Plans to transform King's Lynn

Chris Hill This is how King's Lynn could look under radical plans to transform the town centre.Officials last night revealed proposals to expand the Vancouver Quarter, which are contained in a regeneration “masterplan”.

Chris Hill

This is how King's Lynn could look under radical plans to transform the town centre.

Officials last night revealed proposals to expand the Vancouver Quarter, which are contained in a regeneration “masterplan”.

West Norfolk council commissioned consultants Building Design Partnership (BDP) to draw up several draft designs after identifying a potential 20,000sqm shortfall of retail floorspace in the town centre.

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The masterplan covers the area between Baxter's Plain, the Vancouver Quarter and Railway Road, including the bus station and swimming pool - chosen because of its gateway position and links to existing shopping streets.

The completed proposals are due to be shown to the public next month, but an early draft shows plans to move the bus station to improve the flow of transport to the pedestrianised area.

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Although historic buildings like the Lynn Museum would be given an enhanced setting, other buildings like the former post office could make way for the improvements.

One idea is to open out the view from New Conduit Street to the museum - currently obscured by the Westgate shopping centre - which would also show the entrance to a major new store which would anchor the development.

Mike George, the council's economic regeneration manager, said a lack of retail units in the centre of Lynn could leave the traditional shopping area vulnerable to decline if out-of-town precincts were developed. He wanted to build on the existing offering to Lynn's shoppers in keeping with the current street scene, and not to develop a “flat-pack” new retail district.

“There is a need for more shop space by 2021 but it is important we don't change the character of the town - we have to recognise what is there and go forward,” he said.

“It is critical we don't create a separate shopping centre.

“There are key buildings and key facades which we would not want to lose... The museum is a key building and its setting needs to be enhanced. The post office is a thorny issue. We need to ask if the building itself is of such importance we need to keep it.”

The EDP reported last month that leisure chain Barracuda Group had submitted plans to redevelop the vacant 1930s post office building in Blackfriars Street as a bar and restaurant.

Mr George said the council was in contact with businesses which had made planning applications within the study area and, although the building was not suitable for retail, it could house a leisure business.

The BDP options also contain provisions for homes, improvements to access points from the train station, a multi-storey car park and a new library building for Norfolk County Council.

Jason Law, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “We want to keep it individual and keep it as King's Lynn. It is a schematic at the moment. There is no detail but there is an indication of where the best site for the bus station and the anchor store would be, and that's what we should see in July. Many visitors arrive at the town through the bus or train station so we can give a much better impression of the town.”

The development ideas were formed after consultations with businesses and civic groups in April.

Mr George stressed the plans were a long way from becoming a concrete project and needed to gain planning and cabinet approval before work could begin to attract private investors at the end of 2009.

An exhibition will be held next month when masterplan ideas are finalised to get input from the public.

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