Rethink urged after King's Lynn bid for Government High Street cash rejected
Plans for the regeneration of Lynn have suffered a major blow after the town missed out on a multi-million pound funding package this week.
Council chiefs have admitted they are “extremely disappointed” not to have secured a share of the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, though they stress that other opportunities remain open.
But one opposition figure has branded the announcement “disastrous” and called for a complete rethink of officials’ approach to the issue.
A total of 72 towns and cities across England have been allocated confirmed or provisional funding commitments worth up to £830 million in a decision announced by ministers on Boxing Day.
While Lynn missed out, three East Anglian towns – Yarmouth, March and St Neots – were provisionally allocated nearly £25 million between them.
Graham Middleton, West Norfolk Council cabinet member for business development, said: “We are extremely disappointed to learn that we have not been successful with our bid for Future High Street Funding.
“We had a strong case backed by community support, following extensive consultation.
“Our High Streets have had a tough enough time this year and some additional funding into projects that had the potential to bring more people into town would have been most welcome.
“However, we always knew it was going to be a big ask and there was going to be stiff competition. We also understand the incredible financial pressures on Government as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The number of towns bidding for the funding was always going to mean that not everyone would be a winner.”
Independent councillor Tom Ryves claimed the announcement showed the council had “failed” the people of Lynn and that a much broader vision of the town’s future should have been developed.
He claimed the Lynn bid had been focused too closely on specific projects, rather than a wider approach.
He argued that a marina and casino development should be pursued as a means of creating jobs and attracting more visitors and greater spending power.
Mr Ryves added: “King’s Lynn should be focused on where it is in 20 years’ time.
“It has a long history, but you need to reinvent yourself.
“There are people in Norfolk who have vision, who have connections, and if we can harness them we can do something.”
But Mr Middleton highlighted the recent submission of a Town Investment Plan, which it is hoped will be the basis of talks that could generate up to £25 million for the town centre.
He said the authority would also explore the potential options offered up by a new levelling up fund.
He said: “We are passionate about securing the future of King’s Lynn, for the benefit of the surrounding area, and will continue to seek funding and develop bids in order to do this.”