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Petition set to demand Hunstanton tourist hub return

The closure of Hunstanton’s former tourist information centre could put the future of other town facilities in doubt, heritage campaigners fear.

Officials from the resort’s Civic Society have issued what they say is an open invitation to residents, traders and visitors to join their fight to reinstate a staffed tourist hub.

A petition demanding the change is set to be launched early next month.

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

And the society says: “If we do not make our support felt and our views known, we will be able to blame only ourselves when the next Hunstanton community facility is downgraded or disappears altogether.”

The move comes more than two months after West Norfolk Council and Hunstanton Town Council jointly announced the closure of the old centre at the town hall and its replacement with an unmanned facility in the Coal Shed Gallery on Le Strange Terrace.

The authorities claimed the switch, which they insist is temporary, was necessary because social distancing requirements to help combat the coronavirus could not be observed at the previous site.

But critics say the measure should have been the subject of wider public consultation and could even make the challenge of preventing the spread of Covid-19 harder to solve.

Last month, the Civic Society claimed its survey of town businesses found that 70 per cent believed the move to the Coal Shed would be damaging to Hunstanton’s economy.

It says the services offered at the old centre are already being missed by residents and holidaymakers alike, though officials say the current solution is felt to be better than having no centre at all.

West Norfolk Council deputy leader Elizabeth Nockolds this week said the authority would continue to work with tourist businesses to gauge the type of promotional support required.

But she also highlighted the level of online interest in finding out what the borough has to offer.

She said:“Last month the VisitWestNorfolk.com website received well over 60,000 visits.

“This is considerably more people than visited the Hunstanton Tourist Information Centre in the whole of 2019.

“Many national attractions have stopped doing printed details and are only available on line.

“Some of our main West Norfolk attractions like Sandringham Estate and Hunstanton Sealife Centre currently require visitors to book their places online first, before physically entering the venues themselves.

“We understand that people feel the Tourist Information Centre is the heart of the community, especially when staff have worked there a number of years, but in terms of the benefit they bring to local tourism businesses, it is much harder to quantify.”

Mrs Nockolds also pointed out that signage directing people to the new site is now in place, along with details of the restrictions on capacity in the building. Officials have previously argued that the decision to move had to be taken quickly at a time when no formal meetings were taking place.

The Civic Society’s petition will be launched during an event on The Green, outside the town hall, on Saturday, September 5, between 11am and 3pm.

The group said: “Hunstanton Town Council has responsibilities. The borough council has responsibilities. And each and every one of us has responsibilities too. Please do join us and sign the petition if you possibly can.”

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