Turnstone by John Maiden, December 1, 2015

Hunstanton Pier back in its heyday. Picture Brian Holmes ANL-141114-173322001

Hunstanton Pier back in its heyday. Picture Brian Holmes ANL-141114-173322001

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Most of us seem to have a phobia of some kind. In my case it stems from the 11+ exam, which left me with an irrational fear of form filling!

It therefore came as no great surprise when I was asked to provide more detailed answers to two of the questions on the nomination form for listing the ‘hangar’ – and part of The Green on which it stands – as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).The first question was: ‘Why is the nominated land and/or building usage seen as having social value for the local community?’

After consulting as widely as possible within the time available, this was my answer: The Pier Entertainment Centre might have social value for some, but by its very presence it actually prevents the local community from fully appreciating a very special area of public open space, which was at the heart of Henry le Strange’s vision for his new town of Hunstanton St Edmund.

Following Henry’s untimely death in 1862, Hamon le Strange was left with the task of turning his father’s vision into reality. A 999-year lease drawn up in 1870 stipulated that this part of The Green should be used for an entrance to Hunstanton Pier and for no other purpose whatsoever.

For the next 85 years there was no attempt to extend the footprint of the pier, or the appearance of the single-storey entrance building, and when the freehold of the Pier and the Lower Green was acquired by Hunstanton Council in July 1955, Bernard le Strange imposed a covenant for the benefit of local inhabitants and visitors, which prohibited the erection of any permanent building on The Green other than the pier entrance as it existed at that time.

Nominating the ‘hangar’ as an ACV is a vital first step towards restoring the whole of The Green in line with Henry le Strange’s vision and the terms of the 1955 covenant. It certainly fits in very nicely with plans to restore The Green and esplanade gardens to their former glory with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund,.

The other question was: ‘How strongly does the local community feel the land and/or building usage furthers their social interests?’

In answer to this question I referred to the thousands of local inhabitants and visitors who in 2002 petitioned against plans for a ‘hangar’ in such a prominent position. The borough council’s head of planning also came up with valid reasons for refusing permission for a building of this kind, because of the adverse impact it would have on the Conservation Area and an important area of public open space. This was in July 2002, but the controversial plans were passed less than two months later. A very similar scenario to the recent U-turn on the Hopkins Homes planning application.

Whenever consulted, the local community has consistently voted in favour of a real pier to replace the hangar. In 2007 the the borough council responded to this overwhelming weight of public opinion by promising to reinstate the pier as part of a regeneration scheme for Hunstanton.

There is nothing more to add, except that after failing to be selected for a grammar school education at 11+ and 12+ I went on to pass the 13+ with flying colours.