Turnstone, November 18, 2014: A Penny for your thoughts on Hunstanton’s pier

Hunstanton Pier back in its heyday. Picture Brian Holmes ANL-141114-173322001
Hunstanton Pier back in its heyday. Picture Brian Holmes ANL-141114-173322001
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It was only recently that I came across the fact that Penny Mordaunt MP is the minister with responsibility for Coastal Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

When further enquiries revealed that she has studied philosophy in her time and is good at her present job, my first thought was that she could be just the right person to solve the problems I have been grappling with for more than twelve years.

It might have been mentioned once or twice before in this column, but when on duty at the Heritage Centre I am constantly asked by visitors and newcomers to the area to explain why our iconic Victorian Pier has been replaced by an enormous amusement arcade.

The explanation they get from me quite deservedly shows West Norfolk Council in rather a bad light.

This should concern anyone from the DCLG, but especially the minister responsible for coastal communities.

With this in mind I made an appointment to see Henry Bellingham MP last Saturday, November 15, and at his request I handed over a letter for him to pass on to Ms Mordaunt, which reads as follows:

“Dear Minister,

“As a native of Hunstanton I have become increasingly concerned at the enormous profits being made by successive tenants of Hunstanton Pier, all of them claiming statutory rights under the provisions of the Hunstanton Pier Orders of 1868 and 1897, while simultaneously failing to discharge the statutory duties imposed by the same Pier Orders.

“On more than one occasion in recent years Government Ministers and Civil Servants have made it clear to local residents that the Pier Orders have neither been revoked nor amended and that it would be ‘ultra vires’ for the Hunstanton Pier Company established by the 1868 Pier Order, to engage in any activity other than making and maintaining a Pier at Hunstanton.

“Sadly, this is exactly what has been happening since most of the pier was demolished following severe storm damage in 1978.

“The situation was made even worse in 2002 when the local planning authority granted permission for a very large ‘entertainment centre’ to be erected on land set aside under the terms and conditions of a 999-year lease for a pier and nothing else whatsoever.

“The final act of abdication came five years ago, when West Norfolk Council attempted to release the Hunstanton Pier Company from the condition in the Pier Lease, making occupancy of the pier site dependent on the provision of the 830 foot long pier specified in the 999-year pier lease.

“On November 25 (next Tuesday) I will be attending an Information Tribunal hearing in King’s Lynn, at which I hope to persuade a Judge to order the release of legal documents that led West Norfolk Council to consider making such an unbelievable concession to a Pier Company, which is clearly in breach of its charter, derived from the Pier Orders. It is my contention that the person claiming ownership of the statutory pier company should be called to account by Parliament and I look to your department to make this happen ...”