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True Norfolk man who brought new heart to county

PUBLISHED: 18:22 03 March 2011

Boosting the local economy: The Palm Paper factory near King's Lynn.

Boosting the local economy: The Palm Paper factory near King's Lynn.

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Donna Semmens talks to John Norton, who has retired as director for regeneration at West Norfolk Council, about his love of Norfolk and the highs and lows of selling its appeal to boost the economy.

West Norfolk Council director of regeneration John Norton who has retired pictured at  South Lynn's Millennium Community, part of the Nar Ouse Regeneration Area.

John Norton loves Norfolk and spent more than 30 years encouraging others to do the same in a big way – millions of pounds worth of big way. Persuading people to invest in partnerships and bring their industry to the county has not always been an easy task, and there have been disappointments along the way.

But having retired as director for regeneration at West Norfolk Council he can reflect on a career which has literally seen the skyline around him change.

Not least of all with the addition of Palm Paper at King’s Lynn, which is testament to Mr Norton and his team working tirelessly to ensure the company came to Norfolk with its £400m investment and creation of 150 jobs.

Parts of Norfolk grew hugely in the over-spill years of the 1960s, but regeneration was not much of a concept in those days and some towns, Lynn and Great Yarmouth included, never really updated much from that point.

It is only in more recent years that driving economic development and selling Norfolk as a potential home for industry has become a vital role for local authorities and the results can be seen all around us.

New homes, business centres, shopping facilities and industry may not, on the face of it, have much to do with the council. But without local authorities becoming involved from the outset, enabling, encouraging and even mediating where necessary, some of the investment would not happen.

Mr Norton, 61, began life as a town planner and worked in Bedfordshire before returning to his beloved home county in 1977 to work at Yarmouth where he got his first taste of economic development.

For the full story on how Mr Norton has helped our county build for the future see the EDP Sunday supplement in this Saturday’s EDP.

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