£25m town deal approved despite 'secrecy' concerns

Light trails created by traffic heading out of King's Lynn via the South Gate. Picture: Ian Burt

£25m town deal funding approved by West Norfolk Cabinet. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

A £25m town deal to regenerate King's Lynn has been signed off by cabinet members but concerns have been raised about the group "shrouded in secrecy" behind it.

Lynn is one of 101 communities across the country to be offered government funding for regeneration projects.

West Norfolk Council's (WNC) 'town deal' bid included restoring the waterfront, refurbishing the Guildhall of St George, improvements to the town centre and more opportunities for young people.

Funding for each project will be released once a business case has been agreed.

The funding was welcomed across the political divide, however, opposition councillors raised concerns, with Jo Rust describing the Town Deal Board (TDB) in charge of deciding the plans as being "shrouded in secrecy".

She said: "I'm really excited to think that our town could benefit from £25m of government funding but I want to make sure that the town does benefit and that the money isn't directed to projects that won't give us the best value for money.

"It appears to me, and members of the public, that decisions have been made by people who aren't elected."

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"We have asked lots of questions about the TBD, I heard it mentioned that we have gone through consultation with the TDB, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of community consultation."

The Guildhall of St George, which would be refurbished to become a heritage attraction under the tow

The Guildhall of St George, which would be refurbished to become a heritage attraction under the town deal, which a creative hub will be established in the White Barn on the site - Credit: Matthew Usher

Officer Duncan Hall said he was willing to accept some constructive criticism but argued there had been an "unprecedented level of communication", engaging with young people, businesses and others.

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Concerns were also raised about a mooted move for the library, currently housed in the Carnegie building on London Road.

Yesterday, Norfolk County Council said it is working to ensure the "important heritage asset" can continue to be used by the town.

They insisted that reports the building would be turned into housing were incorrect and they will be consulting on the plans.

Opposition councillors argued it should stay in the historic building.

Views of King's Lynn taken from the North Tower of The Minster. Picture: Ian Burt

King's Lynn will be transformed by a town deal with the government which will bring in £25m in regeneration funding - Credit: Ian Burt

Guidhall refurbishment funding also raised concerns among councillors.

While £4.8m has been allocated from the town deal and £750,000 from the council, a further £3.32m will be required from the Heritage Lotter Fund (HLF), despite two previous failed attempts.

Graham Middleton, cabinet member for business, culture and heritage, argued this application was different, due to changes in design and a reduction in the funding they were after.

WNC's cabinet agreed to sign off on the plans, draw up business cases for government submission and discuss items with relevant portfolio holders once a month.

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