�2.3m loan breakthrough brings redevelopment hope for North Walsham’s eyesore HL Foods site

Redevelopment of one of North Walsham's worst eyesore sites could begin next year after a bid for a �2.3m loan cleared a major hurdle this week.

The development, which has been welcomed, could see a first planning application submitted for the former HL Foods site within months, with work beginning in 2013.

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) announced on Tuesday that North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) and Hopkins Homes' joint application to the Growing Places Fund for the pump-priming loan had been successful and the full amount would be lent – once a set of conditions had been met.

The conditions include finalising repayment agreements and securing planning consent for the site which has been derelict for a decade since the former Norwich Road canning factory closed.

Loan cash would finance key infrastructure such as the main estate road and utility services for a scheme of mixed residential and commercial development, with large areas of public open space, representing a first phase of work on a larger, 24.5-hectare project.

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Hopkins Homes, through their consultants Bidwells, aim to submit an initial planning application in the autumn, expected to be for about 140 homes. NNDC will press for at least 45pc of them to be affordable, subject to viability.

Hopkins Homes director Martin Bailey said: 'We welcome this announcement and now look forward to continuing to work closely with North Norfolk District Council to finalise our planning application and to see commencement of this redevelopment next year.'

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Tom FitzPatrick, NNDC deputy leader and cabinet member for economic development, said he was delighted with the loan announcement.

'The development would provide a much more attractive entrance to the town for those coming from the railway station and shows faith in the future prosperity of North Walsham,' he added.

Talks are on-going with surrounding landowners in a bid to realise NNDC's vision of redeveloping a larger site to include 400-450 homes, a railway station car park, employment uses which could feature a pub, offices, small retail facilities and other commercial premises, and four hectares of public open space.

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