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West Norfolk caravan sites given go-ahead to extend seasons

The operators of four West Norfolk coastal caravan sites have been given the go-ahead to temporarily extend their operations until the end of next year.

West Norfolk councillors voted overwhelmingly in support of the plans in Heacham and Hunstanton during a borough planning meeting yesterday.

But one representative warned the decisions were likely to mean no end to the holiday season there “probably for all time”.

Searles Leisure Resort in Hunstanton has been closed during the pandemic.. (47078201)
Searles Leisure Resort in Hunstanton has been closed during the pandemic.. (47078201)

The schemes relate to the Searles Holiday Park in Hunstanton, plus the Putting Green and Riverside caravan parks, both on Jubilee Road, and the North Beach caravan park in Heacham.

The decisions were also made on the day that pubs and restaurants were able to begin serving customers indoors for the first time in months, following the further easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Paul Searle, managing director of Searles Leisure Resort, said his business had lost seven-and-a-half months of trade as a result of the various Covid lockdowns.

And Lydia Plumb, speaking on behalf of Heacham Holidays which was the applicant for the other three schemes, told members: “We understand the closure periods were necessary.

“Now restrictions are easing, our business must be allowed to bounce back.”

But Heacham ward councillor Terry Parish said insufficient evidence had been put forward to justify the claimed losses.

He argued approval meant operators would be “laughing all the way to the newly re-opened public houses”.

And he added: “You won’t have made the public, who live in Heacham, very happy, when they realise there may be no end to the holiday season, not just for a year or two but probably for all time.

“These will be brought forward again because they’ll say that nobody drowned last year so why can’t we extend it.”

Committee member Francis Bone said he felt increased flood risk in the winter outweighed potential economic benefits, adding: “We should be putting people’s safety before profit.”

But chairman Carol Bower said they were temporary to respond to “unprecendented” circumstances.

Officers also stressed their approval recommendations were based on the guidance given in a ministerial statement last summer, which said councils should not penalise caravan site operators which sought to trade outside their usual seasons.

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