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‘More is not always best with KIng’s Lynn and coastal tourism,’ says opposition spokesman

An opposition spokesman has called for caution after a member of the new West Norfolk Council cabinet said more must be done to attract tourism.

Cllr Simon Ring is cabinet member for tourism, events and marketing, having taken on that role when the Independent group seized minority control alongside the Greens and Liberal Democrats in May.

In Friday’s Lynn News, he said the council doesn’t do enough to promote Lynn and West Norfolk as a tourist destination.

A busy day in Hunstanton
A busy day in Hunstanton

However, the opposition Conservatives’ business and tourism spokesperson Cllr Andrew Jamieson, a coastal business owner, says Cllr RIng’s words will not go down well with residents.

Cllr Jamieson, who is also county councillor for the Hunstanton area, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council and chair of the strategic ‘Coast Partnership’, said: “Whilst I commend Cllr Ring’s enthusiasm for his new role , I and others have a fair degree of genuine sympathy for him, as he is not only learning the role of a councillor but has been straightaway been given the additional demands, pressures and workload of being ton the cabinet.

“I know from experience, that his ill-advised words and the tone of the article will likely cause considerable angst to many residents, about what may be coming to them, particularly along the tourist coast and villages on the way to it and other tourist destinations here. His words simply cannot go uncommented upon.

“Cllr Ring says there are three types of tourism and that he and seemingly we want more of it and this blunt message is reinforced throughout the piece. I believe, possibly in his haste to get something out, he has failed to grasp, or be briefed, that our area’s relationship with tourism and tourists is a complex and fragile one.

Cllr Andrew Jamieson
Cllr Andrew Jamieson

“Yes, tourists are most very welcome and essential for many of our great businesses and our economy but there are many areas of resultant pressure we all know of including communities who already feel overrun, roads that are gridlocked at peak times, additional demands and cost pressures on essential local services and partners such as the police, RNLI, Coastguard and NHS to consider not to mention longer-term issues like the effect of second homes and holiday lets increasing in communities in our historic towns and villages and the damaging impact on our beautiful surroundings.

“There are many excellent strategic reports on these very issues such as the recently produced; ‘Limits of acceptable change’ report.

“I have in my various roles, like many here, seen the growth in tourism in West Norfolk and the returning high numbers of visitors every year, who clearly like what we currently offer.

“I know for certain, as many do, that there are far, far more types of tourism than just the three Cllr Ring lists, with new sectors coming forward all the time and that we need to not only understand, embrace and work across these but crucially we must do this in tandem with a clear vision of what we want to help promote and where, so that the visitor influx is acceptable to residents, gives the most benefit to our great businesses and is sustainable and less damaging for the future – just shouting for potentially more of the same, now, I believe, is really not the answer.

“I’m confident Cllr Ring’s cabinet colleagues responsible for protecting the environment and the Leader (the ward member for Heacham) and other councillors with wards where tourism is prevalent will share this more nuanced and balanced view, one regularly put forward by those they serve.’”

Cllr Jamieson also pointed out that the previous borough administration had already commissioned work and activity to look at the issue of tourism in a structured way, a move welcomed by all local political groups at the time, appointing a facilitator from the LGA and supporting a cross-party working group.

Local bodies such as the Lynn Heritage Society had already been advised of this and were ready and eager to contribute, as had strategic partners along the coast, and in Hunstanton, an advisory group had been formed with representatives from right across the business community and town council, in part, to input ideas and views in to this very process.

Cllr Jamieson added: “It was recognised that the very necessary process of mapping over-saturation in certain types of our tourist economy, over-impact in certain locations and gaps in current provision alongside the capture of the views of those involved in the sector, town and parish councils and residents was needed so that a clear, sustainable and balanced strategy, linking in to wider partners to increase impact should be developed, resourced and delivered.

“I note that the councillor working group associated to this undertaking is still in place and it is my earnest hope that Cllr Ring and the new administration will continue and develop this, previously widely supported, effort rather than rushing to a general opinion/position re ‘more’ is good and delivering this outcome without such understanding.

“However, there is genuine concern that this is not going to be the case. Although ‘early days’, the council’s cabinet has already published its appointments to outside bodies list and decided not to keep its representation on the influential Hunstanton Advisory Group, a role previously undertaken by Cllr Ring’s predecessor, giving its dedicated cabinet place instead to a person not even on the borough council, effectively severing a previously strong link with major sectors in the town.

Cllr Jamieson also pointed out that the new administration had inherited a large, thriving and diverse events programme that was well-resourced and funded in its budget for the next three years at least, a thriving BID (Business Improvement District) in Lynn, and award winning parks and open spaces.

He also pointed out that the Hanse Festival specifically mentioned by Cllr Ring as in need of revival actually took place last year in a scaled back way due to the major ‘Platinum Jubilee’ festivities being supported across the borough at the time and that it had previously only been temporarily paused during the pandemic due to the impact of restrictions on international movement . It had never been stopped.

Alongside the Soapbox Derby, reintroduced in April to great acclaim, it should just retake its position in an already packed, year round, events calendar.

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