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Does size matter? Alarm over homes, but majority content to live in 'huge' village that's 'more like a town'

PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 May 2019 | UPDATED: 08:17 03 May 2019

People walking along Caister beach on the east coast of Norfolk. The unspoilt beach front is one of the things people value about the village. 

Picture: James Bass

People walking along Caister beach on the east coast of Norfolk. The unspoilt beach front is one of the things people value about the village. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

This newspaper's Your Town project is casting a close eye on life in some of our region's biggest towns. Reporter Liz Coates takes a look at a growing village with a good heart - Caister.

Caister residents are worried about pressure on services as the village continues to grow.Caister residents are worried about pressure on services as the village continues to grow.

Dominated by its landmark water tower, most people from Caister know they are home miles before they get there.

More and more households live within sight of the towering marker - Persimmon Homes saying it wants to build another 725 - bringing opportunities as well as pressures.

For some it is the rate of growth that is changing the character of the village, which retains its old flint-flecked cottages, and fishing boats are still launched from the beach in time-honoured tradition.

The key words coming out of a survey launched by this newspaper are “quiet”, “friendly”, “community spirit” and “peace” with everyone valuing the seaside setting, as well as pride in its heritage, particularly the legendary lifeboat that famously “never turns back.”

Caister Parish Council chairman Tony Baker says the village is a lovely place to live Picture: supplied by Tony BakerCaister Parish Council chairman Tony Baker says the village is a lovely place to live Picture: supplied by Tony Baker

But against the images of village perfection there are concerns over the increase in homes, bringing too many people, too much traffic going too fast, and too little to do.

Like most communities, many people talked about a lack of activities for young people, with a youth centre and better play areas at the top of the wish-list for some.

And while some thought the village had got the balance right, others felt Caister, with a population of over to 9,000, needed better facilities.

Dick Thurlow, 65, a former lifeboat coxswain, disagreed with the majority (54pc) who took part in our survey, and said Caister had changed for the better.

Taff James, chairman of the Caister Communtiy Association, who relocated to Caister for work says he loves the weather and the warm welcome in Caister Picture: supplied by Taff JamesTaff James, chairman of the Caister Communtiy Association, who relocated to Caister for work says he loves the weather and the warm welcome in Caister Picture: supplied by Taff James

He said his main concern was a lack of policing and street cleaning, with youngsters - particularly packs of boys - roving around on bikes with little care for anyone else.

“When I was at school in the late 60s, Caister was allegedly the largest populated village in the British Isles with around 6,000.

“Caister is huge when you take a look at it now - there is only a golf course that separates us from Yarmouth.

“For the size of the village I think it's absolutely diabolical there is not a police station. You only ever see a police officer if there is a problem.

A fishing boat against the deep blue sky.

 Despite the number of homes being built Caister still has a traditional heart. Picture: James BassA fishing boat against the deep blue sky. Despite the number of homes being built Caister still has a traditional heart. Picture: James Bass

“We were mischievous as kids and we would get a clip round the ear and a boot up the backside - that is how it was. The whole way of life has completely changed.

“There are a few of us that try and keep the older things going, we have the lifeboats and the fishing boats and it's nice it is all kept up but we are quite concerned about crime.

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“Only recently one of the boats had some nets taken. You can't leave anything on the boats now, it wouldn't last five minutes.

“The modern way of life has caused Caister some problems.

“Kids come down the road on their bikes like a football crowd and there is a lot of fast food and litter.”

In fact figures show there were 143 incidents of anti-social behaviour reported between February 2018 and January 2019 in Caister and Ormesby - accounting for 21.5pc of all crime.

In January there were 11 incidents, compared with 13 in January 2018 and 19 in January 2017.

The figures peak in August with 80 incidents, double those in the winter months.

Mr Thurlow, who counts old school chums among his neighbours and can see the house where he was born from his window, said overall Caister was a nice place to live, adding: “Who wouldn't want to live by the seaside? It is a growing village with a good heart.”

Taff James, chairman of the Caister Community Association, said volunteers and the parish council had risen to the challenge , matching the growing population by redoubling their efforts to make the village a happy place. and bringing in a community cinema.

The 73-year-old, who moved to Caister from South Wales in 1993 to be chief engineer at Omnipac, said one of the best things about living on the East Coast was the weather.

The community association had 600 members from all over the country, many drawn from the holiday camps who spend months at a time in the village as the main tourism hot spots moved to owned units.

He said there was a real drive to help both the old and the young in the village.

As well as helping it to look pretty with Caister in Bloom, there was a neighbourliness that was an even bigger part of the village's appeal.

“Since we have been in the village we have been treated extremely well,” he said.

“They are lovely people and I love meeting the older generation and hearing about the sorts of experiences they have had and what it used to be like.”

Parish council chairman Tony Baker said while the village was growing Caister was still a lovely place to live.

Despite pressure on facilities and utilities local schools and the surgery still had capacity, although the amount of new homes being built would add to demand.

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