Last week this column ended with a comparison between the design of the Roman Catholic Church on Sandringham Road and the Town Hall designed by the exuberant architect George Skipper at his very best.
Unfortunately, this majestic building is not looking at its best just now, because following the extensive pile driving on the McCarthy & Stone site in St Edmund’s Terrace, cracks have appeared in the stonework, so scaffolding has been erected to protect members of the public entering the Tourist Information Centre. Of course, it has yet to be determined if pile driving caused the cracks, or if it was just a coincidence; but it is safe to assume that if a more modest building had been erected on the site next to the Princess Theatre, there would have been no need for piles to take the weight of the thirty apartments, approved by a planning inspector! It is to be hoped there will be no need for piles if McCarthy & Stone obtain planning permission for sixty apartments on the Swains site, opposite the Valentine Centre, another fine example of Arts and Crafts architecture.
If, as expected, Swains relocates to King’s Lynn, and retains the services of the company’s current staff, they will be faced with the possibility of commuting, or moving closer to their new place of work. This is in sharp contrast to the fanciful theory that Hunstanton’s viability is dependent on building more and more new homes. Not everyone is suited to work that involves caring for the elderly, or seasonal employment, so perhaps it is time for our town and borough councillors to think about providing incentives for businesses such as Swains to stay in Hunstanton!
In the meantime, it is worth reminding the planners that from 1904 to 1968 the Catholic Church was on the edge of town. It was only after this date that estates sprang up south of Sandringham Road, followed by a further southward expansion once Oasis Way was constructed to provide a more direct access to the southern seafront. When Hopkins Homes submitted an application to build 166 new homes, which would effectively join Hunstanton to Heacham, the initial response from county and borough councils was to oppose the scheme. With Heacham Parish Council also objecting, Hunstanton Town Council was alone in supporting the application, even though this involved making a U-turn, because in its initial response to the Local Plan consultation, the town council had provided sound reasons for rejecting land south of Hunstanton for yet another new housing estate.
The one thing that all four councils seemed to agree on was that vehicular access to the site should not involve the addition of a new roundabout on the A149, but instead of insisting that access to the proposed development should be from Searles Leisure Resort, the county council also performed a U-turn by agreeing to a new roundabout; provided Hopkins Homes would put up the money to pay for its construction and complete a Section 106 agreement within three months of the resolution by the borough planning committee to approve the planning application; otherwise it would be refused!
What with U-turns and roundabouts, not to mention further delays to public transport if the new roundabout really is inflicted upon us; perhaps we should be grateful that the parties involved are not responsible for organising a booze-up in a brewery!