Don’t be a ‘hostage’ to King’s Lynn heritage, report pleads

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Council chiefs have been urged not to be “held hostage” by Lynn’s heritage in an external review of the town’s tourism provision.

The plea, made in a report presented to West Norfolk Council’s ruling cabinet at a meeting on Tuesday, follows a review by council operations by a Local Government Association panel.

Chief executive Ray Harding said the authority asked the panel to examine its work on tourism and heritage as part of the Corporate Peer Challenge programme, as well as financial and corporate management.

The report said: “King’s Lynn has a fabulous heritage offer with unique buildings, a character waterfront and open public spaces.”

The panel also praised the council’s ability to work with other agencies to secure external funding for major projects and its ambitions to raise awareness of the town’s heritage assets.

But they went on: “We were concerned you may be ‘held hostage by your heritage’, in that preservation is the primary concern and the contribution the buildings might make to the local economy and the council’s broader objectives appears to be considered as a secondary issue.

“We think you need to be clearer about King’s Lynn’s brand and this then needs to be marketed in a coherent way: for local people, to attract tourists and to attract businesses.”

An action plan, drawn up in response to the issues raised in the report, was approved by the cabinet.

And the report also coincided with consideration of the King’s Lynn town centre action plan, which was approved at the same meeting.

The plan contains around 40 separate initiatives, which are being pursued by the borough council, other public bodies and some private companies, over the coming years.

Mr Harding said the growth of online shopping and out of town developments meant town centres could no longer be as heavily focused on retail opportunities as they once were.

He said: “We need to be looking forward and developing a more diverse, mixed town centre offer.”

He added that the plan should be updated either annually or bi-annually.

Elizabeth Nockolds, portfolio holder for culture, tourism and marketing, said the plan was an important document.

She said: “We all want our town centre to be successful, not just for local people but for tourists.

And Alistair Beales, portfolio holder for regeneration, said: “Of course there is a lot to do, but it shows how much has been done.”

Meanwhile, Mr Harding also revealed that the council is seeking an independent review of its scrutiny procedures following the Corporate Peer Challenge process.

The report described the authority’s current scrutiny procedures as “ineffective” and said a more robust challenge to ideas was needed.

Mr Harding said the Centre for Public Scrutiny had been asked to undertake an independent review of scrutiny procedures, on which a report would be compiled by the end of the civic year in May.