Turnstone, by John Maiden, Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The borough council is to be applauded for allowing Hunstanton Town Council to have the last word on the flood memorial in the esplanade gardens.

When councils with urban district status were stripped of their powers in 1974, they were left with the duty to act as sounding boards for local public opinion.

As reported in last Tuesday’s Lynn News, Hunstanton town councillors fulfilled this role to perfection at an extraordinary meeting on January 27.

Encouraged by this example of localism in action, I wrote the following to the borough council officer responsible for the project, which is supposed to celebrate the vision of the founder of Hunstanton, Henry le Strange.

“The council is now presented with an opportunity to rid the town of unsightly shelters to the south of The Green, as well as the butterfly shelters to the north. I do hope the contractor and the HLF will be made aware of the council’s stated position when it comes to meeting its obligations imposed by the covenant, before carrying out repairs to the structures currently breaching this covenant.

“It should also be remembered that both shelters were put up before 1984 when the green and Esplanade Gardens were included in the conservation area.

“It is most unlikely that either would be permitted now, especially if the intention really is to celebrate the vision of the founder of Hunstanton.”

This was the reply I received:

“The purpose of the approved grant from the HLF includes repair of the south shelter and the repair and restoration of the Butterfly shelters.

“As per my previous correspondence with the civic society on the matter (which I understand has been shared with HCS members), any variation to the approved purposes of the grant would require HLF board approval.

“The council has an agreed scheme approved with the HLF and does not wish to delay implementation and incur significant costs associated by requesting a variation to the scheme when the likelihood of securing a variation approval is slim.

The le Strange estate has been consulted on the heritage gardens scheme in relation to the covenant and supports the project.”

The covenant was uppermost in my mind when I attended the drop-in session at the Golden Lion on Thursday, armed with correspondence reiterating the borough council’s commitment to upholding the covenant.

I even reminded chief executive Ray Harding of a letter he had sent to the town council on November 26, 2007, in which he confirmed that the borough council could not site a permanent building on the green.

He offered no explanation for his apparent decision to ignore a covenant that was clearly intended to benefit local inhabitants, not the le Strange estate.

Similarly, no satisfactory answer was forthcoming when local historian John Smith asked why the Twentieth Century Society had been given the last word on restoring two of the worst examples of 1960s’ architecture; when it was left to Hunstanton and District Civic Society to provide photographs of the butterfly shelters, before the concrete rot set in and all the glass disappeared.

Now, after insisting that full restoration was essential to qualify for a grant, it seems that partial restoration will suffice, including a new upside-down roof.

I wonder what the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Twentieth Century Society will make of that.