Turnstone, by John Maiden, February 10, 2015

Hunstanton recreation field ANL-150602-124250001
Hunstanton recreation field ANL-150602-124250001
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It has been suggested that this column contains too much information on topics relating to The Green, the Pier, railways and, more recently, the Hopkins Homes application to build 166 new dwellings on land south of Hunstanton.

The criticisms might be based on a careful analysis of the content of more than 260 Turnstone articles published in the Lynn News over the past five years; but it should be noted that there are still many unresolved issues relating to all these subjects, which are clearly of considerable interest to local residents as well as to visitors.

Anyone who doubts this fact should spend a couple of hours in the Heritage Centre and listen to the comments and questions coming from a wide cross section of the community.

Here they can see that all the above issues are directly linked to Henry le Strange’s vision for his new town of St Edmund’s at Hunstanton.

Ever since his untimely death in 1862, Henry’s successors have done their best to ensure the town developed and expanded in accordance with the plans he conceived in consultation with his friend, William Butterfield, the highly respected architect.

From the outset Henry recognized the importance of bringing the railway from King’s Lynn, which opened within weeks of his passing.

His son Hamon leased the land on which the pier was constructed in 1868 and he had the foresight to include a clause in the 999-year lease stipulating that the land leased to the pier company must only be used for a pier and nothing else whatsoever.

Unfortunately, when the freehold of the pier and the Lower Green were acquired by Hunstanton Urban District Council in 1955, and then passed to West Norfolk Council in 1974, clauses in the pier lease and a legally binding covenant on The Green were ignored.

The consequences are there for all to see, but in spite of many attempts to rewrite history in order to justify the status quo, the opportunity to restore The Green to its former glory has not been lost forever. A meeting with Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Coastal Communities, convened by Henry Bellingham MP, might prove to be an important step in that direction.

Mr Bellingham has also made his point of view fairly clear on the Hopkins Homes application and is on record as being opposed to any new housing development on land south of Hunstanton requiring access via the Manorfields estate or the A149; when two sites owned by the le Strange Estate are more conveniently situated closer to the town centre, east of the A149.

It is therefore surprising that West Norfolk Council’s Local Development Framework team appears to be disputing figures put forward by the le Strange Estate, whilst accepting those in the Hopkins Homes application.

Apparently the council is also failing to take into account the role played by the le Strange Estate in making land available for the Recreation Ground, east of the A149, and just about everything along the seafront from the clifftop to the fairground, including a pier, railway, swimming pool and boating lake.

It seems doubtful if even Penny Mordaunt can bring back these priceless assets, but they will continue to stir poignant memories for lovers of nostalgia who visit the Heritage Centre when it reopens on Valentine’s Day.