Palmers: What is the plan, and when will it be finished?

Former Palmers Department Store Great Yarmouth Market Place

New hoardings pointing at things to come at the former Palmers department store in Great Yarmouth Market Place. - Credit: GYBC

Palmers was founded as a linen and drapery shop in Great Yarmouth Market Place in 1837, eventually growing to be a large department store.

The family-owned business was sold to the Beales chain in 2018 but closed in March 2020 as a result of the parent company going into administration.

Plans were unveiled in 2020 for a new education and community hub in the landmark store in Great Yarmouth Market Place, including a new public library.

What's the latest?

The University of Suffolk and East Coast College are now on board bringing a £3.5m funding boost.

Their contribution will see the college teach degree level courses at the new centre, accredited by the university.

The University of East Anglia is also backing the project, with plans to offer remote learning facilities for its students, alongside professional development courses.

Palmers department store in Great Yarmouth Market Place in the 1960s when Row 54 – where Malcolm M

Palmers department store in Great Yarmouth Market Place in the 1960s. - Credit: Archant

So far £15.3m of funding support has been pledged. Norfolk County Council has already committed £2m which will help to provide a new home for the library and adult learning service.

The project is also being backed by nearly £7.5m from central government via Great Yarmouth’s Town Deal programme and £2.4m from the Future High Streets Fund, secured by Great Yarmouth Borough Council. 

When will work start?

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Thanks to the latest funding commitment work to prepare the five storey, 5,300 square metre building for its new role will begin this summer.

An invitation to tender to strip out and restore the building was issued last month, with initial work expected to start soon ahead of the detailed design phase.

Valued at up to £1m, the work will cover asbestos removal, disposal of furniture and debris, soft strip of finishes and internal non-low bearing partitions, wall fittings and linings, floor finishes, ceiling tiles, boxed in columns, sanitary and kitchen fittings, mechanical and electrical strip out including plant on roof.

When will it open?

The aim is to open the hub to students in time for the 2023-2024 academic year and for the general public by the end of 2023.

What do its partners say?

Great Yarmouth Borough Council leader Carl Smith has described it as "a massive vote of confidence" in the town.

He said: "We are determined to improve the lives of residents, and this investment in education and learning is part of our drive to help employability and the borough’s economy.”

East Coast College CEO and Principal Stuart Rimmer.

East Coast College CEO and Principal Stuart Rimmer. - Credit: LEADERBOARD_PHOTOGRAPHY

East Coast College chief executive Stuart Rimmer said: “We are delighted to be extending our partnership with the University of Suffolk to the new town centre learning hub.

"This will enable us to offer courses in industries such as health, engineering, and the digital arts in fantastic new facilities, right in the heart of Great Yarmouth, and play our part in helping revitalising the town centre and bring new skills and opportunities to people of all ages.”

University of Suffolk vice-chancellor Professor Helen Langton said: “Creating a high-quality learning, training, and apprenticeship hub in the centre of Great Yarmouth, covering key subject areas such as health, technology, and engineering, will provide an excellent opportunity for developing the skills required for Great Yarmouth’s rapid development.”

Margaret Dewsbury, chair of Norfolk County Council's communities committee. Pic: Sean Owen (Reflecti

Margaret Dewsbury, chair of Norfolk County Council's communities committee. Pic: Sean Owen (Reflective Arts) - Credit: Sean Owen (Reflective Arts)

Norfolk County Council cabinet member for communities and partnerships Margaret Dewsbury said it was an ambitious project that would be a real boost for residents, adding: “Having local universities and colleges involved is a real boost for anyone looking to learn something new and will make this hub something to be proud of.”

Laura Bowater, UEA associate pro vice-chancellor for innovation

Laura Bowater, UEA associate pro vice-chancellor for innovation - Credit: UEA

University of East Anglia associate pro-vice chancellor for innovation, Professor Laura Bowater said: “As an established Top 20 UK University with strong civic roots in the region, we hope to offer our students increased flexibility in accessing our courses by extending our offer in Great Yarmouth.

"Although we are already working locally to benefit the community and the economy, we hope to provide additional opportunities for businesses, organisations and other members of the local community to interact with us through this exciting initiative."

Further public consultation on the use of the building is planned for later this year.