'Can't come soon enough' - Residents look forward to Middlegate revamp

A hypothetical view of what the Middlegate Estate regeneration could look like

A hypothetical view of what the Middlegate Estate regeneration could look like - Credit: Ark Consultancy/ GYBC

A £113m overhaul of a historic council estate could be in the pipeline if the local authority secures enough funding to turn the project into a reality. 

"Ambitious plans" for a total revamp of the Great Yarmouth's troublesome Middlegate estate were first discussed in 2018 - and at a meeting of the borough council's Housing and Neighbourhoods Committee in February last year, more details of the long-awaited plans were finally revealed.

The project would see GYBC spend £82m and would involve the demolition of 301 of the estate's 535 existing homes. 284 new council rented homes would be built, with 226 refurbished.

There would be a net gain of 88 homes overall, with 510 of the 623 proposed properties being council-owned.

A hypothetical view of what the Middlegate Estate regeneration could look like

A hypothetical view of what the Middlegate Estate regeneration could look like - Credit: Arc Consultancy/ GYBC

Plans reveal the housing block flanking Yarmouth Way is earmarked for full-scale demolition on account of its poor thermal efficiency, however refurbishment of Southern Middlegate, where most houses have been deemed "fit for modern purpose", will concentrate mainly on breaking up monotonous architecture with open spaces.

Likewise, the two blocks that flank Tolhouse Street will see little intervention under current proposals.

According to Anthony Moore, Housing Growth Development Manager at GYBC, the planned refurbishment will "most likely go ahead" - subject to the plugging of a £14 million funding gap by Homes England.

Mr Moore said there was an opportunity to create "much nicer homes" for people, set with private courtyards and varied architecture. He added, however, that most residents were opposed to "full-scale demolition", and that the council must take this into account.

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The results of a community consultation beginning in 2018 showed the biggest concerns were over isolation, youth provision, living standards and rampant anti-social behaviour on the Multi Use Games Area (MUGA).

Councillors agreed that any money left from refurbishment must go into an assessment of children's play provision.

Mr Moore said: "The money has to be used to ultimately integrate the residents into our town."

"Although it feels like an island", he continued, "the people who live on the estate don't think of themselves as living on 'Middlegate'.

"Instead, they see themselves as belonging to a collection of individual streets and places, so development needs to reflect that.

"Many feel that the seafront belongs to tourists, and that they are isolated from the town and King Street, even though it's close.

Although the council says at this stage the Middlegate Regeneration feasibility report is merely an "indicative masterplan", it is confident the plans are "affordable" should their funding bid be successful.

The Middlegate Estate in Great Yarmouth. Photo: George Ryan

The Middlegate Estate in Great Yarmouth. Photo: George Ryan - Credit: Archant

With many residents potentially having to move twice to facilitate the rebuild, some are sceptical and unwilling to engage with the project. For others, however, the revamp can't come soon enough.

Vanessa Clark, who has lived on Middlegate for over 12 years, said she was "delighted" the area will finally see some regeneration.

"There's five of us in the house and we've been on the council house exchange list for eight years," she said.

"The council is proposing single houses and gardens - this would be perfect for my son because we would have our own space. The demolition can't come soon enough.

"There isn't anything wrong with our house itself. We just got a new boiler and kitchen. It's just a shame about the area."

Barry Johnson, another Middlegate resident, moved to the estate in 1963.

He said the place had "really gone downhill", and challenged the council to stay true to its word about regeneration in the area.

"They've been promising a revamp for years", he said. "I hope this time they come through."

Great Yarmouth's Middlegate estate is in line for a multi-million pound transformation Picture: Liz

Great Yarmouth's Middlegate estate is in line for a multi-million pound transformation Picture: Liz Coates - Credit: Archant

Chairman of the Middlegate members working group, Michael Jeal, said: "This regeneration work aims to make the most of the strengths of Middlegate and its community.

"We have listened to residents' priorities, including improving homes for the 21st century, the street scene, youth provision and linkages to the town centre."