King's Lynn on track for multi-million pound Town Deal, MP claims
Lynn is being given the chance to secure a multi-million pound package to improve vital connections.
The town is one of 100 areas across England which have been invited to develop plans for so-called Town Deals under new government proposals.
But critics have described it as a package of aspirations, rather than a meaningful programme.
The initiative could see Lynn receive up to £25 million, out of a total funding package worth £3.6 billion, for improvements in areas such as transport, digital connections, skills and culture.
And North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said he was confident local political leaders would draw up the right plan to secure the cash, after they were given the chance to bid for high street regeneration funds earlier this year.
He said: “Given the initial success we have had with the Future High Street Fund, it is obvious our borough council is regarded as a first class and innovative local authority.
“I am confident we will succeed in securing this money, and it will certainly help to reinforce our already strong economy.”
Sir Henry added that he would be specifically pushing for investment in improved transport links, including the possibility of work towards the construction of a parkway railway station on the edge of Lynn, as well as investment in roads and broadband.
The idea of a new station at the southern end of Lynn, potentially serving new housing and industrial developments has been put forward before, though with limited success.
Rail industry bosses have previously claimed that their plan for longer trains, which are finally due to come into service in late 2020 after years of delay, will address capacity concerns.
Sir Henry said: “West Norfolk is currently thriving with historically very low unemployment, a thriving manufacturing base and many new successful small businesses.
“However, this success deserves to be complimented by transport and infrastructure that is fit for purpose.”
But, with a general election apparently imminent amid the Brexit deadlock, despite a plan for one being blocked by MPs last night, not everyone is convinced by the offer.
Liberal Democrat Rob Colwell accused Sir Henry of “setting out a pre-election list of mere unfunded aspirations.”
He added: “It is a shame that this magic pot of money couldn’t have been made available years ago, and even now we have to still bid for a slice of a relatively small pot.
“The figure is tiny and could not fulfil this list in West Norfolk let alone several other towns.
“His real concern for West Norfolk should be Brexit and the devastating impact it will have.”
Labour’s Jo Rust said she agreed with the Local Government Network think tank who branded the scheme a “token substitute for proper devolved funding.”
She said: “All we have is the ability to apply for this new investment, we’ve not actually been awarded any."
But local government secretary RobertJenrick said: “We want to level-up our great towns, raising living standards and ensuring they can thrive with transformative investment in transport, technology, skills and culture.
“I will now work with local people from the communities to agree proposals to invest up to £25 million in each place.
“I hope these deals will provide the investment and the impetus for long-term renewal ensuring each town can look to the future with a new optimism.”
Meanwhile, West Norfolk Council said it had not received any details of the scheme but would welcome the prospect of any further investment.