Turnstone, by John Maiden, December 13, 2016

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Tomorrow evening at 6.30pm Hunstanton & District Civic Society will hold its Annual General Meeting in the Town Hall.

The guest speaker will be Mary Ash, recently elected to the Board of ‘Civic Voice’, the charity representing the civic movement at national level.

Mary has been a member of the Norwich Society for 12 years. During this period she chaired the Planning Appraisal Committee, before becoming Vice Chairman, then Chairman of the Norwich Society. Mary should feel very much at home in the Town Hall because its architect, George Skipper is well known in Norwich for designing Surrey House, headquarters of Norwich Union, now known as Aviva. This is not the only example of Skipper’s exuberant style in Norwich, because he also designed Jarrold’s department store and the Royal Arcade: a magnificent example of the Art Nouveau period, hailed as a fragment from the Arabian Nights dropped into the heart of the old city! According to John Betjeman, Skipper was to Norwich what Gaudi was to Barcelona. Members of the Norwich Society would surely agree this endorsement.

There are good reasons for acknowledging John Betjeman’s thoughtful observations on architecture. Unfortunately, by the time he arrived in this corner of Norfolk by train in the 1960’s, Hunstanton was not only in imminent danger of losing the railway line on which he had travelled; the town was shortly to lose many fine examples of Edwardian and ‘art deco’ architecture. The Blue Lagoon was arguably the greatest loss, because its sad demise left the resort without a public swimming pool of any kind for an incredible 17 years. Apparently, the Oasis Leisure Centre, which has provided limited facilities for swimming since 1984, may have to be replaced within the next 5 years due to concrete rot. Sad as this might seem to the many people currently using it to improve their fitness, this could provide an ideal opportunity for the Blue Lagoon to return with an architectural style reminiscent of a fragment from the Arabian Nights! If nothing else, this would certainly be more appropriate than the current utilitarian structure when it comes to living up to the ‘Oasis’ title.

In the same context, it is surely time for the Kit Kat site to be developed in a manner reflecting the ‘art deco’ appearance of the original 1930’s building. If the small funfair adjacent to this land is to be replaced with a building of some description it should look more like the Kit Kat and less like the current Oasis.

Finally, it is also time for the northern half of the field west of the cemetery to be designated a Centenary Field, or a Doorstep Green for use by nearby residents. Even a Green Burial site would be better than leaving it as it is now, because it has become obvious in recent years that allowing land to become derelict is often a precursor for a planning application for even more second homes…