The fund which will help make high streets and town centres fit for the future
Expression of interest
We've, together with Discover King's Lynn, submitted an expression of interest to the Government's Future High Street Fund. This follows a consultation with local residents and stakeholders.
About the Future High Street Fund
The £675m Future High Street Fund has been set up by the Government to help address the decline of town centres across the country.
The monies are intended to co-fund projects that will:
- help transform town centres
- promote economic growth
- increase footfall
About the King's Lynn submission
Our submission stated the key challenges we're facing. Like other towns and cities impacted by the internet and other factors, we're experiencing:
- declining footfall
- long term shop vacancies
The key challenges identified are as follows:
A more balanced town centre economy
Our town centre provides a core retail function. Residents would like to see the town centre transformed with many other reasons to visit, including:
- leisure venues
- arts and cultural activities
- residential accommodation
A more diverse town centre economy
Many local people noticed the recent shop closures and vacant shops. They would like to see more independent and interesting products and services available to them.
Accessibility of town centre
Whilst people mentioned that the town centre itself is compact and easy to walk around, they highlighted the difficulties accessing the town centre due to:
- traffic congestion at peak times
- car parking charges (which were perceived as high in comparison to the town centre offer and the free parking available at out of centre sites)
- pedestrian/vehicular conflicts
- the need it improve gateways to the town centre
Further improvement of the conservation area
Most people agreed that:
- King’s Lynn had a strong heritage offer
- much had been done to restore listed buildings and create interesting public places
The expression of interest did highlight concerns about some pockets of the heritage area that needed further investment. In 2018 the King’s Lynn Conservation Area was declared a Conservation Area at Risk by Historic England.
Local people clearly felt that the town centre had potential. The maritime heritage is the most significant aspect of King’s Lynn that people perceive as making the town centre special. And the history and architecture is clearly a great source of pride for people.
The ‘friendly’ people and sense of community were also highlighted as real positives.
Why was King's Lynn town centre selected?
King's Lynn town centre was selected for submission because:
- it's the largest retail centre in West Norfolk
- investment here would have the greatest impact for the wider population
- it's a focus for economic growth
- it's one of only 10 in the country to be designated a Heritage Action Zone by Historic England in 2017. So this creates the opportunity to transform the town into something really special
The vision for the town centre
Our vision is to harness and enhance the existing heritage assets whilst improving the cultural, arts and young people’s offer within the town centre. This will create an exciting, attractive and safe environment for residents and visitors. The strategy also seeks to encourage more people to live and work within the town centre boundary while improving principal gateways and access points into the town.
The community wish to see an ‘Open Town Centre’, that includes:
- young people’s and family interests
- more culture
- entertainment and eating places
- quality shops that are open for longer
- better access
- a safe and inclusive town centre that gives the traditional Norfolk friendly open welcome to all
If the phase one submission is successful, the proposed transformational town centre development plan will focus on five key themes:
- Living heritage - harness and provide new uses for existing heritage assets to attract more visitors and business investment
- Boost the cultural, arts and creativity offer - Improve the cultural and arts offer to increase visitor numbers and enhance the shopping experience
- Town centre living - through new housing provision encourage more people to live within the town centre boundary, creating greater stability to the town centre population and increasing footfall in the area
- A welcoming point of arrival - transform the car parking provision in the town centre to a more focused multi storey central parking point and improve and enhance the key gateways and access points into the town
- Turn around perceptions - the community engagement work has identified strong negative perceptions around the town centre offer and work is needed to turn these around
What happens next?
We've requested £150,000 of initial development funding. We're waiting to hear if we'll be invited to progress to phase two. If successful, we'll invite a range of local stakeholders and interest groups to form a 'Future High Street Fund' partnership to help steer the stage two work. This will involve drawing up a formal detailed business plan.
Our chance of success
This phase one process will be highly competitive. Many towns and cities across the UK are suffering significant levels of deprivation and town centre decline.
A key strength is our proven track record and reputation for the successful delivery of major housing and regeneration projects. This reputation was further reinforced by the inclusion in the application of the very positive comments made by The Minister for Local Government Parliamentary Under-Secretary, The Right Honourable Rishi Sunak, when he visited King’s Lynn on 7 March.