Turnstone, by John Maiden, December 15, 2015

Hunstanton Pier ANL-150716-145943001
Hunstanton Pier ANL-150716-145943001
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Last week Turnstone ended on a ‘cliffhanger’ - probably leaving some readers in suspense and anxiously awaiting the next instalment.

Others might need reminding that the Civic Society asked the borough council more than two months ago for the ‘hangar’ on The Green to be listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). A decision was expected last week, which could have resulted in six months of frantic fundraising to enable the Society to put in an offer for the hangar and the land on which it stands.

Unfortunately, the evidence submitted by yours truly appears to have left council officers grappling with what appears to them to be an anomaly. A letter addressed to me by the Project Officer reads as follows: “The difficulty the council has therefore is that you are insinuating that the community value lies in demolishing the pier entertainment centre and redeveloping the site and therefore the current asset the Civic Society is trying to list is not of community value. This position appears to be at odds with the intention of the legislation.”

A hangover from the 11+ exam must have had even more impact than I realised when it came to answering all the questions in the nomination form, so perhaps now would be a good time to remind the council that the anomaly arises from a legally binding covenant prohibiting the erection of any permanent building on The Green other than an ‘entrance’ to Hunstanton Pier. Planning permission for the ‘hangar’ was only obtained after a short ‘pier’ had been added to the plans passed in September 2002. This short pier was supposed to serve as a balcony and provide the starting point for a future pier extension, but neither the balcony nor a pier of any description has been constructed.

Various officers have attempted to rewrite history when it comes to the addition of these features, but no one has offered an explanation for allowing the hangar to breach the 1955 covenant, imposed by the le Strange Estate for the benefit of the Inhabitants and Visitors of Hunstanton. Therefore, it should be pointed out to the council that listing the pier entertainment centre as an ACV appears to be the only available option, unless the council is prepared to revive its 2007 regeneration proposals for Hunstanton, including the reinstatement of the Victorian Pier

Before my critics get hot under the collar, let me remind them that I have never been asked to write an election manifesto for any political party and, therefore, cannot take the credit for promising a New Pier for Hunstanton in the 2007 Conservative manifesto. The leadership of the council has not changed since 2007; therefore, instead of the Civic Society having to raise all the funds needed to buy the hangar and then transform it into a genuine ACV; this is surely the ideal moment for the council to step in and support the local community by using powers of compulsory purchase to acquire the hangar.

Finally, to the best of my knowledge, the intention is not to dismantle the hangar prior to work starting on a pier, because a utilitarian structure of this kind could provide valuable workshop and warehouse accommodation during the construction phase. Later on it could be modified to provide a really magnificent entrance building - worthy of Henry le Strange’s vision for his new town. Perhaps a competition for the best design should start now! Come to think of it, back in 2002 the council’s very own Conservation Areas Advisory Panel, chaired by Cllr John Dobson, arrived at precisely the same conclusion…