On page two of last Tuesday’s Lynn News, under the headline “Devolution vote misunderstood” there was a report on growing concerns about the implications of a new local authority for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.
From this report it would seem the only person not concerned about the creation of yet another tier of local government is Nick Daubney. Might this be an indication that he is hoping to play a major role in the new authority if it goes ahead? Could it explain his decision to step down as leader of the borough council next month?
Whatever the answer to these questions, it is difficult to see how Hunstanton is likely to benefit from devolution any more than it did from local government reorganisation in 1974. The original scheme saw the creation of West Norfolk District Council, but by 1981 it had become the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk. This was followed by the closure of the Northern Area Office, giving the impression that the council’s primary function was to serve the residents of Lynn and its suburbs. As reported in the Lynn News on March 18, instead of having its own town council, issues specifically affecting Lynn are still dealt with by a borough council committee.
The impression given by this lopsided arrangement is that the borough council is doing Hunstanton a big favour every time money or time is devoted to projects affecting this neck of the woods, overlooking the fact that Hunstanton attracts visitors from all over west Norfolk as well as from much further afield. Unfortunately, this attitude is adopted by some town councillors and, more often than not, by Conservative borough councillors elected to serve the Hunstanton Ward. This state of affairs was highlighted on March 25 when the Lynn News reported that a plan to introduce on-street parking charges in Hunstanton had been dropped.
This was not because of protests from councillors in west Norfolk, but because North Norfolk District Council had threatened legal action if similar measures were imposed in Cromer and Sheringham - towns with which Hunstanton has more in common than it has with King’s Lynn. This brings into sharp focus the opportunity missed in 1974 when this corner of northwest Norfolk would have been much better served had it been included in north Norfolk. For a start, as freehold owners of Hunstanton Pier, North Norfolk Council would almost certainly have enforced the repairing covenant in the 999-year Pier Lease following severe storm damage to the pier in January 1978.
Even if this opportunity to preserve the town’s unique heritage had been lost, there can be little doubt that in 2002 North Norfolk Council would have refused planning permission for a ‘hangar’ - where the pier should be. It is a matter of public record that the borough council failed in its statutory duty to consult English Heritage, before allowing this incongruous structure to blight Henry le Strange’s vision for the whole of The Green to be maintained as public open space in perpetuity.
Bearing in mind the popularity of the North Norfolk Railway, it is not unreasonable to suggest that North Norfolk Council would have preserved the track bed of the line from Hunstanton to Lynn, even if a restored railway might have hit the buffers as soon as it entered borough council territory!