In the song made famous by Flanders and Swann, it was “on a Monday morning the gas man came to call.”
Well, this is exactly what will be happening next Monday morning, September 5, when the National Grid will be digging up Hunstanton Road in Heacham to connect number 43 to the gas main.
It remains to be seen if this will involve carpenters, glaziers, electricians, etc, as in the song, but it is going to take the gasmen, or gas persons, to be politically correct, four days to complete the connection! If the road has to be closed for this length of time to connect just one property, is it likely the road will only be closed for seven months while a roundabout is being built on the A149? This calls into question some contradictory information in the form of public notices, letters and emails regarding the start date for the major inconvenience that will result from this unnecessary disruption to the flow of traffic between Heacham and Hunstanton.
Posters attached to the bus stops in Hunstanton Road are already informing potential passengers that from September 5th there will be a very long wait for the next bus! As yet, no timetables are in place for the shuttle service that is supposed to be transporting passengers between Heacham Manor and Tesco Express, but it is difficult to imagine how such an arrangement will come close to replacing the five buses each way, every hour, currently using Hunstanton Road as the most convenient route between Heacham and Hunstanton.
From the replies received to my many emails on this subject, it has become increasingly obvious that when members of the planning committee in King’s Lynn granted permission for 166 new dwellings to be erected on the southern outskirts of Hunstanton, they effectively handed control of Norfolk County Council Highways Authority to Hopkins Homes. This might explain why Highway Engineers readily apologise for the inconvenience and disruption caused by the road closure, while at the same time pointing out that the roundabout and realigned roads are for the benefit of Hopkins Homes, since they will be footing the bill! This naive assumption overlooks the fact that the cost of these changes will be passed on to the people who purchase dwellings on the new estate; while council tax-payers make a very significant contribution towards the salaries and pensions of all council employees, including highway engineers!
For this reason, if for no other, it is high time the county council started listening to Heacham Parish Council and the residents of Hunstanton Road, who are well placed to see the advantage of using alternative access routes to the Hopkins Homes estate, which would avoid the inconvenience and disruption certain to be caused if the road closure and roundabout go ahead.
Fourteen years ago similar pleas fell on deaf ears when it came to the pier fiasco, prompting one Lynn News reader to observe that concessions made by West Norfolk council to CHS Amusements Ltd would not pass the ‘sniff test’.
Is it too much to expect county council members and officers to apply the ‘sniff test’ on this occasion, or are they fearful of encountering the smell of fish rather than gas?