Turnstone, by John Maiden, October 4, 2016

Hunstanton. Harrys Way. ANL-160930-091921001
Hunstanton. Harrys Way. ANL-160930-091921001

It’s a Wonderful Life is the title of that famous 1946 Christmas fantasy film, produced and directed by Frank Capra. Repeated viewings on TV in the festive season have made the movie one of the most popular ever made.

The story demonstrates how one person’s life can affect the lives of others, by illustrating how much worse life would have been for the inhabitants of Bedford Falls if George Bailey (James Stewart) had never been born, thereby leaving baddy, Henry Potter (Lionel Barrymore) to turn the town into Pottersville. Christmas is still some twelve weeks away, but recent events bring this story to mind.

For example, if Henry Potter – as opposed to Henry le Strange – had been Lord of the Manor of Hunstanton in the mid-19th century, the growth of the town might have followed a very different course.

As every regular reader of this column knows, instead of a line of buildings along the seafront, Henry insisted on uninterrupted views of the sea from the town centre across a gently sloping grassed area of public open space. Contrary to plans produced by the borough council in recent years, all the land from the Sandringham Hotel (now Azams) to the lighthouse was supposed to be public open space.

When this land was sold by the le Strange Estate to Hunstanton Urban District Council in 1955, Bernard le Strange imposed a restrictive covenant prohibiting the erection of any permanent building on this grassed area. Of course, in 1955 the pier had a modest entrance located on a clearly defined area. Similarly, shelters had been in place along the cliff top since the 1890s and spacious shelters dating from the art deco period had been built under The Green north of the pier.

When the borough council took up my suggestion to apply for Lottery funding to restore The Green and Esplanade Gardens, I expected to see a genuine attempt to restore this whole area in compliance with the 1955 covenant. Sadly, as yet there is no sign of this happening…

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, it appears there is no covenant in place to prevent construction traffic from entering the Hopkins Homes site on Redgate Hill via Manorfields.

My advice to fit padlocks on the gate at the end of Harrys Way was to no avail, because last week I received this message from Harrys Way resident, Roland Worth: “Went to get a picture of the gate for you this morning, but not only is the gate missing, the whole entry has been taken away - hedges, posts and fence!”

Roland, a veteran of the D-Day landings, was quick to spot the irony here, because there is a covenant in the deeds for his bungalow imposing the following obligation: “At all times hereafter to maintain the six foot high concrete posts with two inch square plastic mesh between posts, the position of which is indicated by a purple line on the said plan and to keep the same in good repair and condition.”

Why is there never a ‘George Bailey’ around when you most need one to prevent Hunstanton from becoming more like Pottersville?