Eden plans for Hemsby Pontins site

When Pontin's closed its gates in Hemsby for the last time, traders in the small coastal village near Great Yarmouth could easily have seen it as the final death knell for tourism and metaphorically hoisted the white flag.

When Pontin's closed its gates in Hemsby for the last time, traders in the small coastal village near Great Yarmouth could easily have seen it as the final death knell for tourism and metaphorically hoisted the white flag.

However, showing fighting spirit fitting their recently discovered Viking heritage, they are now promoting an ambitious scheme to transform the derelict site into the “Eden of the East”.

The vision of a multi-million pound domes development, which would provide a sub-tropical climate for all-year camping, has come from Norwich-based brand strategy guru Simon Middleton, who has helped the village reinvent itself as the Vikings historical landing place, with a Scandinavian festival planned for next summer.

Mr Middleton, who has already taken his eco-tourism proposal to entrepreneurs, including Duncan Bannatyne, of Dragon Dens fame, said: “I know through my involvement with the Broads Authority that sustainable tourism is not only good for the planet, it is also the way forward for tourism.


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“The site currently looks tired and sad and I know its owners (Northern Trust) have several other sites left undeveloped for years and that would be a tragedy for Hemsby.

“My job is to be a catalyst. This scheme is just a starting point and the aim is to get people talking about it and thinking about it.”

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While a recent public exhibition showcased plans to turn the land into a housing development, Mr Middleton insisted it should remain as a prime tourism site.

His vision is for an 800-person holiday centre based around two carbon-neutral sub-tropical domes, one for camping and one for recreational activities.

“There have been domes before of course, most notably at Tim Smit's wonderful Eden Project in Cornwall. But the difference with Hemsby is that the major dome would be in effect a very high quality all-year campsite, always warm, always dry, and very eco-friendly,” said Mr Middleton.

The landscaped camping dome would accommodate about 200 campers, while there would be room for a further 600 visitors to stay in environmentally-designed lodges around the park.

A second dome would provide a dramatic environment for recreation and eco-themed activities. The remainder of the site would offer a mix of outdoors activities like canoeing, rock-climbing, adventure play for children, and a large area devoted to learning skills related to sustainable living: from eco-friendly building techniques, to raising chickens, growing foods, understanding solar power, and art using recycled materials.

“This project would provide a fantastic base for a superb Norfolk holiday with a real difference,” said Mr Middleton. “Hemsby itself has a magnificent sandy beach combined with a terrific characterful traditional resort. And the village is wonderfully close to everything The Broads national park and the rest of the county has to offer too.”

James Gray, who runs Lost World Adventure Golf in Beach Road, Hemsby, described the scheme as a “brilliant idea”.

He said: “It is nice to have that site looked at in terms of tourism. He has set his sights very high, but other dome developments have worked well, whether you consider the Eden Project or Center Parcs. We already have the infrastructure for a holiday destination here.”

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