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70 per cent of Hunstanton businesses claim trade damaged by tourist hub move, says campaign group

More than two thirds of Hunstanton’s business people believe moving its tourist information centre will be damaging to the town.

That’s according to members of the resort’s Civic Society, who say the decision to switch to an unstaffed facility must now be reversed.

But West Norfolk Council officials have questioned how effectively the impact can be measured at this stage and maintain their solution is better than none.

The Coal Shed Gallery is the site of Hunstanton's new, and controversial, tourist information facility.
The Coal Shed Gallery is the site of Hunstanton's new, and controversial, tourist information facility.

The authority, together with Hunstanton Town Council, announced plans to shut the old centre at the town hall and replace it with an unstaffed hub at the Coal Shed Gallery last month.

Since then, amid sustained criticism, the Civic Society has been surveying its members and town business people on the issue.

A 12 page document, issued this week, said there was near unanimous opposition within the society’s 185 members.

It added that, out of 106 businesses surveyed, 70 per cent “highlighted in their comments a variety of negative effects” on the town’s economy.

And 47 per cent of respondents claimed the move had “a distinctly negative or harmful” effect on their businesses, while 52 per cent suggested they would not be affected, while recognising a broader impact.

None indicated a positive impact from the move on their trade, the report says.

The society says it has shared its findings with the two authorities.

It wants to reinstate a staffed centre in the town, even if operating hours and services are reduced compared to the old centre.

The paper added: “We understand that the method of providing tourist information is changing to become more reliant on web-based applications.

“But within any major change cycle there has to be a transitional period, particularly in a traditional coastal town such as ours that has only a limited online presence and patchy connections.”

But a borough council spokesman yesterday said the decision had been taken when formal meetings were not taking place due to coronavirus and a quick decision was required.

She said the current arrangements were “felt to be better than having no TIC at all” and signs directing visitors to the Coal Shed are being installed.

She added: “We understand that people feel the Tourist Information Centre is the heart of the community, especially when staff have worked there a number of years, but in terms of the benefit they bring to local tourism businesses, it is much harder to quantify.

“We will continue to liaise with our tourism businesses, with a view to assessing what sort of tourism support they need in the future.”

The town council said it would also respond to the society’s findings, though none had been released at the time of going to press.

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