King’s Lynn bids for millions for town centre

A multi-million-pound bid that could transform King’s Lynn town centre has been submitted to the Government.

It comes as the Borough Council for King’s Lynn and West Norfolk – together with its partners – works to support the town’s recovery and renewal from the economic impact of Covid-19.

The council has made a submission for £21.6m in grant funding to the Future High Streets Fund having been successful in its initial expression of interest in 2019.

And, if successful in the competitive funding process, with match funding, the total investment in King’s Lynn town centre through the Future High Streets programme could be in the region of £35.5m.

The plans, which aim to tackle the town’s priorities and support its long-term future, have been informed by feedback from the public through community consultation last year, and developed in partnership with Norfolk County Council.

Councillor Graham Middleton, Cabinet Member for Business Development said: “We are very pleased to be submitting this business case to the government, which comes at an important time for the town. We are committed to supporting the town centre and businesses in light of the impact of Covid-19.

“The Future High Streets Fund is a competitive process and our bid will be considered against submissions from across the country. We believe that we have developed a robust submission which reflects the long-term needs of the town centre, and which has been shaped with feedback we received through our community consultation.

“Our proposals support the sustainable long-term future of the town, which is now even more of a priority for us than ever. A successful bid would be part of our Covid-19 recovery plans for the town centre.

“But we don’t just want King’s Lynn town centre to survive – we want it to thrive. Our submission would help the town to do just that.”

The projects highlighted in the submission are:

  1. King’s Lynn Multi-User Community Hub

Working in partnership with Norfolk County Council, this would provide a modern shared community space in the heart of the town that brings together a range of services anchored by a relocated town library.  In addition to increasing footfall, it would enhance training and skills provision in the town centre, providing a focal point for upskilling and accessing learning. It would be a multi-service hub, providing people with the space and resources to start up or engage in new activities and services. In the community consultation people said they wanted the town centre to feel inclusive with something for everyone. This would be a space for the whole community.

  1. Town Centre Housing Project

This project would provide in excess of 150 homes over a ten-year period, bringing more people to live in the town centre. Increasing the density of the in-town population would create greater sustainability, increase footfall and expand use of the town centre. To facilitate the housing provision, this project would see land released from existing car parking space to provide the town centre homes.

With land from existing car parking space used for these much-needed new homes, an innovative sheltered car park would be constructed to provide spaces for town centre parking. This would incorporate green technology: namely photovoltaic panels connected to electric vehicle (EV) charging points. This would help to support the council’s green agenda. In December 2019, part of the community consultation focused on creating opportunities for town centre living which this project would create.

  1. St George’s Guildhall Refurbishment

This scheme would see the refurbishment of St George’s Guildhall, creating a new heritage and cultural attraction using the unique selling points of the oldest theatre in the UK and the Guildhall’s Shakespeare link. The refurbishment plans are based upon a recent feasibility study carried out in December 2019 by the Shakespeare Guildhall Trust and the council.  This project provides King’s Lynn with the opportunity to create a new heritage attraction bringing increased numbers of visitors to the town. This project would require a separate match funding application through the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Throughout the community consultation, people highlighted the heritage of King’s Lynn as the number one attribute that they feel makes the town centre special, and that which can attract visitors into the town.

  1. South Gate Gateway

To improve traffic flow around the town, and to protect the historic entrance at South Gate as a visitor attraction, this project would focus on creating a highway diversion. The South Gate roundabout is a key gateway for the town and a bottleneck.  This project would tackle this issue, creating better access.

This project would also see public realm improvements, creating a more pleasant arrival and capitalising on the South Gate as a visitor attraction.  It would also allow for improvements to London Road pedestrian crossings and traffic lights as well as pedestrian and cycle links, increasing the options for visiting town.

Not only would this project alleviate the access issues, it would also allow for improvements that would enhance perceptions of this key gateway into the town and support the future development around this strategic site. The proposal sits within the wider transport strategy to relieve congestion at this crucial bottleneck location and deliver wider visual improvements to the town’s primary gateway.  The feedback revealed the huge value that people place upon the historical assets and the living heritage that exists in abundance in the town; this project would capitalise on the South Gate as a visitor attraction.

The full details of all the projects would be developed should the bid be successful.

As outlined, all the projects link into themes which emerged during extensive community consultation. In the first survey in February 2019, over 700 people gave their views and their feedback helped to inform the expression of interest. In the second round of consultation in November / December 2019, around 500 people shared their thoughts on their town centre experience and their ideas for the area.

If successful, the Future High Streets funding would align with the wider Town Investment Plan. This is the town’s vision for its economic development over the years to come and is currently being developed. This will potentially help the council to access a further £25m of Town Deal funding that has been allocated by the Government.  The Town Investment Plan will be the overarching vision and strategy for the area.

The submission was made to government on 22nd June with a decision expected in the early autumn.

Councillor Graham Middleton added: “The Future High Streets Fund potentially represents a fantastic opportunity for our town centre, allowing us to address challenges and maximise the area’s many strengths. Vitally, it will help us to support the town’s recovery and renewal from the impact of Covid-19 – which we are all committed to.

“We want King’s Lynn town centre to be a place of choice, with increased use and satisfaction. This funding, alongside the other investment we are making, could be transformational for the town and leave a legacy for generations.

“I am excited for what is possible.”