Last Tuesday evening the following message arrived on my laptop:
“I’m delighted to advise that The Spinney enhancement scheme won the Community scheme category at tonight’s Mayor’s Design Awards!
A big thanks again to everyone who helped to develop this project from a vision to reality!”
For some unknown reason the email appeared as ‘junk’, which seemed rather harsh, because one of the other recipients responded to the news as if it was on a par with the ending of the Second World War.
A flurry of self-congratulatory emails ensued, giving the general impression that those responsible for revamping the Spinney area had been forced to overcome enormous logistical problems and well-organised opposition from local interest groups in Hunstanton.
The tone of this correspondence prompts me to suggest that now might be a good time for a reality check, starting with the fact that the Spinney itself only looks as good as it does today because those of us who opposed the felling of one-third of the 23 mature trees were eventually successful, in spite of stubborn resistance from the prime movers on West Norfolk Council.
Even the completely ‘enhanced’ area around the trees and grass is not without its critics, because the performance platform seems to be facing in the wrong direction and the canopy does not appear to exemplify good design.
Then there is the adverse impact the McCarthy and Stone retirement apartments will have on the setting of the Spinney, which leads me to question why the council did not acquire the land in question when the owner demolished the single storey building on the site, without applying for planning permission.
This course of action is certainly under consideration when it comes to the riverside site in Lynn formerly occupied by several grain silos.
The decision makers should have learned something from the so-called ‘piazza’ makeover of Seagate.
This was another example of spending money on revamping and pedestrianising a a road when, for a similar sum, the adjacent former Kit Kat site could have been acquired at auction.
Another lesson, yet to sink in, is the failure of these half-baked, piecemeal regeneration schemes to attract grants from external agencies. The bid for £100,000 of Government money under the Portas pilot scheme was unsuccessful and the consolation prize of just £10,000 has been frittered away on a Wi-Fi scheme, apparently of little value to local businesses. And I wonder how many people remember the ill-fated attempt to enhance the seafront with money from the Sea Change project?
In spite of this setback, there was a half-hearted scheme intended to improve the appearance of kiosks along the promenade.
As reported in this column last week, Kiosk Number 3 is a good example for others to follow without the need to spend shed loads of cash...