POLL: �30,000 Holt Vision report unveiled revealing ambitious plans for the Georgian town

The elegant Georgian streets and bustling shopping mews of Holt make it one of the jewels in Norfolk's crown.

But it has not stopped the community dreaming up a vision for its future, which aims to improve the townscape and the lives of its residents.

Among the ambitious plans are new town squares for market stalls and cultural events, and proposals to help young people find work.

But a survey by the EDP found many people on the street had not heard of the masterplan – and felt it was less important than the long-standing campaign to provide a new car park to ease the town's traffic congestion, which many traders fear is holding it back.

The Holt Vision final report is the result of a �30,000 project – funded by a �25,000 grant from North Norfolk Community Partnership and �5,000 from the town council – which has been in the making since August last year.


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It has set out ways of boosting the Georgian town's economy and environment.

The plans look to the next 25 years, but ambitiously the report's aim is to see the changes implemented within the next three to five.

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Its most ambitious concept is to create three new town squares in Market Place, Fish Hill and Shirehall Plain by pedestrianising areas and closing roads to traffic.

Plans laid out for Market Place would see the main road become wrapped around the war memorial, closing off part of the road to become a civic and ceremonial area.

Fish Hill would become a cultural hub with caf� tables occupying the street, and a weekly market is proposed to set up shop in Star Plain.

And finally, Shirehall Plain, the most controversial of the proposed areas, would become a stand-alone public space, potentially closing off a section of Albert Street to traffic.

Holt mayor Bryan Payne,a member of Holt Vision Board, praised the ethos behind the plan.

'We have to keep moving forward, however nice Holt is,' he said.

'The improvements would make shopping there a lot easier and more pleasant.

'We have to enhance it more and we also need to answer concerns about deprivation and young people.'

For as well as improving the appeal of Holt, an important aspect of the study is ways in which to boost the town's economy and support its working population to create more jobs and better transport links.

Mr Payne was hopeful the plans would make Holt more 'prosperous' for young people to live, work and stay in the town.

'We must not get away from the fact there are other things in the Vision –not just the town centre. It also deals with the economics of the town,' he added.

The plans have looked at establishing Holt Hall as a centre of innovation in new environmental and energy technologies, securing high-speed broadband connectivity for the town and creating 50 more jobs for young people over five years by building on the Achieving Confidence and Training programme already established by the Youth Project.

It also suggests improvements to foot and cycle paths into Holt and the surrounding area, including the creation of more bike parking and pedestrian crossing.

But Mr Payne, while supporting these ideas, emphasised that the Vision could not be implemented until appropriate car parking becomes available.

'The car park is crucial to the whole plan and to the future of Holt,' he said.

'A lot of this scheme can't work or start without it.'

Discussions are on-going with Norfolk County Council and landowner Graham Chapman regarding plans to build a 385-space car park on the land off Thornage Road.

Mr Payne said the council had 'pushed' as much as they could but that the final outcome remained with the developer.

'If you can fight out the difficult situation of the car park then the Vision could be good,' he added.

In the meantime developers of Thaxters of Holt timber and DIY yard have announced plans to incorporate 82 free, two-hour parking spaces if plans for a supermarket go ahead.

Tim Schofield, partner of the developers, Norwood Homes (Westgate) LLP, confirmed this week that 'negotiations were on-going' with a long term lease agreement 'in principal' with the Anglia Regional Co-operative Society.

Although the Vision earmarked the site for a high-tech business park, the overall aims of promoting jobs and opportunities does not conflict with the Thaxters scheme – which has drawn support in a poll on the EDP website with 73pc (207 people) in favour and only 27pc (78) against.

Anglia Co-operative retail executive Andy Simpson confirmed they were in discussions about Holt, which had been a 'target town' for some time.

The Vision Board hope to begin work as early as before the end of the year on projects such as improving the look of the roundabout at the end of the bypass, introducing the market, and making improvements to paving – funding pending.

Louise Mansfield, from architects Allies and Morrison, said that all the plans could be tested for their suitability before any permanent work was carried out.

Their report has now been handed back to the Vision Board and a meeting to discuss the future of the plans will take place at the last board meeting in March.

The idea is to create a Vision Strategy Committee which would meet quarterly and would be broken down into project sub-groups.

With Holt being such a popular tourist town and a place so well renowned both in and out of the county, the plans would be scrutinised closely by a reference panel.

The panel's job would be to check the committee were carrying out plans from the Vision report to an agreed time limit, yet to be set.

There would also be an overarching retaining board to check support was in place.

� The final report of A Vision for Holt is available online at www.holttowncouncil.org or can be borrowed from Holt Library.

� Click on the photo gallery in the top right-hand corner of the webpage to get a sneak-peak of the plans.

What the people of Holt said.

Carol Heslin, and Mandy Chapman, both 49, from Briston who are regular shoppers to the town, had not heard of the plans.

Mrs Heslin said: 'It is a busy town and it's hard to say if it will benefit or not. I think it's a nice little town how it is. It all depends on how much car parking will be left.'

Mrs Chapman added: 'There's definitely not enough places for people to sit in Holt. I don't think there's any harm in drawing up plans for the town's future and I think a market will bring more people in.'

Holt resident Anita Jones, 44, and former resident of 30 years Lesley Barrington, 54, had heard of the Vision.

Mrs Jones said: 'I think there's too much pedestrianisation in the Vision plans. Holt is still a town that has to work from day to day. I think it's a jolly lot of money to spend when they could have gone around the town and found out what people thought.'

Mrs Barrington said: 'I don't see how it will work. I do think it's good to have a change, but people are afraid of that. The Vision is a big degree of change but things do need to move forward.'

Lindsay Furniss, owner of the Tannery leather shop in Bull Street was aware of the Vision, saying: 'I think Holt needs a development plan.

'It's a beautiful town and it needs to be in keeping with the Georgian heritage, but without the car parking in place I don't know how it will work. I am positive about Holt Vision but I would like to understand how it will be funded and what the timeline is.'

Denise Benbow, 49, business partner at Benbows Fruiterers in the High Street was unaware of the Vision.

She said: 'I don't think Holt needs a Vision plan for the future, but there is a need for parking.

'I don't think we need anything else in the town as I think we have enough. There's everything here already.

'We would have more people come here if there was more parking spaces.'

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