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'Costly mistakes' warning as councillors back new plan for St George's Guildhall in King's Lynn

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Councillors have backed plans which aim to secure the redevelopment of a historic Lynn arts complex, despite opposition fears of "costly mistakes" in the future.

Proposals to seek fresh funding for the St George's Guildhall complex, as well as establishing a new charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) to manage it, were backed by West Norfolk Council cabinet members earlier this month.

The issue was then put to all councillors when they met at Lynn's Corn Exchange on Monday afternoon.

An audience in the St George's Guildhall in King's Lynn (48020190)
An audience in the St George's Guildhall in King's Lynn (48020190)

But Independent member Chris Morley tabled an amendment concerning any future negotiations with current tenants of the King Street site.

It said the authority of senior figures to conduct such talks should be "subject to the renegotiated terms being fair and reasonable having regard to market testing and due diligence and not automatically extended on existing or lesser terms."

Council leader Stuart Dark rejected the amendment, which he suggested did not add to the debate.

Covid vaccinations are now being delivered from the St George's Guildhall (52930803)
Covid vaccinations are now being delivered from the St George's Guildhall (52930803)

His deputy, and portfolio holder, Graham Middleton said he didn't believe the amendment was needed, pointing out there had already been lengthy discussion of the project.

He added: "We will ensure all boundaries are covered before the CIO is created."

The proposals had been examined at two joint panel sessions, over nearly six hours in total, prior to the cabinet session.

The panel's Conservative chairman, Judy Collingham, claimed Mr Morley had tried to prevent a second meeting and suggested it was "disingenious" to bring forward concerns at this point.

Mr Morley himself said he had thought more about the issues since those sessions.

But another Independent, Simon Nash, said debate remained open until the final vote is taken.

And Jo Rust said: "It potentially safeguards this council from making costly mistakes in the future. It's reasonable and rational."

The Green Party's Michael de Whalley, who seconded Mr Morley's amendment, added: "If you vote against it, questions should be raised."

Council chiefs are hoping to attract more than £8 million in Government and Lottery funding towards the latest bid to revamp the Guildhall site.

Around £4.8 million could be sourced from the town's anticipated £25 million Town Deal allocation, while a bid for up to £3.3 million of Heritage Lottery funding could be submitted as soon as this autumn.

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