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Construction work starts at The Place, Great Yarmouth's £17m new library and learning centre

Construction has this week started on ambitious £17m regeneration plans to turn the former Palmers department store in Great Yarmouth into a new public library and university and learning centre called The Place.

Artist impression of exterior of The Place

The refurbishment and transformation of the building - in a prime location in the town's market place - is being undertaken by construction and infrastructure specialists Morgan Sindall Construction. Procured through the SCAPE National framework, The Place is due to open in the autumn of next year and is one of Great Yarmouth Borough Council's key regeneration projects.

Morgan Sindall has previously successfully worked with the council to build the award-winning new £26m Marina Centre on the town's Golden Mile and its initial work at The Place will start on the roof, which needs to be completely replaced.

Councillor Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said: "It is extremely exciting for Great Yarmouth to finally see this much-loved building being given a new lease of life.

''We are delighted to be once again working with Morgan Sindall and now the building works are underway it won't be long until this fantastic venue will open its doors and begin providing first-class education and services for the people of the borough."

As soon as the building is fully waterproof internal fit-out will begin. The popular department store - beloved by generations of townsfolk - closed in 2020 and shop fittings were stripped out and all internal non-load-bearing partitions removed last year. This enabled the council to remove all asbestos and to undertake detailed surveys to ensure the structure and services were sound enough to support the new use of the building.

Alister Broadberry, area director for Morgan Sindall Construction in the Eastern Counties, said: "It is a real pleasure to be working with the ambitious team at Great Yarmouth Borough Council again.  We are excited to commence delivery of another transformational scheme regenerating a key asset in the heart of the town for the Great Yarmouth and wider community following the success of the Marina Centre in 2022. 

''The Morgan Sindall team understands the importance of developments like The Place for people living and working in the area, particularly the educational value it will provide for students at East Coast College and University of Suffolk. We can't wait to open the doors of this new educational hub so that it can begin inspiring generations of learners in the heart of Great Yarmouth."

The 5,300 sqm, five-storey building first opened as a drapers in 1837 and is being transformed with a wider aim to increase the number of people in Great Yarmouth who hold qualifications above Level 4 so they can obtain high-quality and sustainable jobs.

The Place will be home to Norfolk County Council's Great Yarmouth public library - currently located in Tolhouse Street - along with adult learning, registry office and other community services such as Citizens Advice. The new University Learning Centre at The Place will see East Coast College and the University of Suffolk offer degree and diploma courses, as well as access to higher education and adult learning courses.

Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for communities and partnerships, said: "The combined library and learning facilities at The Place will provide a fantastic opportunity for people living in and around the Great Yarmouth area, as well bringing together unique services for the community in one convenient place. We very much look forward to working with all our partners to establish this unique learning centre."

Professor Mohammad Dastbaz, deputy vice-chancellor, University of Suffolk, said: "With work starting on the construction of The Place, we are all moving one step closer to improving access to high education in Great Yarmouth and the surrounding area and meeting our vision of raising aspirations and opportunities within the region."

Stuart Rimmer, Chief Executive of East Coast College, said: "Bringing more adult learning and higher university study into the heart of the town makes it easier to access. We'll be able to bring a new offer to a greater number of residents. We are really proud to be a key partner in this once-in-a-generation opportunity to increase university study in the borough."

The Place project is being funded via £8.1m from the Government's Town Deal, with a further £3.4m from the Future High Streets Fund. East Coast College and the University of Suffolk are contributing £3.5m and Norfolk County Council £2m.

Last modified on 13 September 2023

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