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Wells blueprint splits town council

PUBLISHED: 15:51 07 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:34 07 July 2010

An ambitious blueprint for the future of Wells has divided the town council amid fears the plans could add to peak-time parking problems.

Regeneration consultants were appointed by the North Norfolk Community Partnership in August to review a number of sites across the town to boost housing, create jobs and improve tourism.

An ambitious blueprint for the future of Wells has divided the town council amid fears the plans could add to peak-time parking problems.

Regeneration consultants were appointed by the North Norfolk Community Partnership in August to review a number of sites across the town to boost housing, create jobs and improve tourism.

Among the 12 shortlisted projects is a planned arts and enterprise hub at The Maltings, including a museum and theatre, with offices, craft markets and cafes surrounding a new public plaza.

There is also a scheme to build 18 affordable homes on two-thirds of the Stearman's Yard car park, with a replacement 400-space parking facility to be built off Freeman Street.

But while some councillors believed the multi-million pound proposals were vital to the future prosperity of Wells, half of the plans were opposed by the town council last month.

This week, Campbell MacCallum, the portfolio holder for traffic issues, said the parking provision was not enough to cope with the expected influx of visitors.

“The point I have made at every meeting is that the proposals, however good they are, will give us a net gain of only 80 more car parking spaces - and we need more than that in the height of the season,” he said.

“It is a great idea but I am very unhappy about the potential loss of car parking spaces. Wells has a very small town centre and people want to park as close as they can.”

At a town council meeting on Monday, Mr MacCallum was one of two councillors chosen to sit on the Wells for the Future programme board to represent the views of the town.

He said: “Wells Town Council will be part of the discussion process and we will be doing the best we can for the people of this town. There will always be differences of opinion but it is a question of how compromises will be reached by all parties.”

After the meeting, councillor Mike Gates, who voted in favour of the Stearman's Yard development, said: “I have lost confidence in the council on this issue - I am still not convinced they have a vision.

“The original objective of the whole exercise was to create a holistic package for the sustainable development of Wells, but the decision was made not to achieve that aim.

“There is an issue around car parking and I have always said we need more parking. It is on Sundays and Bank Holidays where we have the big problem, but there is scope in the report to deal with this.

“I hope the plan succeeds because it is a great opportunity for the town and will bring in more investment. It will be a fantastic project but people need to be committed to make sacrifices to make that happen.”

The early ideas put forward by consultants BlueFish were created after a community survey by the Wells Area Partnership last year, and will be made available for public consultation before feasibility studies are carried out.

The plans also include environmental improvements to the quayside, a visitor centre on Beach Road, and an 18-bed community hospital on Mill Road.

If any of the schemes go ahead, funding would come from a mixture of public bodies and private companies, but the report says £1.25m could come from the sale of Stearman's Yard for housing.

North Norfolk district councillor Joyce Trett said: “This is just a discussion document at the moment and no decisions have been made.

“I think it is extremely important if we want to move forward. Tourism is our biggest industry and we need to give the visitors something new if we want to keep them.

“But the priority for Wells has to be affordable housing for young people, even if we have to lose Stearman's Yard to provide it.

“This should go ahead for the benefit of the people of Wells and the people who are going to come here in the future.”

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