Turnstone, by John Maiden, February 21, 2017

McCarthy & Stone Hunstanton. Photo: BRIAN HOLMES
McCarthy & Stone Hunstanton. Photo: BRIAN HOLMES

Every once in a while someone refers to the ‘masterplan’ for Hunstanton, produced in 2008 by the ‘Building Design Partnership’ (BDP) at a cost of £55,000.

This masterplan is treated by some as if it had been written on tablets of stone, but to others it seems more like the biblical Golden Calf.

For example, the borough cited the BDP’s recommendations when selling off the railway track bed to Marstons Brewery for the Honeystone public house.

Shortly after the masterplan was published, the proposed development on the Kit Kat site adopted an architectural style approved by the BDP, but the Conservation Areas Advisory Panel (CAAP) considered the proposal unacceptable, because it would have an adverse impact on views from the nearby Conservation Area (CA). Hunstanton had to wait until 1984 for its CA to be designated, and even then it was not always taken into account on planning applications.

However, at a meeting of the CAAP on November 12, 2008, the borough conservation and design officer said that at the request of Hunstanton town council, a Shopfront Guide had been produced, which had been canvassed as part of the masterplan exercise.

It had been sent to the Civic Society for comment, and copies had been delivered to all retailers operating within the CA. The purpose of the Shopfront Guide was to try to raise the standard of shopfront design and appearance, as well as helping the town and borough councils when considering planning and advertisement applications.

Once adopted it would run parallel with the masterplan.

The panel agreed to support the guidance contained within the Shopfront Guide. At the same meeting, the officer said the site in St Edmund’s Terrace, on which a former filling station had been knocked down, was identified as a site for ‘opportunity’ in the masterplan.

The minutes of the meeting read as follows: “It was reported that the owners had demolished the building, which was in the conservation area, and had consequently been prosecuted and fined £10,000 plus costs. The site itself was ugly and broken up, and it had been suggested that whilst the future of the site was being discussed, the rubbish could be moved off and the site grassed, together with the provision of bollards and chain link fencing to stop cars parking on it.”

One member asked if this approach could be used for prominent empty sites in Lynn.

Prominent sites in Lynn may have benefitted from this approach, but this site in Hunstanton did not.

It remained an eyesore until McCarthy & Stone began building their ‘later living’ apartments.

Presumably the planning inspector who gave permission for the development did not consider the adverse impact this enormous block would have on views from the conservation area.

So much for the BDP identifying this as a site for ‘opportunity’, it now represents yet another lost opportunity for Hunstanton!

It could have been very different. Apparently, the borough council charged McCarthy & Stone £100,000 for taking up a third of the central car park, while the apartments are under construction, but a site swap could have moved the Sunday market closer to the town centre, with the ‘later living’ apartments blocking the view of Harlequin House from Southend Road…