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Credit cruch hits Lowestoft's future

PUBLISHED: 18:42 21 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:34 05 July 2010

A COMPANY tasked with attracting millions of pounds of investment to regenerate large areas of Lowestoft and Yarmouth has admitted the economic crisis has left it facing a "difficult challenge".

A COMPANY tasked with attracting millions of pounds of investment to regenerate large areas of Lowestoft and Yarmouth has admitted the economic crisis has left it facing a “difficult challenge”.

The credit crunch has bitten hard just three years into the 1st East urban regeneration company's long-term plan to revitalise waterfront and brownfield sites in both towns.

However, chief executive Philip Watkins insisted his company would continue to focus on putting plans in place for widespread regeneration over a 10 to 15 year period.

“There was always going to be a crisis during that period. Crises tend not to last as long as the upturns and we must use this period to be prepared,” Mr Watkins told a meeting of Waveney District Council, in Lowestoft.

“We are working in a difficult environment. There is no doubt that the house builders are having a challenging time. It makes a difficult challenge for us.”

1st East is one of 19 urban regeneration companies in England and has formulated an action plan for more than 3,000 houses to be built alongside leisure and commercial developments, creating hundreds of new jobs.

The overall master plan focuses on six key areas in both towns, including Lake Lothing and Ness Point, in Lowestoft, and South Denes and the Haven approach in Yarmouth.

Mr Watkins and fellow officials from 1st East were invited to speak at a meeting of Waveney council's overview and scrutiny committee.

In Lowestoft, regeneration proposals already submitted by developers include plans for 650 homes and a marina, offices and shops at the former Brooke Marine shipyard and a redevelopment of the Oswald's boatyard site in Oulton Broad. However, neither project has yet been put before Waveney District Council's planning committee for consideration.

A key feature of the redevelopment of Lowestoft's Lake Lothing area is the Waveney Campus, which was given the go-ahead earlier this year.

The building will house about 1,000 staff from Waveney District and Suffolk County councils, and the Cefas marine science laboratory, and Mr Watkins said prolonged public sector involvement was a key factor.

He admitted the local government review, which could see new unitary councils in Norfolk and Suffolk also created uncertainty, but stressed: “The one thing that doesn't change is the need for regeneration and we must keep our focus on that.”

The east coast's growing status in the green energy sector was also highlighted as a reason for hope by Mr Watkins, who pointed to the construction of the Orbis Energy centre, in Lowestoft, as an example of hope for the future. It will eventually house about 30 companies involved in the renewable energy industry.

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