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Final phase of revamp to old tower blocks given green light

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A controversial revamp of decaying tower blocks and a community centre in the heart of Lynn has been given the go-ahead by councillors.The final phase of the Hillington Square regeneration project by Freebridge, creating 65 affordable homes, will now take place, modernising the site which was originally built in the 1960s.It follows a previous attempt in 2021 being blocked after West Norfolk Council members were left unimpressed by the designs which they called “ugly” and reminiscent of Soviet-era housing.

An artist’s impression of the revamped flats with All Saints Church alongside. Picture: Freebridge

The application was approved last week at a special meeting held after it was decided to defer the decision to allow a site visit to take place over fears it will lead to a loss of privacy for people living in existing buildings at the site.At the initial planning meeting, Anita Carrell, who lives near the site, spoke of the many concerns neighbours have about the development, which included fears it would harm the setting of the 14th century All Saints Church – one of the oldest in the town.The application had received 50 letters of objection.There was also disappointment at the lack of family homes provided by the revamp.However, officers explained that there had previously been problems finding people who wished to rent the larger three-bed flats and that smaller units were in higher demand.Freebridge had revised the design of the buildings after the 2021 application was refused and following Historic England’s support for the scheme, councillors agreed with some members that the revamp would actually improve the character of the area.Councillor Brian Long raised concerns the choice of red bricks on the facade of the buildings could appear “garrish”.But officers said they would work with Freebridge to find an appropriate colour to blend in with the surroundings.While fears of overlooking remained, it was decided this was not a major issue.The revamp, which will provide 65 affordable homes and new commercial units to replace the community centre, was approved by five votes for, one abstention and one vote against the proposal.Hillington SquareHillington Square was built between 1967 and 1971 following slum clearance and comprised 320 flats and maisonettes, a community centre and a bin store. There was initially a waiting list of people wanting to move there.Over the years the structures became less attractive and better known for crime and a desperate need of revitalisation.In 2010, Freebridge started developing plans for regenerating the site, appointing celebrity designer Wayne Hemingway to the project.Final approval for a redesign was given in July 2012, with four blocks refurbished to date.In 2019 the estate won the regeneration category at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS’) East of England Awards night.

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