Vauxhall Bridge: Restoration on table

THE campaign to revitalise Great Yarmouth railway station took a major step forward this week with a plan to link it with the restoration of Vauxhall Bridge.

THE campaign to revitalise Great Yarmouth railway station took a major step forward this week with a plan to link it with the restoration of Vauxhall Bridge.

Local businessman Spencer McCormack, a key figure in the station project, met Norfolk County Council highways officers to discuss linking his scheme with plans to restore nearby Vauxhall Bridge to create a gateway the town could be proud of.

He was joined by Miriam Kikis, who runs the Seafood Restaurant in nearby North Quay, as well as a consultant working on behalf of the council.

Mr McCormack's vision is of the restored bridge forming part of a history trail for visitors, starting at the newly refurbished station which will be adorned with photos of Yarmouth's other attractions, including the Pleasure Beach - before leading to the bridge, which will be restored to its full Grade II listed glory.

The Bwell health club director has been inspired by a visit to Windsor's central station, which he said had been transformed to look similar to London's Victoria Station, and is used to promote the Royal town's rich heritage, providing directions to all its main attractions.

He said a similar refurbishment of Yarmouth station would not only attract more visitors, it would also encourage more businesses to open in the station precincts, believing many traders were put off by its shabby appearance.

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Wednesday's meeting had been arranged by chance when county council officers called him to discuss linking the two separate projects as they were aware of his involvement with the station campaign.

But Mr McCormack said he was glad of the call as he had been thinking of uniting the two schemes himself.

He added the new link-up would give the campaigners much more power to secure funding for their schemes as they would be able to show potential funders a clear vision of where their money would be spent and the improvements that could be made.

“Without linking up, we could run the risk of one part looking like Winter Wonderland and the other part looking like Euro Disney. In my eyes it does not make sense to have two separate projects.”

He added: “For me, it was a bit of a godsend because people can tackle two projects at once and it was very nice to find the county council is already moving forward with its bridge restoration plans and we want to move into partnership with them to provide a joined-up plan for the station.”

He was positive about securing funds for the restoration and hoped local businesses and holiday parks which could benefit from the restoration would contribute to the project, including Asda and Vauxhall Holiday Park.

One possibility was to provide a park and ride bus service to the station providing easy access for customers to nearby Asda - and the council is considering opening the bridge to public transport as part of a study into the bridge's future.

David Wardale, the council's project engineer, said the �60,000 feasibility study would start soon to examine what to do with the dilapidated bridge, looking at how badly rusted it was in order to determine what restoration work was needed and whether it could be opened for public transport and taxis.

The bridge, linking the train station with North Quay, has fallen into disrepair and has been described as an “eyesore” by local councillors, as well as being listed on the Grotbritain website of grot spots around the country.

The local panel of the National Lottery's Fair Share Trust panel has ring fenced �300,000 funding for the bridge project, though this is intended for the actual restoration rather than the feasibility study.

Steven Reilly, spokesman for Norfolk County Council, said: “There is a lot of good work being done to get the appearance of Great Yarmouth train station improved, and given the close proximity, and importance, of Vauxhall Bridge to the station, it makes sense for everyone to be working as closely together as possible on projects in that area.

“We met with Spencer McCormack, as a lead figure in the station campaign, to fill him in on the efforts to breathe new life into Vauxhall Bridge.

“In order to progress the possible options for how the bridge could be used in the future, a structural survey needs to be done. The survey would cost around �60,000, but we want to avoid using the Fair Share funding - which is earmarked for any capital spend on the bridge.”

Thousands of people have already pledged support for the Fix Yarmouth station campaign, which has a page on social networking website Facebook and an online petition.

The station, run by operator National Express East Anglia, is described as having grotty loos, broken windows and minimal facilities.

It has already been reported in the Mercury that there will be a volunteers clean up day on Saturday, June 19 followed by a fundraiser at the Burrage Centre in Gorleston the next day. Mr McCormack is hoping the Family Fun Day will provide a cash boost for further improvements to the station.

Market traders have been invited to set up stalls at the station during the clean up when plants and flowers will be placed on the station concourse .

The family fun day includes a Fathers Day carvery, a raffle and music from Banned Potential featuring medical staff from the James Paget University Hospital and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Proceeds from ticket and raffle sales and one from every meal purchased will be donated to the campaign.

Tickets for the family fun day are available from the Burrage Centre on 01493 452095.

Volunteers interested in taking part in the clean up day should call 01493 650505.