So IS west Norfolk overlooked by the rest of the county?

A 25m wish-list has been unveiled to transform King's Lynn Picture: Matthew Usher

Aerial view over King's Lynn. - Credit: Archant

As a local councillor claims the people of west Norfolk are treated as 'second class citizens' by County Hall and would be better served by furthering links with Cambridgeshire, SARAH HUSSAIN spoke to fellow locals to find out how they viewed their relationship with the rest of Norfolk

The distance from King's Lynn to Norwich is 43 miles, but it sometimes feels a lot further.

The town, with neighbouring Hunstanton and Downham Market and surrounding villages, can, for some, feel a world apart from the rest of Norfolk.

That is certainly the view of Chris Morley. He stands as an independent on King’s Lynn and West Norfolk borough council and seemed to have independence on his mind when he rose to speak at a meeting earlier this week.

The representative for Bircham with Rudhams launched an outspoken attack on Norfolk County Council saying west Norfolk people were seen as "second-class citizens in the corridors of County Hall at Norwich".

He said those living in his area fared worse than those further east when it came to health provision and economic opportunities and has since spoken of a wider perception that the region feels overlooked and sidelined by the rest of the county.

It would, he says, benefit from cutting some its ties to the east and instead forging stronger links with Cambridgeshire.

So is he right? It depends who you ask. 

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Jenny Groom, Downham Market mayor, stopped short of agreeing with Mr Morley, but said, the area was sometimes regarded by those from elsewhere in the county as "being on the edge of the universe".

The mayor of Downham Market, Jenny Groom. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The mayor of Downham Market, Jenny Groom. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

She added: "When I was teaching in west Norfolk and we had a local education authority based at Norwich, quite a lot of the advisers didn't know where the school I taught was.

"That's going back a few years, but there's still very much a feeling in west Norfolk that everything is focused on the Norwich area and north Norfolk.

"For me living in Downham Market, it is easier for me to get to Cambridge than it is to Norwich. We're increasingly getting people that live in Downham, but work in Ely, Cambridge or London.

"The actual transport links from here to Norwich aren't very easy, to get to Norwich by train you have to get to Ely and change, and to get a bus from Downham to Norwich, you have to go to King's Lynn and change.

"The infrastructure, which is mainly the A47, is not really good in the west part of the county."

Hilgay butcher and shop owner, Ali Dent, said there was a sense that west Norfolk was overlooked. "All they think about is Norwich, rather than our way," he added.

Ali Dent outside his shop in Hilgay, near Downham Market. Picture: Chris Bishop

Ali Dent outside his shop in Hilgay, near Downham Market. Picture: Chris Bishop - Credit: Archant

But, Jan Moloney, who runs a small women's boutique in Downham, held a different view.

The owner of Tickled Pink, who moved to the town from Kent, said west Norfolk was different to the rest of the county, not because it was necessarily overlooked, but because it had its own distinct identity.

Jan Moloney, owner of Tickled Pink Boutique on the High Street in Downham Market.

Jan Moloney, owner of Tickled Pink Boutique on the High Street in Downham Market. - Credit: Sarah Hussain

She said: "It's very rural and very much in the past, which is where the divide seems to come from.

"From someone living in Norfolk and running a business, I don't personally feel like I'm treated like a second-class citizen.

"It's developing and lagging in time a bit, behind even Norwich, but that's because it works.

"But things gradually catch up as the need arises."

Jim McNeill, from Stoke Ferry, who is involved in restoring and reopening the Blue Bell Inn, shared a similar sentiment.

Save the Blue Bell campaigners joined together to celebrate a grant which will go towards helping th

Save the Blue Bell campaigners joined together to celebrate a grant which will go towards helping them save Stoke Ferry's last remaining pub. Pictured: Jim McNeill (left) Roy Biven, Alan Lury and Tom Ryves (right). Picture: Sarah Hussain - Credit: Archant

He said: "Norfolk County Council has offered support and funding for us. I don't feel like we're discriminated in any way. 

"Perhaps we are often seen on the edge of the county, a long way from Norwich, but it's a huge county, people here feel very engaged with being Norfolk folk."

The debate continued on social media, where many shared the sense that west Norfolk was sidelined.

Andy Stonach said: "It's true, we are better off looking at the links with Cambridge/Peterborough, than Dereham or Norwich." Joan Cribbett added: "Everything is Norwich-centric."

While Ian Ashford said: "I've always said that King's Lynn doesn't really have much of a connection to Norwich."


How King's Lynn rivals Norwich

For much of its history, Lynn has been a real rival to Norwich for the title of Norfolk's most important centre.

Its location beside the Great Ouse meant it emerged as one of the east coast's greatest seaports, connecting a vast area of rural East Anglia and beyond, to towns and cities across Europe.

In 1204, following a charter from Bishop John de Grey of Norwich, the town became Bishop’s Lynn (Lenne Episcopi).

Then, in the reign of Henry VIII it took the name Lenne Regis or King's Lynn.

Parts of the town's heyday as a Hanseatic port survive, including the Hanse House, the Custom House and grand merchants' houses.