Is the economic tide turning for King’s Lynn?
- Credit: Matthew Usher
The tide's not just turning in the river these days as the Ouse flows in and out of King's Lynn.
After years of economic ebb, it looks like the proud port's ship might soon come back in again.
Almost twenty years ago, there was a similar buzz around the brownfield sprawl alongside the former whaling quarter.
A marina was proposed for the silted-up Nar Loop, surrounded by new homes, shops and restaurants.
West Norfolk council bought up land and courted developers. But the cost of building the marina scuttled the deal.
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Now ideas are being floated again for the site, between the Millfleet and Hardings Pits.
Confidence is buoyed up again in the council's King's Court HQ, as investment begins trickling back into Lynn.
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Hundreds of new houses are being built at Lynnsport. The former Beales department store in the Vancouver Quarter is being transformed into an H&M.
And then there's the waterfront, where plans to move a bus gate a few yards will unlock new areas of land for development.
This tweak to bus and cycle route Hardings Way did not come without a certain amount of controversy.
Some feared the move would be the first step towards opening all of the road to traffic.
But Alistair Beales, the council's portfolio holder for regeneration, told the planning committee: 'In many ways this is all about regeneration. It's not about traffic on Hardings Way, this poses no threat to Hardings Pits.
'This is a classic regeneration scheme which will allow five acres of land to be developed to the public benefit.'
When a developer gets on board, those five acres will be added to an already impressive tally of work in progress around Lynn.
'I reckon there's a gross development of £200m in very rough terms,' said Mr Beales. 'There's roughly 600 homes under construction, the waterfront is a huge development, we're doing some smaller sites as well.
'There's about 400 homes at Lynnsport, there will be more when we build on the land we bought off Morston Assets.'
Morston Assets being the original development partner for the NORA (Nar Ouse Regeneration Area) scheme, which envisaged hundreds of new homes and other development around the site of the former fertiliser factory, known to generations of Lynners as the Muckworks.
While the building which dominated the South Lynn skyline has long gone, building on much of the NORA stalled with the credit crunch, while a hoped for new college campus at the gateway to Lynn never got off the starting blocks.
But new homes are starting to appear again in the shadow of the South Gates.
And H&M's multi-million make-over of the landmark Vancouver Quarter site shows commercial confidence in rapidly-growing Lynn.
'There's another commercial transaction we're working on,' said Mr Beales, hinting at more of same to come.
'It's commercial rather than residential, but I can't say more than that at the moment.'
The council is starting to get the wind in its sails again, getting the right partners on board to develop under-used sites and realise their potential.
The biggest prize of them all is the longed-for waterfront regeneration, along the quays where the shrimp boats bob in the breeze. Mr Beales is confident the council can land this fish too.
'The marina's a good example, there was a lot of land assembly,' he said. 'What we're doing now is capitalising on that. We're trying to utilise these sites that are in King's Lynn.
'That involves controversial things like looking at Hardings Way. But none of this is a done deal, we're pretty open about everything we do.' Public consultation was carried out before the King's Lynn Riverfront Development Plan - the latest blue print for doing up the area - was finalised.
It proposes hundreds more new homes in streets and lanes leading to the quays, new retail and leisure developments and an enhanced Nar Loop.
Councillors have agreed to spend £250,000 on developing firm, oven-ready proposals which can then be pitched to potential developers.
A report by officials said: 'There is sufficient viability at this point to pursue the project.'
Mr Beales said: 'We've committed funding to look at it, in five years we'd like to see some progress.'