortage we are currently facing within Norfolk, along with the importance of education and the providing of opportunities; mental health and the ability we have to now instil good working practise and skills to both our current and future workforce to help combat the stigma; and the retention and recognition of the talent we have within Norfolk.


  • Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North
  • Dale Curtis, Kickstart Norfolk
  • Johnathan Cage, Create Consulting Engineers Ltd
  • Johnathan Denby, Greater Anglia

The key themes discussed on this panel related to; what improvements are needed for rail-lines within Norwich and Norfolk; what more needs to be done to ensure that improvements are being made to the A47 and other key transport links, and methods, to, from and within Norfolk; and the importance of 4G/5G and general connectivity within Norfolk, especially when compared to other regions around the UK.

International Trade

  • Mike Chapman, Independent Trade Expert
  • Kevin Walsh, LV Shipping
  • Duncan Lathwell, Natwest

Multiple topics came up during this panel, including; advice for first time exporters and what support is available to them; what is in store for future British trade, post Brexit; how we should go about maximising the port potential within Norfolk; the importance of learning the export destination’s language and/or culture when engaging in trade; and how important is air travel, especially in relation to Norwich Airport.


  • Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South
  • Alex Durand, SaxonAir
  • Ali Clabburn, Liftshare
  • John Popely, Anglia Print Ltd

Finally, the debate on sustainability had some in depth discussions relating to; what support and options are needed to improve our sustainability and carbon footprint from both an individual and a business perspective; how we actually go about shifting the focus from individual actions to a larger scale of what impacts businesses can have when tackling climate change; what would happen if we did manage to hit the 2050 carbon mitigation target and where would we go from there; what opportunities do we have to use more sustainable resources going forward; and where the resources are actually coming from to make the sustainable changes such as the conversion to electric cars, vans etc.

Furthermore, Ali Clabburn spoke extensively about the success of Liftshare in reducing the company’s CO2 emissions by around 54% across 2018/19, and their objective of paving the way for other businesses to follow suit in taking action to reduce their CO2 output and have a positive impact on the environment.

The event, although debating some heavy topics and having honest discussions on the current state of affairs within the region, came to a close with both the panellists and delegates coming together to celebrate Norfolk in an energetic atmosphere that comes with being part of the business voice that will create opportunities for our county going into 2020.

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