The predictions made decades ago about Great Yarmouth in 2020 - but did they happen?
PUBLISHED: 12:16 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:08 08 January 2020
A light railway between villages, tree-lined gateway entrances, an end to deprivation and a vibrant town centre...
This utopian vision is none other than Great Yarmouth in 2020 - as seen in 1998 when it was a far-off sounding year.
More than two decades ago - before even the turn of the Millennium - Great Yarmouth Borough Council set out its strategic vision for the future.
Looking ahead it made a wish-list of bold predictions about life in the town as the decade turned - marking a snappy milestone which also chimed with a well-known phrase associated with seeing clearly.
In the future Yarmouth would be "fully networked with worldwide information superhighways" and deprivation would be "a thing of the past."
The ambitious wish-list Great Yarmouth 2020: The Path to the Future was launched in February 1998 with the backing of Prince Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
With the end of a decade just past here's a rundown of the main predictions, some of which hit the spot while others are miles off:
- A light railway from Gorleston to Bradwell providing pollution-free transport.
(Never made it to the drawing board as far as we can tell)
- Continuous dual carriageway links to the rest of the UK via the A47.
(The single track Acle Straight remains a thorn in Yarmouth's side which MP Brandon Lewis says he continues to fight for)
- Third river crossing.
(Construction is due to begin in late 2020 ahead of a 2023 opening)
- Roll-on/roll-off freight and passenger services from the outer harbour to mainland Europe.
(We have the outer harbour but not the operation that was envisaged, and no ferry)
- North Denes heliport will offer passenger connections to Norwich and Stansted airports.
(The heliport closed in 2015)
- A landscaped business park at South Gorleston will accommodate advanced technology electronics, engineering and service industries serving world markets.
(Gorleston's Beacon Park hosts a range of industries)
- Year-round tourism industry will be flourishing.
(A see-saw of fortunes here, the rise of the staycation and influx of chain hotels versus recession and low visitor spend)
- The seafront will still be a focus of activity with nightclubs and restaurants.
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(The nighttime offer has shifted from King Street to the seafront but the club scene has dwindled)
- The vibrant town centre with its bustling Market Place, street cafes and speciality shopping will be a magnet for tourists.
(It has been a tough two decades for retailers with some huge national names leaving the high street. The decline of Yarmouth's town centre is a source of sadness)
- Two important cultural centres will exist, one in historic South Quay and one in the former art college building next to St George's Park.
(The Art College has been turned into flats, the Nelson Museum in South Quay has recently shut)
- The regeneration of inner urban areas like South Denes, North Quay and Cobholm.
(Some progress here, a masterplan for North Quay is being looked at)
- The main gateway approaches will be well-landscaped with extensive tree planting.
(Little has changed in these areas)
- The endemic problem of deprivation will be "largely a thing of the past."
(Some wards in Yarmouth remain among the most deprived in the country)
- The problem of unfit housing will be "almost totally eradicated."
(Housing problems persist but the borough council has introduced schemes to tackle private landlords)
- Residents young and old will feel safe in their streets and their homes.`
(Anecdotal reports say otherwise, although the town is relatively safe)
At the time the vision attracted endorsements from many of the town's leading figures but some were more sceptical.
Charles Reynolds, conservative group leader at the time, warned: "We have to keep our feet on the ground and start tackling some of the problems we have now rather than reaching for the skies."
But the town's Labour MP Tony Wright said he was confident all the targets set would be realised by 2020.
"It is certainly not a dream and I am hopeful that with so many people pulling together we will have achieved even more by 2020."
Carl Smith, the council leader, said: "Visions offer a longer-term sense of direction for a place, targeting the energies and coordinating the work of a range of partners to seek to shape an area's future.
"Driving forward a place is always a complex work in progress, moulded over time by many influencers and influences, at local, national and international levels.
"As a place leader, we continually review and, as necessary, update our plans with our partners, reflecting the changes, opportunities and challenges that arise.
"Our existing Corporate Plan (2015-2020) is currently being refreshed for the next five years to ensure we remain responsive and focussed around the borough's priorities.
"We can't, of course, control or predict everything, but through investing proactively in the place and working at a place-based level with partners, including Norfolk County Council, New Anglia LEP and Peel Ports, we're creating and capturing exciting opportunities to maximise growth, investment and regeneration opportunities, while tackling the challenges that many coastal communities face."
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