One of Lynn’s most famous buildings has been sold and could now be turned into luxury apartments under new proposals.
An agreement for the sale of Purfleet House has been announced and redevelopment work could start this autumn, if planning consent is granted.
The Grade II Listed building has been sold by its previous owner, Roger Gawn, to private investor Paul Wilkinson.
Despite criticism of his handling of the property in recent years, Mr Gawn said it was only now that the time was right to pursue a project of this type.
The building was put up for sale, with an asking price of just under £200,000, two years ago and Mr Gawn said he did not know of many people who would pursue a loss-making project.
He said: “It has been some time, following the beginning of the economic recession in 2008, for a project of this type to be viable.
“The proposal for a number of residential apartments in the new scheme for Purfleet House is a very appropriate use and will enable purchasers to live in the very heart of this wonderful historic centre of King’s Lynn.”
Mr Wilkinson said the plans were a “great opportunity” to bring the building back into full use.
He added: “I very much look forward to working closely with Mr Gawn and the Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk to develop a scheme that fully reflects the importance of this building, both in terms of architectural merit and its position within the historic quarter of King’s Lynn.”
Although no formal plans have yet been submitted, it is understood that at least seven apartments are envisaged in the scheme, with some being accommodated in a new building in the courtyard.
Initial discussions are also believed to have taken place with West Norfolk Council and it is hoped that a planning application will be submitted within three months.
Mr Gawn said that, as part of the deal with Mr Wilkinson, he had agreed an option to buy one of the flats himself when the project is completed so that he could maintain his connections with the area.
He said: “I love King’s Lynn and I love this location.”
Political and business leaders have welcomed the announcement of the development plans, though heritage campaigners gave a more cautious reaction.
West Norfolk Council deputy leader Alistair Beales said: “This is a very prominent and significant building in the waterfront area of King’s Lynn.
“We have long hoped it would be brought back into use and we’re delighted to hear that there are proposals in the pipeline for its redevelopment.
“I understand that discussions are already under way with our conservation officers and I look forward to seeing the plans in a few weeks’ time.”
Michael Baldwin, general manager of the nearby Bank House hotel, said: “It’s excellent news.
“Anything that smartens it up and brings more people into this part of the town is a good thing.”
But Alison Gifford, chairman of the Lynn Civic Society, said she was sceptical about whether the plans would come to fruition.
She also questioned the availability of residents’ parking if building was permitted in the courtyard.
She said: “We’ve been here before but I would be delighted if it does happen.”