West Norfolk 'shanty town' fear expressed
Parts of Norfolk could start to resemble ‘shanty-towns’ because of the growth of holiday parks in the region, a councillor has warned.
Michael de Whalley, a member of West Norfolk Council, said there was a risk of the sites becoming “areas of deprivation” if too many more were built.
He was speaking at a council meeting to discuss the benefits and harms brought to the region by the tourism industry.
Mr de Whalley, who represents Gayton and Grimston told the West Norfolk regeneration and development panel meeting: “We have had concerns about holiday park developments, which have not proved popular with residents.
“There are concerns that they only provide lowly-paid jobs. There are concerns that, during times of downturn, there is risk of them becoming effectively shanty-towns, or areas of deprivation.”
Mr de Whalley pointed to Jaywick Sands, in Essex – an area often described as the UK’s most deprived community – as an example of the dangers of excessive holiday parks.
Built as a holiday resort in the 1930s, much of the area is now dilapidated, with high unemployment and low levels of investment.
In 2018, professor Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur for extreme poverty, visited the village as part of his study-tour of the UK.
Mr de Whalley added: “I don’t know if you’ve heard of a place called Jaywick Sands, but a United Nations expert went to visit this place in Clacton, in Essex, and saw some considerable deprivation.
“So there is a risk to the community that things can go pear-shaped… [by] being over-enthusiastic with holiday developments.”
Norfolk is home to one of the country’s greatest concentrations of holiday park sites, with dozens across the county.
Other councillors expressed a mix of views on tourism.
Conservative councillor Vivienne Spikings said: “West Norfolk is open for tourism, and we are blessed with what we have here.
“We do have constraints as well, with sizes, sometimes, of roads. We have no motorways, and we will feel the impacts more.
“But the pluses are, the person who comes along as a tourist will have a spend, and they do help support businesses in our area.”
Labour group leader Charles Joyce meanwhile warned West Norfolk should not “be turned into a theme park” and that “other avenues of employment” should also be nurtured.
A council report points out that “the pub businesses that sustain the life of a community that may not have remained in business without visitor trade” as one of several benefits brought by tourism.
It also says more than 11,000 jobs in the borough – some 19.5pc of the total – are related to tourism.
Why is Jaywick Sands so deprived?
Jaywick Sands in Essex – the example given by councillor de Whalley of a community badly affected by holiday parks – has been repeatedly ranked as the most deprived place in Britain.
The land on which the village was built was purchased by entrepreneur Frank Stedman in the 1920s, who built low cost, affordable holiday homes for working-class families.
After the Second World War however, a housing shortage meant the properties became permanently inhabited, despite not being built for the purpose.
The closure of Jaywick’s Butlins holiday camp in 1983 was a blow to the local economy and the place has struggled over several decades with low incomes, drug abuse, litter and youth unemployment.
The community was thrust into the spotlight in 2018, when a photo of one of its rundown streets featured in a US Republican campaign graphic.
The poster read: “Only you can stop this from becoming reality! Help President Trump keep America on track and thriving.”
The Republican candidate later issued an apology and a spokesperson for his campaign said “our intent was never to make fun of the town”.