July 26 2014 Latest news:
Dominic Bareham, senior reporter
Friday, July 20, 2012
A major new tourist initiative has been proposed to open up a town’s historic Mere to visitors, but a council is in a race against time to secure heritage lottery funding for the project.
The Diss Heritage Triangle Project team has got until October to submit a lottery funding bid for the boardwalk which will cross the Mere from Hales Yard to King’s Head Yard, but town clerk Deborah Sarson told a town council meeting on Wednesday planning permission had to be secured first for the project before the bid could be sent.
The aim of the walkway across part of the six acre lake is to allow visitors to get closer to the Mere’s natural habitat, which includes a wide variety of birds such as Mallards, Tufted Duck, Moorhens and Canada Geese.
A zig-zag path will also be created leading down to the boardwalk from behind the town council’s offices in Market Hill along with a viewing platform at Back Court, while interpretation boards will be placed along the walk, which will be set away from the land, providing information on sights to be seen on the Mere.
Ms Sarson said some of the precise detail still had to be decided, including the materials used in the scheme, but she estimated the cost could be between £120,000 and £150,000 though none of this cost would be met by council tax payers.
If the bid is submitted by October, then a decision is expected to be made in December.
“We need to have an application in by the beginning of October. This is the type of project that is transformational and I fear that if we don’t proceed with this now it could be 2015 before there is another funding pot available,” Ms Sarson added.
She feared if the project was delayed the costs could increase, making it even more difficult to secure funding in the future.
The project team is also hoping to secure funding to cover the restoration and expansion of the town’s Corn Hall, as well as significant work to the public areas of the Heritage Triangle around Market Hill and St Nicholas Street, including the museum and St Mary’s Church.
However, town councillor Harold Rackham said he could not support the scheme because he feared the walk would bring people round the back of the council office where roads were narrow.