Call for study to examine Hunstanton area’s economic potential

Candidates for the Norfolk County Council Elections May 2013 ENGANL00120130426153630
Candidates for the Norfolk County Council Elections May 2013 ENGANL00120130426153630
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More must be done to attract wider employment opportunities to Hunstanton and surrounding coastal areas, a councillor has warned.

Richard Bird, who represents the resort at both borough and county levels, says he fears people are being put off moving to the area by a lack of work chances.

He has tabled a motion to this Thursday’s West Norfolk Council meeting, calling for the authority to lead a new study into the issue.

The motion, supported by fellow independents Jim Moriarty and Mike Tilbury continues: “This should lead to the formation of a plan for the economic and social development of the area, focussed upon local needs and potential.”

Mr Bird added: “A lot of people would love to live here but they can’t make a living here.”

He insisted he was not “pointing fingers” at the borough council, which is leading a bid to secure lottery funding for an £825,000 renovation of the town’s Heritage Gardens, in proposing the motion.

But, while he praised the regeneration work that has taken place in Lynn in recent years, he argued that the Hunstanton area had been “overlooked.”

He said unemployment in the area was significantly higher than the borough’s average and claimed he had been told Hunstanton’s population is now at its lowest level since the Second World War.

He said: “The whole area from Hunstanton round to Burnham Market and beyond to an extent has been left to its own devices.”

The motion was published in agenda papers for Thursday’s meeting as it emerged that housing developer McCarthy and Stone had agreed a deal to buy the Swains International site in Westgate.

The company, which is already building 32 retirement flats in St Edmund’s Terrace, is hoping to win planning permission to turn the site into a new complex for elderly residents with care options.

A public inquiry will also be held this spring into plans for dozens of new homes, sheltered housing units and a care home in nearby Heacham.

And Mr Bird believes the area’s large and growing elderly population provides a way in which to create new employment chances in the area outside the traditional leisure and tourism sectors.

He said: “Within the next decade, over 40 per cent of our population will be 85 or over. One in three or one in four of them will have some sort of dementia. We have very few facilities in place to cope with that.

“The natural development is to go for retirement and care, attract people into the area to work in that industry and move into our schools to create a local workforce to work in that industry.”

Other coastal representatives, at both town and borough level, have also highlighted the need to attract families into the area.

The issue was raised most recently when the contentious Hopkins Homes plan for 166 new homes on the southern edge of the town was approved by the borough council’s planning committee last November.