Hunstanton Heritage Gardens work ‘mostly finished next week’, council chief insists

Cllr Elizabeth Nockolds, deputy leader and cabinet member for Culture, Heritage and Health, Cllr Carol Bower, borough mayor, and Cllr Adrian Winnington, mayor of Hunstanton officially open the new �130k play area in the Hunstanton Heritage Gardens
Cllr Elizabeth Nockolds, deputy leader and cabinet member for Culture, Heritage and Health, Cllr Carol Bower, borough mayor, and Cllr Adrian Winnington, mayor of Hunstanton officially open the new �130k play area in the Hunstanton Heritage Gardens

Borough council chiefs have defended their handling of the £1.3 million renovation of Hunstanton’s Heritage Gardens as the latest phase of the scheme was completed.

A tenth of the budget has been spent on a new play area, which was officially opened in a ceremony on Friday morning.

But concerns about the progress of the scheme were raised later when borough deputy leader Elizabeth Nockolds attended a meeting of the town council.

Town mayor Adrian Winnington said they had not been able to reassure residents because they “hadn’t had the facts” about the state of the project.

He added: “The main concern is the completion date seems to keep on being pushed further and further away.

“What concerns residents is whenever they go past there doesn’t seem to be many people working on it. Things have been started and left to look unsightly.”

But Mrs Nockolds said most work was expected to be completed by early July and the project remains on budget.

She said: “The gardens are absolutely beautiful. Today, we attended the opening of the playground and during the carnival this weekend, if it’s a lovely day I suspect it’s going to be very busy.”

But she also admitted it had been a challenge to progress the project, because of issues including the unwillingness of some contractors to work in the town, vandalism incident in the Time and Tide garden and problems with some aspects of the work.

She said one of the contractors who had tendered for the work would have charged another £500,000 for it and more work was needed on the cliff top shelters than previously anticipated.

However, during the opening ceremony, she said: “We’re confident that the end of this project will result in beautiful gardens of which we can all be proud.”

The play area was opened by borough mayor Carol Bower, alongside Mr Winnington and Mrs Nockolds.

Robin Llewellyn, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the East of England, has also praised the progress made on the project.

He said: “It’s been fantastic to see the progess of the Hunstanton Heritage Gardens’ regeneration and the benefits being made for its fantastic heritage and for people of all ages.

“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we’re delighted to support this project and look forward to celebrating its completion.”

Mrs Nockolds also defended the installation of new bins on the promenade, which were the subject of criticism from some councillors last month.

They wanted the bins to be replaced, claiming they were unsightly and inappropriate for the area.

But Mrs Nockolds said: “I think the bins are perfect for the promenade. I spoke to many visitors and had not one negative report from visitors to the prom.

“There’s no excuse for people not seeing where the bins are.”