How £540m boost could transform Lowestoft for generations to come
- Credit: East Suffolk Council
Ambitious plans costing more than £540 million could transform Lowestoft, with a major decision expected next month.
In 2019, Lowestoft was chosen as one of 100 UK places to benefit from the government's £3.6 billion Towns Fund, which could transform the UK's most easterly town for generations to come.
The initiative would see up to £25 million awarded to towns to breathe new life into areas, with a particular focus on improving transport, broadband, skills and culture.
For their bid, the Lowestoft Place Board submitted a blueprint for the future of the town over the next decade as part of their Town Investment Plan.
The board, which comprises of representatives from public, private and voluntary organisations and is managed by East Suffolk Council, submitted the plan in November, which could could see a total investment of more than £540 million by 2030.
Having lived in the town all of his life, Stephen Javes, former chief executive of Orwell Housing Group, was appointed chairman of the Lowestoft Place Board following its creation.
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He said: "The Town Investment Plan, shaped using views submitted by local businesses and the community, will help Lowestoft to thrive.
"Lowestoft is definitely a town worth investing in and access to this funding will make a huge difference to our ability to take the town further forward.
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"We await the response from Government, which is expected in early March, before moving onto the business case phase."
The bulk of the bid is to cover projects in what has been designated as the Cultural Quarter of the town, totalling £14.7 million.
This would see upgrades to the Marina Theatre and demolition of the vacant Battery Green car park to build a "new, vibrant building to support performing arts" as well as commercial and leisure facilities, with the project costing a total of £35.8 million.
Improvements to the key access point of the town have also been proposed, with the Station Quarter seeking £2.9 million of the Towns Fund for redevelopment of the derelict part of the railway station building, which has been vacant for more than 50 years, to create a restaurant or cafe.
The Historic Quarter could see £3.3 million allocated to a "conservation-led" approach, including to the development of the former Town Hall, which has been vacant since 2015 in the historic High Street.
With further funding being sort from Associated British Ports, the plan includes improvements to the port gateway to "secure the town's future as a hub for the clean energy sector", with £2.7 million of the Town's Fund earmarked for the site.
The remaining £1.3 million will go towards a programme of seafront improvement projects, including improvements to the promenade, replacement of the Royal Plain Fountains and redevelopment of the East Point Pavilion.
The town has already been awarded £750,000 from the Town's Fund as part of an early release of £80 million to kick-start projects nationwide.
The lion's share of that will go towards the revamp of the pavilion, including an internal redesign to provide a community space and options for small, pop-up style businesses.
The Town Investment Plan goes beyond the Towns Fund bid, however, with more than £206 million already secured for the Flood Risk Management Project, the Gull Wing bridge, the Full Fibre project and the Lowestoft Smarter Towns project.
A number of future plans are also in development, including the return of the First Light Festival, improvements to CEFAS' Marine Science campus and the Eastern Energy Hub and Power Park.
The Kirkley sustainable urban neighbourhood plan will also see the area transformed into a “vibrant community” which “maximises the opportunities presented by the waterfront location,” at a cost of £250 million.
The scheme would create new homes, a primary school, employment opportunities and improved access to water-based leisure pursuits.
As well as the Station Quarter and Historic Quarter, the ambitious plan would target the Innovation Axis, which could see the former Beales store on London Road North transformed into a marine science centre and educational campus.
The Heart of Lowestoft quarter mirrors the Town Investment Plan's Cultural Quarter, seeing the regeneration of the Marina Theatre and expansion of the Lowestoft Players, as well as development of the Battery Green car park.