Plans on track for Lowestoft station renovation
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Plans are being drawn up to breathe new life into Lowestoft Railway Station, it emerged this week.
The run-down state of the building – and the lack of action to improve it – has drawn criticism from passengers and prompted Waveney MP Peter Aldous to raise the issue in the House of Commons.
But hopes are now growing that, after years of discussion and delays, an agreement could soon be reached to renovate the station and its concourse, and provide 'a massive boost' for the town.
A Waveney District Council spokesman confirmed to The Journal that a site meeting had taken place involving senior officers, representatives from Network Rail and members of Lowestoft Vision, where 'proposals to bring the buildings at the eastern end of the station back into use' were under discussion.
One idea mooted was that an empty building on the station concourse should be refurbished and turned into a new café.
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The council spokesman said: 'The meeting was very positive. Network Rail have made an offer which will enable Lowestoft Vision to take the first steps towards regenerating the buildings ready for occupation.
'The major projects and funding teams from the council have committed to help develop a funding bid for the proposals. This is an important part of the town for residents and visitors, its regeneration is a key objective of both the Area Action Plan (AAP) and Lowestoft Transport and Infrastructure Prospectus (LTIP).'
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Danny Steel, chairman of Lowestoft Vision, which represents local businesses, said the meeting discussed the empty units in the station and could lead to the group heading up a renovation project.
One focus of the talks was the large building on the concourse – backing directly onto Station Square – which used to house a café.
'It needs an awful lot of work doing to it, but under Lowestoft Vision it could be renovated with the help of local causes and colleges,' Mr Steel said. 'If turned into a café, it could create a potential steady revenue stream, and improve the visual aspect of Station Square. It could be a massive boost.'
He added: 'It would be great if we could renovate it back to what it used to be.'
Mr Steel said that with a new JD Wetherspoon pub poised to open soon in the old Tuttles building in Station Square 'there has been a lot of interest' in vacant units nearby and, with Lowestoft Vision getting the go-ahead to create a new business improvement district (BID) in the town, the funds to pursue other projects were now available.
Emma King, Lowestoft town centre manager, said the latest developments were 'all very exciting'.
She told The Journal: 'With the town securing Portas Pilot status last year and now BID status in 2013, Lowestoft could not be in a stronger position to build a bright and positive future. The determination and passion of the business people in this town is what has led us to this turning point for Lowestoft.'
The recent talks took place as rail operator Greater Anglia works with Suffolk County Council and Waveney council on a new transport interchange, designed to improve accessibility at the station.
Businesses interested in leasing the vacant retail units face onto Denmark Road are also being sought.
A Network Rail spokesman said: 'We are aware of the desire to bring buildings at Lowestoft station back into use and are happy to discuss the options available with the local authority, Greater Anglia and Lowestoft Vision.'
Last week, Peter Aldous once again called for the refurbishment of Lowestoft station in the House of Commons.
Following on from an adjournment debate last year, in which he raised concerns about the station's appearance, Mr Aldous told transport minister Simon Burns that there was now a 'compelling case' for the building to be renovated as part of the negotiations over the extension of Greater Anglia's regional rail franchise.
He received assurances from Mr Burns that Greater Anglia's parent company, Abellio, would have to undertake normal repair and maintenance activities, and invest in stations where there was a positive business case.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Aldous said: 'There is now a compelling case for redeveloping Lowestoft station, to return it to a good state of repair and to make it a focal point for the regeneration of Lowestoft. I hope that the government works with Greater Anglia to help make this a reality.'
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