From empty shops to ‘vibrant’ restaurants: How the Lowestoft Masterplan aims to reinvigorate the town
- Credit: East Suffolk Council
An ambitious masterplan has been unveiled to breathe fresh life into Lowestoft over the next 10 to 15 years, but what does it include?
From a vibrant waterfront to bringing empty buildings back into use, East Suffolk Council’s Lowestoft Town Centre Masterplan includes an array of proposals to reinvigorate the town.
Dividing the town into four quarters - Station Quarter, Heart of Lowestoft, Innovation Axis and Historic Quarter - the ambitious plan aims to achieve the “future promise and potential” of the town.
In a joint statement, East Suffolk Council leader Steve Gallant and Stephen Javes, chair of the Lowestoft Place Board, said: “Lowestoft not only enjoys a rich history and heritage, it is also an ambitious town with a future full of promise and potential.
“In order for Lowestoft to thrive, it is essential to have a prosperous town cente with a clear plan for positive change.
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“Lowestoft has an exciting future and we are determined to ‘restart’ the town centre, especially in light of Covid-19.”
Station Quarter: ‘Vibrant’ food and drink experiences key
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Those arriving into Lowestoft town centre will be greeted with an array of “vibrant” food and drink experiences as part of the masterplan.
The Station Quarter focuses on the town’s main arrival points, as well as encouraging visitors outside normal business hours.
“Characterful” Victorian streets around Station Square, including Bevan Street East and Suffolk Road, will also offer opportunities for small-scale, independent businesses, eateries and cafes.
The masterplan states: “Lowestoft’s most important arrival space by rail, car and boat should provide a welcoming experience that sets the tone for the rest of the town centre.
“The construction of the Lake Lothing Third Crossing and reduced traffic on the bascule bridge provides an opportunity to regenerate Station Square and create a new character around it, based around cafes, restaurants and al fresco dining opportunities.
“The diverse, characterful streets and spaces around Station Square will create a strong sense of identity and encourage curiosity, giving this area a well-defined character and charm.”
The masterplan states Station Quarter “should focus on the food and drink offer, ensuring activity outside of business hours and kick-starting the emergence of the evening economy”.
“The masterplan states: “Proposed changes to the highway layout around Station Square will free up additional space between the new tidal barrier and Waveney Road, allowing it to become part of a new, positive public realm solution integrated in with the rest of Station Square that encourages interaction, celebrates Lowestoft’s links to the sea and maritime culture, and draws attention of locals and visitors.”
Further improvements have also been suggested for the town’s “underutilised” railway station, including the possibility of extending upwards to create a cafe or restaurant space, as well as at the former Tuttle’s department store, East Point Pavillion and the former Post Office, at which the council hope to attract a national food chain.
It also includes proposals to “rehabilitate” the Grade II listed Custom House and the creation of a plaza.
Innovation Axis: Plans to bring major empty town centre buildings back into use
The former Beales store could be transformed into a marine science centre under plans to regenerate Lowestoft town centre.
Currently, the northern end of London Road North is “hardest hit” with a number of empty buildings and retail units, with the masterplan also including proposals for the former Tesco store, which would see a mix of smaller retail units and residential properties created.
The masterplan states: “The research community have expressed interest in creating a new education campus in Lowestoft.
“The town centre would be an ideal location for such a facilitiy, helping to drive footfall and spend during the day and evening.
“Depending on the scale of the initiative, the Beales building could be redeveloped.”
The ‘Innovation Axis’ area could be defined by its proximity to Lowestoft’s “economic powerhouse” at PowerPark.
Spanning more than 24 hectares of employment land on the east coast, PowerPark is currently home to several offshore related companies, including ScottishPower Renewables, Associated British Ports and OrbisEnergy.
The council’s masterplan states: “The northern end of London Road North is currently hardest-hit in terms of retail unit vacancy rates.
“The proximity and direct linkages to PowerPark will allow an influx of related uses into the town centre.
“These could include education and training facilities, as well as business and research uses.
“The close proximity to PowerPark makes this area an attractive place to relocate office use that would benefit from being nearby to the energy sector and also encourage more civic uses back into the core of the town centre.”
An “eye-catching” new building at the Whapload Road car park could also be created, potentially to serve as student accommodation or as an office or workshop.
In line with the council’s Waveney Local Plan, the former Lowestoft Hospital site should include a mix of residential and care facilities.
“Pocket green spaces” could also see the area redesigned to enhance the appearance, while a high-quality route to Ness Point could be created at Newcombe Road.
Heritage Quarter: ‘Unique heritage’ to be celebrated
It was originally the main medieval settlement of a coastal town.
Now, as part of the masterplan, the historic character of the Lowestoft High Street area looks set to be enhanced in the future.
The Historic Quarter focuses on the town’s creative quarter, regeneration of the Town Hall, Scores and Triangle Market and restoration of private historic buildings.
The masterplan states that the regeneration processes and projects will focus on “maintaining and enhancing the historic character of the area”; “promoting new, creative activity in the area” and “creating positive and welcoming links to the PowerPark and Ness.”
It states: “The historic High Street and Triangle Market area is best positioned to become Lowestoft’s creative district, building on the place’s importance to the heritage and identity of Lowestoft.
“Regeneration of the Town Hall, Scores and Triangle Market, as well as restoration of many private historic buildings and shop fronts will breathe new energy into the area and encourage creatives to settle here.
“They will enjoy the availability of flexible studio/working spaces off High Street and at the bottom of The Scores and a great sense of community.
“New independent shops, galleries, boutique B&Bs, creative work-live spaces and eateries will continue to open, contributing to a unique, quality sense of place for visitors and residents alike.”
A new all-weather market and community building, centring around a 430sq m market hall, is earmarked for Triangle Market along with 15 new apartments as part of the “regeneration of Lowestoft’s trading heart.”
Regeneration of the Grade II listed Town Hall building proposes the creation of a “community and creative working hub”, including a public garden and café.
A new public open space, drawing inspiration from the area’s past, is earmarked for Christ Church Square. To the north end of High Street, public realm improvements are proposed along with a “new sea view.”
New homes, community spaces and high quality public realm are proposed for the historic Scores.
Improvements would be made to the Artillery Way crossing while small parks and gardens with places are also included.
Heart of Lowestoft: Mix of shops and culture eyed
Amid the numerous changes to Lowestoft’s town centre offering, the central part of London Road North will continue to welcome shoppers.
This includes at the Britten Centre, which could see improvements made to the car park and public areas, as well as the potential for further redevelopments to include apartments and offices.
With council figures showing around 50pc of the town’s 1,263 car parking spaces are used on busy days, the masterplan includes a new development on the Clapham Road car park, featuring a mix of housing, sheltered accommodation and a small park.
The Heart of Lowestoft quarter also includes regeneration of the Marina Theatre and the expansion of the Lowestoft Players.
The masterplan also highlights the Battery Green car park as a place to be redeveloped to provide new culture and leisure focussed activities.