New market, bar and bistro at King’s Lynn’s Hanse House could create 60 jobs
King's Lynn's historic Hanse House could soon host an indoor market, bar and bistro.
Plans lodged with West Norfolk council by developer James Lee show how the Hanseatic building, dating back to the 1470s, could be brought back into use creating 60 jobs.
Mr Lee launched a successful bid to buy the building – formerly owned by Norfolk County Council – last year, after conservationists enlisted the support of Prince Charles to stop it becoming offices.
Mr Lee hopes to begin bringing the building back into life by the autumn, making it one of the focal points of the town's water front, which is set for further regeneration if moorings for visiting yachts and other craft are built on its doorstep in the River Ouse.
'It's unbelievable, said Mr Lee. 'I still pinch myself sometimes at the fact I've got it.
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'I've gambled everything on this working – otherwise it's just another empty building at risk in King's Lynn.'
The indoor market will take up the southern side of the ground floor, with a bar in the undercroft where merchants once stored their wares and a bistro/restaurant at the rear.
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Above there will be offices and apartments, along with a revamped registry office.
'We're still going to have weddings but you'll be able to get married and have your wedding reception here too,' said Mr Lee, who still receives enquiries from couples unaware that the former registry office, which had operated in the building for generations, closed down when Norfolk County Council vacated the premises three years ago.
Mr Lee said he hoped to hire a full-time wedding co-ordinator to begin booking weddings for later in the year.
His planning application states the development will create 30 full-time and 30 part-time jobs. The building will also have an art gallery and possibly an exhibition devoted to Nelson.
Council planners will now review the application, before recommending whether councillors should pass it the proposals.
Originally built as a warehouse for Hanseatic merchants in what was a thriving port, in 1475, the property is now the last surviving Hanseatic building in England.
Lynn's merchants moved in and occupied the building for almost two centuries, until it was sold to Edward Everard in 1751, for �800. Everard re-modelled its frontage, adding the Georgian house which still faces St Margaret's Church.
It was bought by Norfolk County Council in 1971. But parts of the building have fallen into disrepair in recent years.
Concerns over the state of the property reached the ears of Prince Charles, who in January 2011 visited the Grade 1 listed building to discuss its future with councillors.
The Prince's Regeneration Trust, of which the Prince of Wales is president, became involved in deciding its future.
Both the trust and English Heritage endorsed the decision to sell the building to chartered surveyor Mr Lee, who lives in Lynn and has worked on a number of development projects in the town.