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South Gate diversion idea 'a grave error', ex-heritage boss warns

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Moves to divert traffic around Lynn’s historic South Gate would be a “grave error”, according to the former chief executive of English Heritage.

Simon Thurley, who lives in Lynn, has written to West Norfolk Council urging a rethink on the idea, which forms part of a new transport strategy for the town.

Council leaders have said they want to protect the building, which is one of the town’s key heritage assets.

The South Gate entry to King's Lynn on London Road.. (27761465)
The South Gate entry to King's Lynn on London Road.. (27761465)

But Mr Thurley argues that the best way of protecting the building is to follow the example of other towns and cities and keep using it.

He wrote: “Lynn is blessed in being one of a small number of historic towns which retains a spectacular entrance through its medieval town gate. It shares this honour with much better-known historic cities like York and Canterbury.

“Entry to the town through this great gatehouse, large enough for a double decker bus to pass through, is one of the great assets the town has.

“Prohibiting traffic from passing through it and bypassing it would be a grave error.”

The idea of diverting traffic around the 14th century building is one of more than 30 proposals contained in the new transport, which is due to be discussed at a meeting of the borough council’s regeneration and development panel tonight.

The move would be part of a major revamp of the Southgates roundabout, for which officials hope to develop a full scheme over the next year and complete by 2030, subject to sufficient funding being secured.

Richard Blunt, the borough council’s cabinet member for development, told the Lynn News on Friday that concern about the condition of the building was one of the factors behind the proposal.

Two years ago, more than £90,000, mostly of Lottery money, was spent on an interpretation project which aimed to make the building more attractive to visitors.

And Mr Blunt said: “We’ve got to protect our heritage.”

But Mr Thurley said there was no indication that traffic pollution was harming the building and warned that bypassing it could make it a “redundant monument.”

He added that, while he felt the authority has a good record overall in relation to the protection of heritage assets, reducing the use of historic buildings

He said: “We want to maintain that feeling of heading into a historic town and the South Gate is at the heart of that.”

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