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Hunstanton car park flats decision deferred in 'unprecedented' committee deadlock

The fate of a controversial 32 flat development in Hunstanton still hangs in the balance this evening, after councillors deferred their decision over it – in a “totally unprecedented” move.

Members of West Norfolk Council planning committee examined plans put forward by the authority itself to build flats on Southend Car Park in Hunstanton during a meeting this morning.

The development was previously rejected by the committee in December, after councillors heard the proposals would lead to the loss of 100 parking spaces.

The Southend Road car park in Hunstanton.
The Southend Road car park in Hunstanton.

But new plans published in February, proposed replacing them by creating 84 spaces for cars in a nearby coach park.

Ahead of the meeting, officers recommended approving the £6m scheme, which includes six affordable flats.

A town councillor and a member of the resort's Civic Society spoke against the plans, with one saying the scheme fails to respect the town’s heritage.

Margi Blunden of the Civic Society argued Hunstanton was set for a record year of visitors as people explore the UK for their pandemic summer holidays, and they will need somewhere to park.

“We surely want Hunstanton to be a welcoming place for visitors, don’t we? The first question a visitor asks is where to put the car.”

Ms Blunden also said tackling climate change needed forward-thinking arguing the plans failed to do that.

Dale Gagen, the finance and resource manager at the council, said the plans addressed the council’s earlier concerns by finding extra parking spaces and improved the view as people entered the town.

Several councillors wanted to see the flats guaranteed for local residents in perpetuity, worried they could end up becoming second homes and not addressing the local housing need.

But there were confusing scenes after councillors first voted against deferring the plans, then against approving them and then against refusal.

Ultimately, the committee did eventually agree to postpone the decision to a later date.

Council officer Stuart Ashworth said he had “never known anything like this before” describing it as “totally unprecedented”.

Each vote was seven for, eight against, with two abstentions, with Independent councillor Mike Howland’s vote ensuring it was neither passed nor rejected.

Mr Ashworth advised councillors to vote on a deferral again, take legal advice and bring it to a future council meeting, which was agreed.

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