There was quite a good turnout at the Golden Lion Hotel for the first phase of the consultation process on the proposed restoration of The Green and esplanade gardens, but the organisers are hoping many more local residents will take part this Saturday when there will be another opportunity to ask questions and come up with suggestions.
There might be a temptation for those people who have lived in the town for twenty years or more to say: “Here we go again, and if the past is anything to go by, no one is going to take any notice of us when the project is put forward for heritage lottery funding!”
Having talked at some length to those conducting the consultation, my own opinion is that we should seize this opportunity to participate as fully as possible and not treat it as a waste of time. I am fairly certain this is the message that will come across tomorrow evening at 7.30 when the Civic Society begins its season of illustrated talks in the town hall. The title of the first presentation in the monthly series is “Monster fish of the fens” and the speaker is Jamie Jordon. Admission is £3 for non-members and £1 for members, which includes light refreshments. New members are always very welcome to join on the night and the annual membership costs just £10 or £18 for a couple.
Hunstanton & District Civic Society has been in existence for 13 years now, which is slightly longer than a certain building on The Green that prompted its formation; such was the sense of outrage provoked by the very idea of putting an enormous ‘non-pier’ in such a prominent position.
However, the Civic Society has interests that extend well beyond The Green - a fact which has been readily apparent to the thousands of visitors who have come to the Heritage Centre at 15 The Green since it opened to the public in August 2013.
For example, the Civic Society enjoyed a very close working relationship with John Selby during his time as Conservation Officer for West Norfolk Council.
Shortly before he retired and became an Honorary Life Member of the Civic Society, John Selby successfully managed to extend the Conservation Area to include some very important parts of the town. He also published a Shop Front Guide to encourage town centre businesses to adopt designs and colour schemes much more in keeping with Hunstanton’s rich architectural heritage.
Unfortunately, some of the shops used to illustrate this point have since lost their original character and it might take some considerable time before steps are taken to restore it.
Instead, of pointing a finger at those shop owners who could and should be making more of an effort, it is usually more effective to focus attention on examples of good practice.
One shop front that has undergone a very sympathetic makeover is at 36 High Street, where Tony Gooch, a former Civic Society Treasurer, has restored the window frames to their former glory and adopted a tasteful colour scheme for ‘Hunstanton Models’. This should, quite literally, be a model for others to build on.