Judging from the way borough planners seem to be interpreting government guidelines, there is no reason to suppose planning permission will be refused for either of the two housing estates east of the A149, or the redevelopment of the Swains site in Westgate to provide housing with care for the elderly.
With this in mind I consulted the latest economic plan for Hunstanton and discovered the population of Hunstanton is estimated to be approximately 4,025.
Between 2001 and 2011 the population actually fell by 6%, whereas over the same period the population of the borough grew by 9 per cent. The age profile is heavily slanted towards the older age groups, with 41% of the town’s population aged over 65. Females make up a larger proportion of the population compared with the average for the borough, Norfolk and England.
The age profile of the population may explain why there are more people considering themselves to be in bad or very bad health, and where long term illness or disability is impacting on their daily activities. Hunstanton, as a ward, does not exhibit high levels of deprivation. Flats, maisonettes and apartments make up the greatest percentage of the housing stock, and the pattern of housing tenure shows an above average share of owner occupiers and private rented accommodation. Nearly 20% of dwellings are classified as second homes compared with less than 5% for the borough as a whole.
These figures cast serious doubt on claims that Hunstanton is in desperate need of more housing, including the proposed Hopkins Homes estate on land south of the town, which would necessitate a new roundabout on the A149 in Heacham.
The loss of jobs if Swains did move out of town, serves to highlight a shortage of full-time job opportunities. There are some 1,800 jobs in Hunstanton, split equally between full-time and part-time. These jobs are heavily slanted towards the service area. Within this sector the emphasis is on wholesale; retail; accommodation and food services. This reflects Hunstanton’s dual role as a local service centre and as a seaside resort.
Hunstanton has a lower percentage of working age people than the national average, with a higher number of workers with no qualifications. Level 2 results (GCSEs) are above the borough average, but still below average for England. There are approximately 260 businesses in Hunstanton and, as with the employment profile; the business profile is heavily inclined towards the service sector. The visitor economy accounts for a third of all businesses and nearly 40% of all jobs. The majority of the business premises in Hunstanton are retail units. Less than 10% are offices and only 16% are factories and warehouses.
The economic plan does not support the argument that another large housing estate would provide more full-time jobs on a permanent basis. Instead, it provides further proof that there is absolutely no need for an unsustainable southward expansion of the town, and casts doubt on the need for the two preferred sites east of the A149 to be developed simultaneously.