Revealed: £35m bid to transform King’s Lynn town centre
PUBLISHED: 09:12 24 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:50 24 June 2020
A £35m bid is being launched to transform the centre of King’s Lynn.
It would fund a wish-list including: • Diverting London Road around the South Gate, so traffic no longer runs through the monument;
• Refurbishing St George’s Guildhall to provide a new heritage attraction;
• Redevelopment of the Baker Lane car park to provide 150 new homes;
• A community hub based at a new library, with training and services.
West Norfolk council has applied for £21.6m in grant funding from the government’s Future High Streets Fund, after getting the go-ahead to make a detailed submission last year. If successful, match funding could up the total available to invest in Lynn to £35.5m.
Graham Middleton, the council’s cabinet member for business development, said: “We are very pleased to be submitting this business case to the government, which comes at an important time for the town. We are committed to supporting the town centre and businesses in light of the impact of Covid-19.
“The Future High Streets Fund is a competitive process and our bid will be considered against submissions from across the country. We believe that we have developed a robust submission which reflects the long-term needs of the town centre, and which has been shaped with feedback we received through our community consultation.
“Our proposals support the sustainable long-term future of the town, which is now even more of a priority for us than ever.
“But we don’t just want King’s Lynn town centre to survive – we want it to thrive. Our submission would help the town to do just that.”
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North West Norfolk MP James Wild said: “This is a strong bid which would bring very welcome investment to enhance King’s Lynn’s recovery from Covid-19.
“By improving the attractiveness of the South Gate, investing in our fantastic Shakespearean heritage, providing more training and enterprise opportunities as well as new housing these proposals provide a long term vision to support growth and levelling up in north west Norfolk.
“I am pleased to have supported the council and local community’s efforts to develop the bid and I will now be championing it with ministers.”
Diverting London Road around the South Gate would improve traffic flows around Lynn and protect the historic entrance to the town as a visitor attraction.
Refurbishing the guildhall - believed to contain the last surviving theatre where Shakespeare performed - would turn the oldest theatre in the UK into a vibrant heritage attraction.
Ivor Rowlands, founder and chair of the Shakespeare’s Guildhall Trust, said: “The post-Covid world will have many uncertainties, but the benefits that a vibrant, refurbished guildhall can bring to Lynn will be needed more than ever. Changes to the retail and hospitality sector means that town centres need to find new and varied ways of attracting footfall by focusing on their unique attributes to differentiate themselves.
“I’m delighted with the inclusion of the guildhall in the borough council’s proposals and see this as a recognition of the progress that has been made by Shakespeare’s Guildhall Trust over the past 18 months.”
The housing project would bring more people to live in the town centre, helping to ensure its sustainability.
The Multi-User Community Hub, in the former Argos building at the junction of New Conduit Street and Tower Street, would enhance training and skills provision in the town centre.
All of the projects reflect themes which emerged during two rounds of community consultation, in which 1,200 people gave their views last year. A decision is expected from the government in the early autumn.
Mr Middleton added said the funding bid was “a fantastic opportunity” for the town centre.
“We want King’s Lynn town centre to be a place of choice, with increased use and satisfaction,” he said. “This funding, alongside the other investment we are making, could be transformational for the town and leave a legacy for generations.”
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