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New Hunstanton tourist hub set to open, but move row rumbles on

Hunstanton’s new, unstaffed, tourist information centre is set to open this week, despite the ongoing row over the decision to move it.

Town and borough leaders have defended the plan to move the facility from the town hall to the Coal Shed Gallery, insisting it is the right move for the moment.

But heritage campaigners have offered an alternative and claim the affair has damaged public confidence.

Hunstanton's town hall, where the resort's tourist information centre used to be (38234102)
Hunstanton's town hall, where the resort's tourist information centre used to be (38234102)

The issue was firmly on the agenda at meetings of both West Norfolk Council and Hunstanton Town Council on Thursday, a month on from when the move was originally announced.

Borough council deputy leader Elizabeth Nockolds said the move had been agreed at a meeting in early June and the building had been upgraded with a ramp and CCTV since then.

She repeated the arguments previously made by town council chiefs that social distancing was not possible in the old centre and confirmed the gallery was expected to open to visitors this week.

She added: “I firmly believe the scheme we are promoting, approved by government and marketed by Visit Britain Know Before You Go, is the right and important one at this time.”

But former Hunstanton mayor Amanda Bosworth, who now chairs the town’s Civic Society, suggested its Heritage Centre would be a more appropriate location for the facility.

Later, during the town council meeting, she claimed residents could not understand why it was deemed impossible for a one-way entry and exit system to be adopted in the old centre in order to maintain social distancing.

And she accused her successor as mayor, Tony Bishopp, of being “disingenious” in his response to public questions on the affair.

She said: “Local government is accountable and public question time is for that purpose.

“The rather aggressive dismissal of those questions does not instill confidence.”

Questions were also raised about the lack of a written record of the decision to close the old centre, which officials say will eventually be replaced with a new, staffed facility in the town’s proposed new library.

In response, Mr Bishopp admitted he was becoming “a little bit exasperated” with the issue and the criticisms of former councillors.

He said: “I can dig out emails when ex-councillors have said it may be controversial, but maybe we should close the TIC.

“Maybe it’s (the Coal Shed) not an ideal solution but it is a short-term fix.”

Earlier, Mr Bishopp called for an urgent meeting with the Civic Society in order to resolve differences between it and the town council.

He also insisted the town council had not received any payment from the borough council for running the old centre, while clerk Jan Roomes said she had sent an invoice for £14,000 to the borough.

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