Graphic: Vision outlined for the future of Lowestoft
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Critics have consistently made the point that Lowestoft lacks a vision for a prosperous future with claims that its transport system and infrastructure are failing the town.
But now the town is on the cusp of an economic and social boom thanks to a set of schemes which are gathering momentum.
This week saw 220 people attend the Lowestoft Conference in which the benefits of an area action plan to regenerate the Lake Lothing area by creating 1,000 jobs and building 1,500 homes in 11 years' time and a proposal to build a new river crossing were explained.
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And the conference, at Lowestoft Sixth Form College, heard how the town was poised to take advantage of the offshore industry, especially the East Anglia Array wind farm, and from funding grants available from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership to support businesses in Lowestoft.
But as council leaders Colin Law and Mark Bee, Waveney MP Peter Aldous and partnership chairman Mark Pendlington claimed Lowestoft had a bright future, the question still remained at the conference – is anything actually being done to help the town or is it all talk?
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The area action plan for Lake Lothing has been adopted by Waveney District Council and although it has been criticised in some quarters, the scheme is taking shape.
It will see the former Sanyo television factory site have hundreds of homes built on it in a £2.4m deal, new businesses such as a JD Wetherspoon pub are moving to Peto Square and South Quay area, and in February it was revealed plans to build the East of England Park leisure site on under-used land between the North Denes sea wall and Ness Point were progressing well.
Ambitious plans to build up to 850 homes on Kirkley waterfront have also been lodged by Kent-based Cardy Construction.
The cost of the area action plan relies on the private sector and Mr Law, leader of Waveney District Council, told the conference there had been a 'tremendous interest' from companies to invest in other land earmarked for the action plan.
Mr Law also said the part of the area action plan focusing on the energy sector, the PowerPark, would start to reap benefits as the East Anglia Array wind farm contracts would start to be awarded in 2015/16
He added: 'I believe that this is a town heading in the right direction. We are laying the foundations of prosperity in the wake of some terribly difficult years for the town.'
The conference also saw the bugbear of Lowestoft's poor transport infrastructure raised – with calls for a new crossing over Lake Lothing and improvements to Oulton Broad North station.
Mr Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, said his authority had commissioned a feasibility study into three possible options for a new crossing to help ease the town's seemingly endless congestion woes – although no funding has been secured.
The councils are also in discussions with Network Rail to see if the rail company's plans to improve the level crossing at Oulton Broad North station to solve long-standing traffic snarl-ups could be speeded up.
Mr Bee stressed how Suffolk's Better Broadband project would benefit existing businesses and ones moving into the town, with one firm already enjoying broadband speeds of 330 megabits per second.
He said: 'The planets are now aligned in Lowestoft's favour. It is now time we all talked up Lowestoft. I think it is in a great position to take advantage of the opportunities that are set to come its way.'
Mr Pendlington highlighted how his partnership's strategic economic plan to draw in £500m of funding in the next six years to create tens of thousands of jobs in Suffolk and Norfolk would help in the town, while businesses can apply for support grants starting from £5,000.
Mr Pendlington said: 'There is a spirit of ambition here in Lowestoft now. There is a great collaboration between the councils, Peter Aldous MP, the partnership and residents.'
Mr Aldous said he was pleased to see how the town's high schools were 'fully engaged and focused on the importance of renewable energy to the future of their town' and the sixth form college and Lowestoft College were also focused on the same sector.
Do you think Lowestoft will reap the benefits of the wide-ranging area action plan and the energy sector? Email email@example.com
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