Plans to move Hunstanton’s memorial to the victims of the 1953 flood disaster have been dropped tonight, after engineers raised concerns about the condition of the structure.
The unanimous decision, which was applauded by residents attending an extraordinary town council meeting, came amid growing public anger at the idea, which some claimed was being forced on the resort.
But senior West Norfolk Council figures insisted they only agreed to the move because they believed that was what the town wanted to happen.
The row over the monument, which currently stands in Esplanade Gardens, has grown out of the £1.3 million project to renovate the town’s Heritage Gardens, most of which is being funded through Lottery support.
Many of the residents who attended this evening’s meeting at the town hall insisted they had not known about the plan to move the memorial to a new Time and Tide garden at all until the last few days.
Independent councillor Richard Bird, one of the town’s three borough representatives, accused the Conservative administration of treating the town “with contempt” and claimed he had only become aware of the plan to move the memorial last month.
He said he had seen the distress of residents and relatives, but was powerless to act to prevent it.
He added: “I am disgusted with what has happened here. I am frustrated at the way the borough council continues to impose its will in the Hunstanton area despite the outcry from local people.”
The meeting was also told that the family of Reis Leming, the American serviceman who was awarded the George Medal for his efforts to rescue 27 people on the night of the disaster, had scattered some of his ashes around the memorial’s present site.
However, several councillors said the idea had been part of plans that were presented to a coastal communities team that they and Mr Bird were members of as far back as late 2015.
And West Norfolk Council deputy leader Elizabeth Nockolds said she couldn’t understand why residents felt they had not had a say.
She said: “I supported it because I thought that was what Hunstanton wanted. People in King’s Lynn have not made the decision.”
The meeting also heard that borough officials had claimed any change to the plan could risk the withdrawal of that funding and the future of the entire project.
But ward councillor, and borough deputy mayor, Carol Bower, said contractors only raised concerns about the condition of the memorial this morning, after undertaking a full site visit yesterday.
She said they had offered three options - do nothing, leave the stone in place and restore and repair it there, or move it and repair it depending on the extent of any damage incurred in the move.