Turnstone - Three years later – and still no explanation for the pier U-turn

After the reorganisation which deprived Hunstanton of Urban District status in 1974, it was left with a Town Council, empowered to act as a sounding board for local public opinion.

The extent to which its 17 councillors represent opinions expressed by residents can best be judged at local elections.

In 2003 electors voted to remove most of the councillors who had supported a controversial major new development on The Green, which they should have opposed because of conditions in the 999-year Pier lease; a covenant imposed in 1955; and the designation of The Green within a Conservation Area in 1984.

By the autumn of 2006 Civic Society members, including ward councillor Bryan Bullivant, had persuaded the leadership of the borough council (BC) to include the reinstatement of Hunstanton Pier in regeneration proposals for the town.

This pledge was reiterated in the Conservative election manifesto in May 2007 and published in the BC glossy magazine: “Your Council” in July 2007.

However, within days of the ‘pier’ entertainment centre changing hands in 2007 the new owners – Stade Developments (Hastings) Ltd – made it apparent that they had no intention of complying with the terms of the pier lease under which they claimed to be lessees of the pier at a rent of just £1 a year!

Solicitors allegedly acting for a statutory ‘pier’ company, which Stade claimed to own, demanded to be released from the obligation to make and maintain a pier at Hunstanton.

At first the BC refused to vary the terms of the pier lease, but in February 2008 the Cabinet agreed to do so, but only if it would be in the public interest!

In response to further demands, in July 2008 the council’s monitoring officer, Mrs Nicola Leader wrote a letter stating that it would not be in the public interest to vary the terms of the pier lease.

In 2009 Stade took the case to the High Court but failed to get a judgement in their favour. It therefore came as a complete surprise when Mrs Leader subsequently agreed to release the pier company from its obligation to provide the pier specified in the pier lease.

More than three years have passed, but there has been no satisfactory explanation for this U-turn.

However,I have recently received further information relating to BC management and it is possible more details about the pier fiasco may come to light in the future.