Future King's Lynn: What will happen with town's £25m boost?
- Credit: Ian Burt
King's Lynn will be transformed after campaigners secured a £25m town deal.
Lynn is one of 30 towns across the country which will have won a share of a £700m regeneration pot announced last month.
Vision King's Lynn, whose town deal board helped draw up the town's winning bid with input from local people and businesses, said: "We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to access investment to transform King’s Lynn so it becomes a place of choice and fulfils its potential as a sub-regional centre."
The money will help to pay for improvements, including refurbishing the Ouse river frontage, the Guildhall of St George and the High Street. There will be new town centre homes and new uses for vacant shops, such as a community hub and indoor market.
A new one way system will help cut bottlenecks and traffic fumes, along with new walking and cycling routes.
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There will also be new training opportunities for young people to build the workforce of the future, including a nursing school which will open at the College of West Anglia in September.
Skill levels are lower than average in Lynn, along with wages, while firms struggle to recruit suitably-qualified staff. Improving attainment is pivotal to boosting the town's economy.
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Michael Baldwin, deputy chair of Vision King's Lynn, said: "It was an amazing feat really because we got the full ask, which not everybody got.
"Over the next 12 months, we have to put the business plan together, then it moves on from that quite quickly."
Graham Purkins, chief technical officer of Lynn-based medical manufacturer Merxin and chair of the town deal board, said: "Receiving the towns fund money will now enable us to start the process of delivering the broader range of projects identified in our plan and help us all work towards a brighter and more prosperous future for King’s Lynn.”
Projects which will be art of the deal are split into four general themes: - economic productivity through urban regeneration, planning and land use; skills and enterprise; and infrastructure and connectivity.
Each must be costed and approved before money can be drawn down to make a start. Work is already under way on the nursing school, which was approved before the main town deal was given the nod, with the handover of the new modular building which will contain special mock training wards expected next month.
A business case is being drawn up as part of the town deal for the refurbishment of St George's Guildhall, on King Street, which contains what is believed to be the only surviving theatre where Shakespeare performed.
It is hoped the 15th Century guildhall can be turned into a heritage attraction of national importance within the town deal. Mr Baldwin, who chairs both the guildhall's stakeholder and advisory groups said the funding was was "aspirational" money.
Refurbishment of the waterfront would include helping to clear brownfield sites ready for developers to take over. Land between South Quay and Southgates has been earmarked for 170 new homes.
Elsewhere money will be ploughed into new walking and cycling routes, to encourage fewer people to use their cars. Air quality is poor on congested streets such as London Road and Railway Road, so the town's one way system will be redesigned.
Alan Gomm, West Norfolk council's planning policy manager, said: "That really is exercising some of our colleagues in environmental health. If you can keep the traffic moving, it does lessen the air quality issues."
The bid sets out a timescale for projects, with work on most beginning next year after detailed costings have been agreed. It is hoped work on the Guildhall could be completed by 2024.
West Norfolk council leader Stuart Dark said: "We are awaiting the exact details of the next steps but are so pleased the exciting work of bringing the projects to fruition with partners, in consultation with stakeholders and the wider community, can now begin to start in earnest."
It is hoped a hub to encourage start-up businesses in the creative sectors could open later this year. Initial works are expected to start on the waterfront in 2022, while "repurposing" the High Street, including bringing vacant shops back into different uses is expected to be ongoing until 2025.