On September 21 I will be kicking off the new season of talks organized by Hunstanton & District Civic Society.
My illustrated talk will include the launch of a new booklet outlining the colourful history of Hunstanton Pier, together with a proposal for its reinstatement as a major tourist attraction.
“The Pier Uncovered” sets out to answer one of the most frequently asked questions posed by visitors to the Heritage Centre: “How on earth did you end up with such an awful monstrosity where the Pier should be?”
After 14 years of research, it seems to me that the best way to answer this question is by exposing the major mistakes made, on more than one occasion, after the freehold of the Pier and “The Green” passed from the le Strange Estate to the Local Authority in July 1955.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also reveal the extent to which local government officers and members became involved in a futile attempt to prevent anyone from uncovering the real reasons for the decline and fall of Hunstanton Pier. Lessons should have been learned from the pier debacle, but there is every indication that history is repeating itself today in more ways than one. For example, in 2002 Hunstanton town council ignored overwhelming public opposition by recommending approval for the current ‘non-pier’ building on The Green. Fourteen years later this error of judgment has resulted in a decision to exclude the land occupied by the ‘hangar’ from an application to the heritage lottery fund for a significant grant towards restoring The Green and esplanade gardens in accordance with Henry le Strange’s vision for his sea bathing village of St Edmund.
Apparently, a borough councilor has ‘tweeted’ that I should be welcoming the fact that the bid had been successful and would now enable a statue of our founder to erected overlooking The Green. As much as I am full of admiration for those responsible for extracting money from the lottery fund to spend in my home town, I cannot support a scheme that fails to comply with the 2007 regeneration policy, which was to restore Hunstanton Pier to its former glory.
Much of the credit for the successful lottery bid must go to Laura Hampshire from West Norfolk Council, but when I met her at the Heritage Centre last week she made no apology for failing to include the ‘pier’ site in the latest restoration project.
By all accounts the town council appears to be going along with the pretence that in some magical way the ‘hangar’ does not breach the legally binding covenant imposed by the le Strange Estate in 1955, which clearly prohibits the erection of any permanent building on The Green.
Regular readers of this column will not need reminding that in 2013 the town council made a similar controversial decision by agreeing ‘in principle’ to a new estate of 166 dwellings on land south of Hunstanton that had previously been deemed unsuitable for housing.
This decision will soon have an adverse impact on those living in Heacham that was not forecast in last week’s column. A spokesman for Stagecoach has now confirmed that unless commonsense kicks in, from September 5, the Coasthopper service will bypass Heacham village in order to avoid inevitable delays at the traffic lights on Lynn Road due to the closure of Hunstanton Road for several months…