Public meeting on Hunstanton heritage gardens restoration

Hunstanton Esplanade Gardens, one of the displays in full bloom
Hunstanton Esplanade Gardens, one of the displays in full bloom

There were mixed reactions from residents following a public meeting discussing the Hunstanton Heritage Gardens Project.

The meeting at the Golden Lion pub on Thursday was a question-and-answer session with West Norfolk Council chief executive Ray Harding, alongside Karen Lacey from Wynne-Williams Associates, the architects for the £1.3 million project, which is intended to celebrate the vision of Henry le Strange, who founded Hunstanton in 1845.

Ray Harding, council chief executive, said: “It was a constructive meeting that enabled the team to set out clearly the key elements of the scheme, the development process to date and the timetable for the work to be undertaken. We were also able to explain the rationale behind some of the decisions.

“For example the reasons why the butterfly shelters are considered to be of significant heritage value when they are a 1960s rather than a Victorian feature and why they are being retained, repaired and refurbished rather than being demolished.”

He added: “I was interested to note that there were a mix of very different views within the members of the audience. With a small number of exceptions I felt that the majority of people attending were, on balance, pleased with the investment going into the town and shared my view that the scheme will enhance what is already a very attractive town.”

Elizabeth Nockolds, deputy leader and cabinet member for culture, heritage and health, said: “I was delighted that as a result of the meeting we have had some willing volunteers step forward who want to get involved in the activities programme.

“The programme will include gathering and preparing historical information for the interpretation boards. This kind of community involvement will help ensure that the scheme is an overall success.”

In the meeting, local historian John Smith if the project would reflect the town’s Victorian heritage in such things as flowers and shrubs that were popular when the esplanade gardens were created.

Another town councillor, Graham Wilby thought the project should include restoration of the war memorial.

Some felt that cliff-top vegetation spoiled the view, while deputy town mayor, Adrian Winnington was not alone in pointing out that this uncultivated strip of land provided a much needed haven for wildlife.

Similar concerns were expressed about plans to replace close boarded fencing in the esplanade gardens with iron railings.

The repair and restoration of the butterfly shelters – considered ugly by the Civic Society – came in for criticism from several speakers and afterwards, along with the failure to consult residents.

Ms Lacey replied that the proposals had been displayed at the ‘Christmas Cracker’ event in 2015.

Long term resident Dick Melton pointed out that this meeting should have been held six months ago, not now when the contractor was to start work the next day.

Afterwards, town councillor David Jones said he was disappointed with the low turnout and said: “I think the borough council has a lot to learn when it comes to public consultation.

“Meetings are arranged at very short notice and people only learn about them by reading Turnstone in Tuesday’s Lynn News.”