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Plan for new charitable body to run King's Lynn's historic St George's Guildhall complex outlined

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Multi-million pound plans for the redevelopment of Lynn’s St George’s Guildhall are set to be put before council leaders next week.

Officials hope to attract more than £8 million in Government and Lottery funding towards a major revamp of the King Street complex.

But backbenchers have called for a special body to have oversight of the plan.

King's Lynn Arts Centre - St George's Guildhall (6468321)
King's Lynn Arts Centre - St George's Guildhall (6468321)

The Guildhall, whose future has been the subject of sustained campaigning in recent years, is one of seven schemes which formed part of Lynn’s submission for £25 million of Town Deal funding from the Government.

Although the overall bid was given the green light last June, a detailed business case still has to be submitted and approved in order to finally secure the funding.

Around £4.8 million has been earmarked for the Guildhall project, which aims to refurbish the historic theatre as well as provide updated arts spaces.

Reports to be presented to a meeting of West Norfolk Council’s Cabinet on Monday afternoon also propose the submission of a bid for Heritage Lottery funding worth around £3.3 million. An initial application could be submitted this autumn.

It is further proposed that the council itself, which leases the site from the National Trust, would contribute a further £750,000.

If the project proceeds, it is envisaged construction work would begin in 2024.

The project appears to have been broadly supported by councillors so far, based on documents published following a joint panel session, which continued behind closed doors on Wednesday following an adjournment last week.

Members backed several recommendations including setting up a new charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) to run the centre.

But it also urged a “politically balanced Task Group be set up to overview the process, be involved in the decision making process and contribute towards the governance structure.”

During the brief part of Wednesday’s meeting which was open to the public, independent councillor Tom Ryves sought to challenge the move to hold the discussion in private, arguing it should be in public because it related to a proposal on which the council could ultimately grant itself planning permission for.

But panel chairman Judy Collingham said the authority had taken legal advice which concluded it was “perfectly permissable” for the debate to be held in closed session, adding she wanted councillors to discuss the issue without feeling “constrained” in their comments.

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