In a recent email, Sir Henry Bellingham MP informed me that he has been kept unbelievably busy in recent weeks, especially in dealing with seemingly endless opportunistic planning applications that are rearing their heads.
This description could certainly be applied to the Hopkins Homes application for land north of Heacham, which was described by more than one borough council officer as “jumping the gun”. Unfortunately, unlike the rules of athletics where the race has to be restarted if a competitor moves before the starting pistol is fired, planners are operating in accordance with a different set of rules. Whether or not this is due to misinterpretation of current government legislation will no doubt be revealed in due course, but in the meantime, rates of planning permission for new housing have increased by 60 per cent since 2010.
Even if local planners stick to their guns and refuse an application, there seems to be every chance that a government inspector will reverse their decision on appeal. In this context it was very refreshing to find a planning inspector prepared to dismiss the appeal against the borough council’s decision to refuse permission for a new single storey dwelling to be erected in the grounds of 29 Sandringham Road. The only disappointing aspect of this particular case was that the application had to be determined by the borough planning committee without an officer recommendation, or any objections from the borough Conservation Officer.
This calls into question just how seriously the local authority takes the outcome of consultations, because I remember very clearly being present at a meeting of the Conservation Areas Advisory Panel when members were unanimous in recommending refusal for a dwelling of any description in this part of the Hunstanton Conservation Area. In fact, it was the Conservation Officer’s immediate predecessor who steered through the extension of the Conservation Area to include 29 Sandringham Road.
Unfortunately, this is not the only occasion when the status of Hunstanton’s Conservation Area has been ignored by borough officers. It goes without saying that The Green should have been spared the indignity of the ‘hangar’, which leads me to wonder whether or not it would be appropriate to erect a statue of Henry le Strange facing seawards across The Green, which he intended to remain an area of public open space in perpetuity. Perhaps a blindfold on Henry’s statue would make this point? The decision of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) at the end of June could turn out to be a defining moment for The Green, which gets a mention in the Heritage Gardens Project, but without suggesting how it could be restored in line with Henry’s vision unless a ‘monstrous carbuncle’ is removed from its much loved face. If the word ‘Heritage’ means anything at all to the HLF surely someone in their Cambridge office is going to ask why the proposed restoration appears to be confined to the esplanade gardens.
Unfortunately, the HLF seems to be more interested in seeing the 1960’s ‘Butterfly’ shelters rebuilt, rather than seeing The Green restored to the way it looked from the 1850’s right up to the 1950’s!