University campus bid for Great Yarmouth as £60m vision unveiled

New university learning campus

A new university learning hub is being billed as one of the drivers for a prosperous future in Great Yarmouth in the former Palmers store as the town submits a bit for £25m from the government. - Credit: GYBC

A new university campus is set to breathe life into a town centre under a £60m vision to boost jobs, industry, and culture in Great Yarmouth.

The learning hub in the former Palmers/Beales store would see a relocated library sharing space with students on undergraduate courses affiliated with the University of Suffolk, and potentially the University of East Anglia, as well as East Coast College and East Norfolk Sixth Form College as partners

The move into higher education  is part of an ambitious vision set out by Great Yarmouth Borough Council as it bids for a £25m Town Deal - set to deliver at least £60m in investment.

Key projects include the learning campus, the seafront Winter Gardens, the redevelopment of North Quay, and an operations and maintenance hub at the town's deep water outer harbour.

outer harbour improvements

An operations and maintenance centre for the offshore wind industry, new pontoons, and revamped berths are part of a new vision aimed at developing Great Yarmouth and helping its residents to look forward to a bright future with opportunities and jobs. - Credit: GYBC

The port is billed as ideally placed to capitalise on the green energy boom and recapture the glory days of the oil and gas heyday.

Council chief executive Sheila Oxtoby said the money would help to accelerate economic growth and that if all the projects went ahead as planned the town would look "completely different" in a decade's time.

Funding is being sought for:

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· A new learning centre and university campus, co-located with a new town centre library, offering more ways and opportunities for people of all ages to take their learning and job prospects to the next stage.

(The council has said it will look at other buildings in the town centre if Palmers cannot be secured.) 

· A new operations and maintenance centre with business incubator units at South Denes, unlocking and enabling further investment by the energy sector and providing a local base for energy sector start-ups, relocations and growing businesses.

· Restoration and sustainable repurposing of a number of historic buildings, including the Winter Gardens and restoration and adaptation of the Ice House as a National Centre for Arts and Circus.

(Town Deal funding would plug a funding gap of around £4m for the Winter Gardens with the Heritage Lottery Fund being asked for around £10m)

· Enhancements to the railway station gateway and North Quay as well as improved pedestrian and cycle links between the town centre and seafront, along with enhanced public wi-fi infrastructure.

Ice House

The old Ice House on the Southtown Road side of Haven Bridge could be transformed into a national centre for arts and circus. - Credit: Archant library

Ms Oxtoby stressed not all projects were dependent on the funding with the revamped Market Place, the Conge redevelopment,  and new Marina Centre already secure.

Creating jobs and learning opportunities for young people who often went away to grow their talents was one of the main drivers, as well as looking to build on all the tourism and cultural assets that made the town popular.

Carl Smith

Great Yarmouth Borough Council leader Carl Smith has hailed the Town Deal vision as "a chance of a lifetime." - Credit: Archant

Council leader Carl Smith said it was "the chance of a lifetime" as the town's aspirations were harnessed and turned into deliverable projects that would make a real difference.

Leader of the Labour group Trevor Wainwright said the town centre learning hub could be "the saviour of the Market Place."

The bid has been shaped over 18 months, lead by a Town Deal Board of local ambassadors working with the borough council and through feedback from two public surveys.

Henry Cator, chairman of the Town Deal Board and High Steward of Great Yarmouth, said the bid was "a ray of hope", adding: "We all need to look to the future with aspiration."

"We expect to hear the outcome in the New Year and the next stage will be to work up a detailed business case for submission during 2021,” he added.

Brandon Lewis, Great Yarmouth’s MP, said the application made "a compelling case."

"As the Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth, I passionately support this bid and look forward to banging the drum for it in Westminster," he added.